When saying no to people isn’t enough - Jane Travis - Self Care for Busy Women
When saying no to people isn't enough - Jane Travis

when did saying no politely stop being enough?

Yesterday, I was almost force fed cake.  

Okay, there may be worse ways to go.  But if you've ever been visiting someone and having coffee, and they offer you cake, you'll know how difficult saying no to people can be.  ​

I'm not a big fan of cake and I just didn't want any but it seems refusing cake is simply not an option

I was brought up to be polite, and I bet you were too.  Saying please and thank you, excuse me and may I.  Be respectful, don't offend, don't be cheeky.  

So when I am offered cake at a friends house and I don't want it, I very politely decline:

'Would you like some cake, Jane?'

'No, thank you' I say.  Text book manners.  My mum would be so proud.

But then this happened!


'No really you must, it's very good' she says

Hang on, we're going off piste ​now - my mum didn't equip me for this.  This no longer is manners for dummies, it's advanced manners. 

Thinking on my feet I say ​‘It looks delicious, but no, thank you’. Phew, I think I dodged that curveball.

​‘Aah go on, just a little bit…’ she said in true Mrs Doyle style.  If you don't know who Mrs Doyle is, take a look at the video below - aaw go on....go on go on go on...

Now, it feels awkward. Now, it’s starting to feel like a conflict.

Now, it feels less like being offered a treat and more like a game of chicken - who will be the one to back down?

​I don't want the bloody cake.  I don't like bloody cake!  And I prefer to save my 'having a treat' calories for something I'll enjoy, like wine and/or Maltesers 

​'It does look lovely, but no, thank you'

Eventually she got the idea, but I got the feeling she thought I was bring rude.

Rude?  Moi?

who was the one being rude in this scenario?  

  • Is it polite to not take no for an answer?
  • Is it polite to try to change someones mind, given they are an adult and capable of making their own decisions?
  • Is it polite to disregard said choice?
  • Is it polite to make a guest feel squirmy when they don't do what you want them to do?

No.  No, it's not polite.

​This is why it's hard to say no

It's not the initial 'no, thank you' that's hard - actually, that's pretty easy.  It's the attempts at changing your mind by any means possible, whether that's to bully you, to be passive aggressive, to be rude, to be disrespectful or to be forceful. THAT'S when the guilt kicks in, THAT'S when you feel bad and doubt yourself, THAT'S when you need to stand firm and realise you have done nothing wrong. 

Did I do anything to be guilty about?  No, I just didn't want cake, so declined politely.

That should have been enough​

  • Maybe terrorising guests with cake could be considered rude
  • Maybe making them feel uncomfortable could be considered rude
  • Maybe being passive aggressive could be considered rude
  • Maybe bullying people over a Victoria sponge could be considered rude, and also a little ridiculous. 

When this happens - when people try to change your mind, it's not about your wants and needs, it's about theirs.  They wanted the praise and thanks from you, they wanted to feel good and that's all they had in mind.  It's about their own agenda. 

But that's not what we're thinking on the drive home, are we?  

We're thinking was I rude?  Was I unfair? Maybe I should have just eaten the damned cake.  I hope they don't think badly of me, I hope I didn't offend them, I hope they don't think I'm selfish, I hope they don't think I'm a bad person. I hope they'll still be my friend...

This is the stuff that ties us up in knots.

Isn't it just easier to eat the damned cake?

It's tempting isn't it.  But consider this:​

  • If your child was being persuaded to try drugs, what would you say then?
  • If your gambling friend wanted to borrow some money for a sure fire bet
  • If a first date wanted you to 'come in for coffee' when you didn't want to. 

It's not always something as trivial as cake that we are being persuaded to do.  If you can't say no and stick to your guns with cake, how will you deal with more serious issues?  

Think of this as a safe way to practice saying no and not changing your mind. ​

So when you are faced with this kind of situation, remember that you have done nothing wrong, and if you've done nothing wrong, then there is nothing to feel guilty about.

And practice with the trivial situations, so you have the confidence to refuse a more serious request. ​

If this sounds like you, I have something that'll help, because this is all covered in 'Take Control: Say No'.

So if you want to refuse cake, do it - and don't beat yourself up about it!

Take Control: Say No!

Take Control: Say No!

​Stop agreeing to do things you don't want to - enough is enough!

It's time to drop the guilt and take control.

About the Author Jane Travis

Hi, I'm Jane, and if you're the one that cares for and supports others, that gives and never takes and are exhausted because you put your own needs last, then you're in the right place. It's great to have you here - I hope you stick around!

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