Don’t Answer That Right Now! Why Biting Your Tongue Is A Skill Worth Mastering

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Right now I’m writing this on my short flight from Detroit to Sault Ste Marie for the World Ice and Snow Sailing Association Championships (http://www.wissa.org). Should be pretty fun! But thinking back to my last few weeks I realize that I have been spreading myself awfully thin: meetings, new projects, promises, and deadlines, ad infinitum, and I’m the only one to blame.

Yes

As much as I love being busy, seizing my day and giving a damn about a lot of things, I have also started to take more ownership about when I say yes or no to a request. I’m sure you’ve read something somewhere that told you to say “no” more often, or when choosing between doing something or not doing it, choose between “no” and “hell yes!”

Not Yet

While this is sound advice, I feel like something is missing from the equation:marinade. No, not that kind of marinade – although I do love me some food – I’m talking about giving yourself the opportunity for a request of you to sink in, or marinate. Here’s why:

  • If we decided on the spot to a request with either “no” or “hell yes”, we might be victim to whatever mood we were in at that exact moment.That is a risky bet, and it works both ways. We might have two beers in us and think that something sounds cool so we agree to go to it 2 weeks down the line. Or, we might be really tired and decline the chance to go to an amazing event 2 weeks from now having not given ourselves the chance to think it through. As I like to say, never make an important decision drunk, tired, hungry or horny
  • At that moment when we are being asked, we might not have planned out our following day or week yet. We need to be sure that this request of us is not getting in the way of the expectations we have of ourselves towards whatever it is we’re working on. We need to be the architects of our energy on a daily basis. If we don’t know the things we want to accomplish in any given day or a week, we won’t know if we should say yes or no to an unplanned request. Figure out what you want to accomplish today/this week and analyze if what is being asked of you impedes you or not (Yes, getting 8 hours of sleep tonight is a very valid goal if it’s important to you.)
  • If we’re trying to please everyone by accommodating every request of us, we run the risk of constantly being sapped of all of our energy while never taking care of ourselves, be they any of the following energy depleters:
    • moral support for someone who isn’t willing to change their ways
    • free advice to people who don’t really want to work for anything
    • emotional support for someone unwilling to go anywhere by themselves
    • trying to impress someone we don’t even know
    • fear of hurting someone’s feelings

Let Things Breathe

Am I advocating never hanging out with your friends unless you need something from them, or never going to another networking event unless you know exactly who are going to meet there? No. I’m just saying, give yourself some time to think about your answer. Think about your week or your day and figure out if there are other more important things you want or need to do instead. There will always be other events, but if you feel that you could use some time with friends to reconnect or if you feel that a particular networking event could be fun, then do it, and do it with gusto!

But don’t say yes out of some weird societal pressure to oblige to a request at that very second, lest we seem pompous asking for some time to think. It’s not pompous; it’s taking responsibility for your life. You don’t have to apologize for that.

Giving yourself some time allows you to feel more comfortable with your eventual yes or no answer. “Let me think about it” or “When do you need to know by?” are perfectly fair answers to any request. But if the request truly needs to be answered that very second, go with the “no” or “hell yes!” option.

What one or two things do you wish you allowed yourself more time to think about before you agreed/disagreed to do/attend them?