I read a wonderful post yesterday (see: In Others’ Words “Sorry, not sorry”) about how women are conditioned into being over-apologizers, ready to say sorry early just to end the conflict, or sorry for taking up too much space on the subway, or sorry to turn down a request. As Laura points out:
…moving through the world apologizing for taking up too much space is NOT LITTLE. When you do that, you are conceding that you don’t have the right to stand up for yourself, or allot your time the way you want, or occupy the space you require.
If you’re a sorry over-user, you’re also likely a frequent “Yes-er.”
Being “nice” – something women are conditioned to be from the moment they are born – usually involves saying “Yes” to everyone else’s needs before their own. While generosity and looking out for others is a wonderful virtue, women (and especially Indian women) are taught to sacrifice themselves for the greater good.
But how does this behavior work out for us? Not so well, it turns out, if you are last on your list.
Adam Grant’s wonderful book Give and Take tells us that “givers” come in two flavors. “Otherish givers” have a high regard for others’ interests AND their own interests. “Selfless givers” have a high regard for others’ interests but not their own interests. Adam found that “otherish” givers emerge at the top of their fields while “selfless” givers emerge at the bottom, burnt out from too much giving, and possibly resentful.
One thing we need to remember is that people expect us to take care of our own interest, so they may be unaware that our “yes” is coming at a high personal cost. You may be giving a bit of yourself away when you say “yes,” but the person at the other end may not realize the cost, or if they knew the cost, they might be ok with hearing a “no.”
Also the more often we say “yes,” the more often expected / less remarkable it becomes. As the wise Gretchen Rubin says about shared work:
When you’re doing a job that benefits other people, it’s easy to assume that they feel conscious of the fact that you’re doing this work—that they should feel grateful, and that they should and do feel guilty about not helping you.
But no! Often, the more reliably you perform a task, the less likely it is for someone to notice that you’re doing it, and to feel grateful, and to feel any impulse to help or to take a turn.
By default, I try to jump through hoops that people put before me. As I try to become more judicious about when to say “no” and when to say “yes,” a memory from playing a video game as a kid comes to mind. We’re in a circus in which a majestic lion must jump through hoops on fire, that come to him in ones and twos and threes, faster and faster. I try to think of myself as the lion. But instead of jumping through the crazy hoops, I side-step them and saunter on. And I think, why would a majestic lion jump through hoops? And I repeat to myself, “Hoops are NOT for jumping through…”
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