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Nobody likes to be forced to go somewhere they don’t want to go, but in some cases we’re called upon to do just that. A recent survey of the readers of “Canadian Economist” found that two thirds of respondents claimed they would say no to an unmotivated boss who asked them to come into the office on a day when they’d rather be doing something else.
With the Winter Olympics set to start tomorrow, many of you may be feeling de ja vu. That’s because many of you may have already said ‘no’ to the same type of invitation, but were talked into going anyway. You probably attended all because of the free food and drink at the reception, and because you’re a sucker for the competition. If you don’t want to go, say no. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t feel like going, you just don’t. And that’s okay.
On second thought.
Most social engagements are best made in the early morning hours.
29. April 2021
When I was in my early twenties, my friends started calling me Cherpak. I had a reputation for making plans and cancelling them the night before. Even then, I knew it was annoying and impolite behavior. But I made these plans with the best intentions in the world: I love my friends! I want to see their faces! That spoken word event in a low, dank bar sounded fun when you told me about it three weeks ago!
About 24 hours before many social events, I began to sweat and feel lethargic. After a long day at the office, I often felt exhausted from interacting with people, and all I wanted to do was buy a giant burrito at a store near my apartment, come home, pull down my pants, and eat it in peace while watching reality TV. After several years of last-minute disappointments from friends, I realized that being honest with myself – and my friends – about what I really wanted was much kinder and less stressful for everyone involved.
I began to evaluate what I really like to do and what I enjoy about being with my friends. I didn’t like standing for long, for almost no reason. I didn’t like waiting in line to eat. I didn’t like anything that included the word network. I liked having a drink or a meal in a place where people could talk, or relaxing in someone’s living room, or going to a party if there were a lot of people I knew and plenty of room to sit.
Having children in my thirties has been a great excuse to be the recluse I naturally am, and it has also helped to further clarify my communication needs. I was both more tired and more hungry for adult conversation. I preferred to meet in small groups without my girls, and when I was with them, I experienced the joy of loud dinners with a separate table for the children. I learned the valuable skill of continuing a conversation when repeatedly interrupted.
During the pandemic, I added a few other forms of socializing to my repertoire, including walking outside and talking like I was a poor man from Aaron Sorkin’s TV series. While I can easily live with some of the symptoms of the pandemic because I hate leaving the house, this year of enforced isolation has been depressing, and even someone who lives as isolated as I do has missed human interaction with people with whom I have no connection.
That doesn’t mean I’m coming to your show in the future. I don’t have much time on this deathbed, and I think I’ll fall back on my old communication preferences.
While there are obviously commitments you make because you love and honor your friends and family, I suggest you figure out what you really want to see in people next. Especially now that people make plans without restraint and accept all kinds of events without thinking because they want company so badly. To a collective sonic bath! Yes, to wine tasting! Yes, in the morning! Oh, honey, no. No. No.
Be honest with yourself. If you like the energy of a large crowd, go for the intimacy of a concert over a cup of coffee and conversation. If you hate visiting someone, invite them to your house.
Tell people the real reasons why you say no to the things you say no to. This has two advantages: It gives you a deeper intimacy with friends who know you as you really are. And that means they stop inviting you to events you don’t really like. My friends don’t call me Scoop anymore because I’m still here.
Jessica Grose is a columnist and reporter for NYT Parenting. She is currently working on a book titled The Almighty and Utterly Useless: Creating the perfect American mother.
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