Monday, August 11, 2014

On Understanding the Word 'No'

An an ENFJ-type, there is one word in the English language that I understand so little that it might as well be Greek.

And that is the word 'no.'

My kids might argue with you about that, but the honest truth is that I have a hard time saying no to anyone.  

But that's not all.  I'm afraid it's much worse than that.

Since the need to help people is what drives me, I will also confess that I often volunteer myself for things that no one else has even noticed need attention yet.

Clearly I do not understand how 'no' works.

Take this exchange with my neighbor, for example.  She is currently expecting a child--her fourth--and I noticed that at church yesterday she was breathing heavily and acting like she was already in labor.  

I know a laboring woman when I see one.  I've been there, done that five times myself.

Anyway, I pulled her aside to ask if she was feeling okay, and she opened up about how she's prone to early labor, is on medication to stop the contractions because she isn't due for another three months, and how on the Sundays when her husband works it takes her three hours to get her and the kids ready for church, and how she isn't sure how much longer she can do this.

As a side note, I do tend to notice people tell me all sorts of information they don't share with everyone.  I hear that's an ENFJ trait, since we are so empathetic and driven to serve others that people just open up. I both love this and hate this, since I love being able to help people, but every time I will get sucked in and worry about their problems more than I should.

Which is exactly what happened with my neighbor.  As I listened to her, my mind went into overdrive with all the possibilities open to me (we ENFJers tend to be highly organized, which makes us incredibly efficient as well). And before I knew it, I had discarded a half-dozen contingency plans and had decided that the best course of action was to was offer to take her kids home from church any week that she felt she needed to leave early, and I also offered to pick them up and take them to church so she could stay home and rest and get a break from the kids.  I could tell by the look on her face that she'd never even considered this idea before, and then she went on forever with her thanks and compliments on how sweet I was to offer.

Okay, I did mention that I have five children of my own that completely fill up a minivan by themselves, right? 

As I walked away, I kicked myself for stepping forward.  Because, truth is, besides dealing with my own kids, on Sundays I am so busy that I often stay much later after church is over to clean up and prepare for the next week or attend meetings.  I really couldn't keep track of her kids and finish my own work.  And I barely get to church on time myself and am often busy getting ready for the lessons, so I couldn't logistically watch her kids while she stayed home to rest, either.

What was I thinking?

I wasn't, which is exactly my problem. 

Yes, I am guilty of deciding things based on how it will help or hurt others, and I am prone to making quick and decisive decisions without fully thinking through the problem.  (That's a classic ENFJ trait right there.)  I am getting better at using a more logical approach to my decision-making, but clearly people are my weakness. I'll do anything to help lift another's burden, even if it adds to my own.

However, I have mastered some variations of saying 'no.'  For example, I can keep my mouth shut when people ask for volunteers, but I will confess that each time I do it I feel incredibly guilty. And I squirm until the positions have been filled by others.  It's not a comfortable feeling, especially since I strive for peace and harmony above all else.   

So, you can see why being an ENFJ is not exactly a walk in the park some days. 

But 'no' and I are beginning to understand one another.  It's still a tenuous relationship, and I doubt we'll ever be great friends, but I do know that 'no' can often be the only thing standing between me and total exhaustion.

And for that, 'no' deserves my attention and respect.

What about you?  Do you understand the word 'no?'  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.  I'd love to hear how others deal with this issue.

And thanks for reading!

Until next time, folks.

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