Must Learn To Say “NO!”

Or else resign myself to my fate as a doormat.

I had an 11:30 a.m. interview Thursday at a local art gallery, which (I thought) was set up by a third-party PR person several weeks ago.

Wednesday morning, I had a new email from that PR representative asking whether they’ll be able to access and share the article after publication without paying for a subscription to the newspaper or website.

NO.

Please, somebody, teach me how to summon my inner bitch at will.

That’s what I wanted to say, but didn’t; I didn’t responded at all, figuring I’d deal with it Thursday when I got there. (Also I didn’t want to even chance the unlikely risk of their canceling on me.)

Ill quickly fast forward now, because I’m writing this after the fact, to share that this didn’t turn out to be an issue at all. The person I’d spoken to actually does work for/with the gallery, it’s just that her email made it sound like she didn’t, and they subscribe to the paper and she just wanted permission to save and share the article, essentially, so that others who don’t subscribe might be able to read it, too.

(I mean, that’s not the most ideal scenario, but lots of our other subscribers do it all the time, anyway.)

What I thought she wanted was a free copy of the article, straight from my hands or inbox to hers, and that, I don’t like to do. Partly because I’m really not supposed to, and mostly because we all work really hard on the newspaper and it won’t be sustainable for us as a business or as employees if we simply give everything away for free.

We do give some stories away for free, and I believe all of our special sections including our magazines are in front of our paywall. But not everything can be.

But it’s not the first time people have asked, and there have been times when they’ve asked in person and I — ever the people pleaser — can’t find it in me to say “No.”

I even have a valid excuse — that I’m not supposed to give complimentary copies away without editor approval — and yet I still can’t bring myself to say, “No.” Because I so hate to disappoint people.

It’s a curse.

I’m not sure where that even stems from: is it some childhood trauma? Or am I just really nice? I think I was never taught how to set boundaries as a kid, and so now in adulthood, I suffer for it. (Particularly with my parents, it seems, but that’s a story for another day.)

Anger, it turns out, is an excellent means … But being angry most or all of the time is neither healthy nor sustainable.

So, because I have little to no ability to set boundaries, people can just walk all over me, and I know they won’t hesitate to do so before I can find it in myself to shut them down before they start.

So I have to learn how to do that.

Please, somebody, teach me how to summon my inner bitch at will and not solely when provoked.

It’s election season again, and I fielded a phone call last week during which I swear I could feel my blood pressure rise.

We send out questionnaires to the candidates of each contested race, including three open-ended questions meant to share with our readers the candidates’ views on pertinent issues. We’d already received feedback from a single candidate in one race that, essentially, our questions were irrelevant and we’re shitty reporters. I later fielded another phone call essentially saying the same thing: the candidate had forwarded the questions to this person who was not in the race.

Oh, I was mad. It absolutely took effort on my part to find a line between firm and bitchy — which is rare because I usually find myself caving to what background of customer service I have, which is what my last job was all about.

I think it was helpful in that moment that I was angry. Anger, it turns out, is an excellent means to not allowing yourself to be treated like a doormat. But being angry most or all of the time is neither healthy nor sustainable.

That’s something else for me to learn: how fine of a line am I allowed to walk in situations such as that one. I must be respectful and I should be accommodating when possible — but I should not tolerate abuse.

The outcome of that situation, however, was a “No.” No, we’re not revising our questions, and you have the option to answer them or to decline participation, and either is acceptable. So instead of people pleasing, I stuck to what I knew, and I consider it a win, even if I had to get mad to get there.

I like to write things that make people uncomfortable.

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