Co-authored and inspired by Sister Mary Lisa

SML: I got called to be in the primary presidency again, honey.

Mr. SML (never-mo): WHAT? But you’ve been in the young women’s presidency for two years!

SML: I know. I just wish I could get a break once!

Mr. SML: All it would take is one word: NO.

SML: Cha right. Shee-it. You have no idea what you’re saying.

Mr. SML: If you don’t wanna do it, just say no. It’s simple.

SML: Um, no I can’t. Not even if I want to say no could I say no.

Mr. SML: (blank stare….he doesn’t get it)

SML: Trust me on this.

Mr. SML: Whatever. I’D have said no.

SML: *Sigh* Anyway……I have a presidency meeting this Wednesday and a quarterly activity I found out I’m in charge of this Saturday, and it’s my month to do sharing time apparently. I’ll see you next week, OK?

Mr. SML: Like I said. Whatever.

Many Mormons have a hard time saying no. It is probably no accident that my mother became a Mormon and that Mormonism could inflict considerable damage on her children. We did not know how to say no.

When my mother raised us, we learned that the most important word is “why?” However important “why” may be for developing reasoning skills and leading a responsible life, it turns out that my mother was wrong. The most important word is “no!” If you can’t say no then you won’t have a life.

As it turns out, William Ury, the co-author of Getting to Yes, probably the most famous contemporary book on negotiation, is now promoting The Power of A Positive No, which teaches people how to protect yourself by saying no while remaining a cooperative person.

You can listen to a radio presentation by Ury on the Kojo Nnamdi Show.

Balancing theory and applications, The Power of A Positive No is an easy read. There is a chapter about the idea and the method. The remainder of the book is about applications in different contexts such as saying no to your boss, your subordinate, your children, your spouse, and your friends.

If you are the kind of Mormon, like me, who needs to learn how to say no, read the book. It will improve your personality, make you a more efficient worker, and a better spouse and parent.

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7 Responses

  1. CWC says:

    No is my favorite word. Only as a so-called ‘grown-up’ am I finally learning to use it judiciously, instead of as a knee-jerk to anyone even hinting at having any kind of authority over me. LOL.

    Never saying no, and always saying no, are flip sides of the same problem – which is one of recognising and assigning proper value to “authority” in our lives. For those who’ve always said “yes,” or didn’t even think “no” was an option, learning to create boundaries and say “no” is a new kind of freedom, well-deserved at that. For those who’ve said “no” as a matter of routine, learning to pick your battles and that not *everything* is a fight, is equally freeing.

  2. Hellmut: I just read your comment here, SML, and I want to post your comment with my comment as a combined post on Main Street Plaza. May I?

    SML: Yes, of course!

    SML: *pondering* …..should I have said NO?

    🙂 Just kidding, Hellmut! Great writing… I’m someone who really does need to learn to say no more. I’m coming into my own slowly but surely now.

  3. Fringe Mormons have a hard time understanding how hard it is for a TBM to say no. Their whole life is based on a belief that the church is good, and that means saying yes to God and to others. To say “no” would bring their whole mental framework crashing down. My Dad right now is acting as branch taxi. Fuel is over a pound a liter (over ten dollars per US gallon) and we live in a remote rural area where distances are great. But as the branch president he drives himself into debt, literally, acting as the branch free taxi service, because without him the branch would not function. Psychologically he simply cannot say no, because that would deny his whole reason for living: “be nice to people and God will bless you.” But he is tired and forever in debt because of it.

  4. …further to the previous post: In answer to the obvious question, and if he asked for money, people would say no, and the branch would cease to function. But the branch must function, and must succeed, at any cost. Therefore saying no is not an option. He is trapped but he would never say so, because the church is good, the church gives freedom, the church is helping so many people, etc.

  5. Hellmut says:

    I have seen similar cases, Chris, both in Maryland and Germany. People sacrificing their education and spending more than they can afford to support the LDS Church. And that’s after paying tithing and compromising their careers, of course.

  6. Randy says:

    Chris, your dad’s story reminds me of an inner-city branch in my fair city. The local church powers-that-be wisely rented a meeting place along the local streetcar line, in hopes that less affluent members would use public transportation to get to and from church. The branch even offered to pay for it. Sure enough, people still insisted on being picked up for church. Unlike the other churches in that part of town, we didn’t have a bus, so it fell on the 4-5 people who did everything else to taxi those other people to church.

  7. Mayan Elephant says:

    hey randy. iirc, one of the “cabbies” in that branch had a medical issue that then prevented him from driving. so his wife took over as his chauffer and the branch cab driver. that was crazy stuff.

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