Sunday, July 15, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

Tell Me About It: Inability to say 'no' isn't just about dining

Q: We Americans are used to large restaurant portions. Often when dining out with friends, someone suggests an entree she wants to split, and since I suspect my friends all know I'd rather die than offend, I'm often feeling pressured to agree — even though I'd prefer my own choice. This also denies me the pleasure of a doggie bag to take home for another meal.

I finally stopped dining out with one friend as she would sulk through the meal because I didn't want to share her perpetual plate of greasy nachos! How do I politely handle these bullying requests without hurting the friendship?

Dining Out

A: Wait a minute. You don't like saying no, therefore their requests are "bullying"?

That's a nifty sleight of hand, shifting the blame onto them for positions you chose to take.

The friend who pouts over nachos, OK — she has some issues. But normal people who, like you, can't finish a normal restaurant portion are behaving well within the range of normal when they suggest sharing an entree.

That's because there's absolutely nothing abnormal, mean, wrong or impolite about just saying no. Look at where this path has brought you: You don't like saying no, so you feel pressured when asked, so you blame your friends for asking, so you start seeing them as bullies instead of friends. How is that polite — or kind or generous — to them?

Or, I should say, how is that in any way nicer to them than just admitting you want your own food?

It's not (just) about tomorrow's lunch, it's about learning to advocate for yourself.

An ability to stand up for yourself is the skill you'll want most when your life hits a serious snag, as all lives tend to do. So put in the work to develop it now, while the living is relatively easy and nacho etiquette is the thorniest issue you've got. Do this work as a profound kindness to yourself. Enlist a good therapist if there's a deeper foundation to your fear of giving offense.

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