I grew up thinking that "no" was a word I need only say to males that wanted a type of relationship I didn't. Later in life, I learned to say it to people and organizations that asked for my time, money, or signature in support of a cause they thought was important but I didn't. To those that were pressuring me to purchase products and services, I learned to say, "Hell, no!" and feel okay about it. But requests from friends, family, and potential clients were harder to refuse.
It was only recently that I learned I can say no to anything – or anyone – and feel good about it. I can even say no to potential paying clients whom my instinct tells me will (literally) be more trouble than they are worth. And, I can do this even when I don't have a "full plate" of projects. What a concept!
Today I heard from a woman I did a bit of writing work for last fall. A sweet person to talk with, she was disorganized to the point that she often could not even find the emails I'd sent her. She liked the biography I had revised for her (the second time I sent it, after she'd called me in confusion weeks later), but said she already was working with another writer and likely would have the rest of her website content done by that person. Secretly relieved, I encouraged her in that association and requested that she send me a check for the bio. It was less than an hour's work, so I charged her for only half an hour, and she agreed that this was more than fair. Two or three months passed, and the check did not arrive. I knew she had simply forgotten about it, and was on the fence about whether to simply let the matter slide, since it was a small amount.
Unexpectedly, I received a phone call from her. She immediately launched into asking me for information about website content and structure, apparently assuming we were going to work together on her website content. I politely stopped her and said, "We haven't discussed my availability." Then, I kindly explained to her that I choose not to work with clients who are very disorganized because it is inefficient. I cannot bill for the amount of time I spend resending documents and calling a client to remind them of things, and it simply becomes too much unpaid work. I also reminded her that she had not paid for the work I'd already done.
She did not get angry, or even upset – and neither did I. In fact, she said she understood why I took that approach, apologized profusely for forgetting to send the check, and said she'd put it in the mail right away. We ended the conversation on a friendly note, and I gave her a couple of suggestions for improving her organization skills.
I had said no to a client – had turned down work – and the world did not end! The sun was still shining (which was in itself a miracle of sorts, during a rainy week north of Seattle).
Shortly afterward, I received an email from a friend who said that a relative of hers (a young woman) had died suddenly. My friend, like me, does not see death as a negative occurrence, but she was concerned about the young woman's mother, who tended to be emotionally fragile. Instantly, I felt the desire to help – to "send energy" in support (other people might call this prayer; it's much the same thing). I asked for the woman's name and immediately felt myself connect with her. It took little time and no effort, and felt easy and natural. (Whenever I feel a desire to help in this manner, it always feels easy and natural. If it doesn't, I don't get involved.)
Yet I wondered, if I had not been true to myself in telling the potential client that I did not want to work with her, would I have been in the right mental and emotional space to connect with my friend's family member? I suspect I may not have been.
In saying no to things we don't prefer, we are saying yes to those that are fulfilling – even if we don't know about them yet.
Alexi Paulina's ebooks are available at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/alexi3