So the Games have ended, and normalcy has returned to many lives in Delhi, including that of Pappu Singh, my friendly neighbourhood dhabha wallah. The authorities allowed him to resume operations on his thela the morning after the closing ceremony, and for once I realised that seeing someone fry pakoras on the street side can also lead to a strange feeling of happiness. However, before I could get the pleasure of being his first customer after the re-opening, I saw that Chaddha ji had beaten me to it. There he was, wiping the last traces of chutney off the plate and discussing something animatedly. “What’s the topic?”
I intervened. “This Pappu has become so arrogant after returning,” Chaddha ji complained.
“I asked him to cook at my home for Bansuri’s birthday party, and he has bluntly refused.” I looked questioningly at Pappu Singh and with his trademark calm look, he said, “Madam ji, I don’t want to take up catering for a private party so soon after re-opening the dhabha. So I said no. Aadhe dil se haan karne se toh poore dil se na karna achha.
Ab isme yeh bura mane to inki problem (It’s better to say no with conviction than to say a half-hearted yes. If that makes him think bad of me, then it’s his problem).” At that moment, I silently thanked God for the wisdom He put in that illiterate man.
A lot of us live through life as half-hearted ‘yes’-men or women. We have conditioned ourselves to be people-pleasers, and we don’t want anyone to dislike us. But in the quest to be loved by all, we sacrifice two key things — our self respect and our right to say NO when we don’t want to say yes. I don’t know about everyone who’s reading this right now, but I know that I myself have, for the longest time, had an abysmally low self worth because I was forever trying to seek approval of everyone around me, and therefore never put my foot down on things that I didn’t want to happen. It was very late in life that I realised that smiling and saying yes to a favour that a friend or colleague asked while cursing him under the breath didn’t help my peace of mind.
It just made me feel miserable about being pushed around. The day I learnt the power of this two letter word ‘No’, I also realised the true value of saying yes to the right things. Now, before I start to sound like the sales person of a self help book on tele shopping network, here are my three calmness tips for those who say yes to every damn thing and later kick themselves for it.
1 Remember your rights: Being able to say ‘No’ to something that makes you uncomfortable or unhappy is your right. And no one, be it an aggressive spouse, a nasty boss or a demanding friend, can take away that right from you.
2 Don’t justify: My biggest problem, even if I ever say no to something, is to start justifying it with some explanation. Giving lengthy excuses about why you are not doing something that someone has asked of you, never helps. It only reaffirms that you are indeed making an excuse and that you may change your mind if situations change. Why leave that ambiguity? Say no firmly, but politely… and stop at that.
3 Word it well: Phrases like ‘I wish I could, but…’ or ‘Some other time’, or ‘I can’t do justice to it’ can help you decline a request and still not come across as blunt or rude.
And more than the above, the real key to calmness is to learn, once and for all, that to ‘get along’, it is not necessary to ‘go along’. You’ll be surprised by how your respect — in your own eyes as well as the other person’s — will go up, if you’ll be well-meaning and honest in saying no to something you can’t do. Try it.
Sonal Kalra has a strict deadline for this column but she will end up missing it to go shopping with a friend. How can you say ‘no’ to that? Mail your calmness tricks at: