We South Africans struggle to say “No”. Most English-speaking people face this. Norwegians do not.
As we grow older our stream of “No” defines our legacy better than our stream of “Yes”. After 58 years I cannot remember one instance of a “No” costing me spiritually or financially. I recall many “Yes” replies that derailed me, some massive train wrecks.
Our South African style demands that we follow our “No” with some valid reason.
At the very least we’re expected to follow the “No” with a “Thank you,” as in “Thank you for asking me to help you fix your car.” In Norway a “No” is unadorned with niceties. When asking for something here even a “please” is absent most of the time.
Anyone may ask. It’s in the Bible. But answering ”No” is as valid as “Yes”. A “No” is not a rejection of your personhood. It means that, right now, the person you’re asking faces their own issues. Respect those.
When I first started consulting with business owners facing closure many people asked for help. I always said “Yes”.
Some were utterly broke. They’d delayed for so long that few options remained to improve their lot. I noticed extreme procrastination, a bad tactic in the face of closure.
These same people listened intently for an hour while I bought the coffee. They wanted someone to listen to the wrongs dealt to them, not resolution. I called this counselling.
Other folk would pay for my time. They bought coffee, and sometimes a smoked-salmon bagel. They dived into action after each meeting. I called this consulting.
The pattern became painfully clear. Over a decade just a fingerful of the non-payers took action. I stopped meeting with them. Not a rejection of these folk, but an acceptance that time invested with paying clients helped all of us.
Paying clients meant I fed my kids, and the commitment ensured they attacked their issues. Contrast this with non-paying folk where my kids went hungry and the advice-recipient got no better.