Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How to be a responsible person: Just say NO

As discussed in my previous post, what duties you have depends on what roles you are playing.

There are some roles that are assigned to you no matter if you like them or not. For example, most people have living parents and they assume the role of son/daughter. If you live on the earth (duh), you got to be living in some country and so you assume the role of a citizen of that country and has to abide by the its laws. Although these roles carry some kind of duties also, I'm not talking about them in this post since you don't have a choice (or it's very difficult) to leave them.

Can we assume a role voluntarily? Of course. We do that all the times in our lives:
  • When you accept an offer from company X, you assume the role of an employee of that company
  • When you marry your lover, you assume the role of a husband/wife
  • When you give birth to a child, you assume the role of a parent.
  • When you buy a dog, you assume the role of a pet owner
  • And a lot more...
Except in the case of proposing to your girlfriend when you're drunk, your actions are voluntary, and so are the resulting roles.

One very common problem many people have these days is that they assume a role too easily.

A friend asks you to go to a theme park since he get 50% discount on the tickets so you say

"Why not? Get a ticket for me."

After a few days, you succeed in asking your dream girl out but she happens to be free only on that same Saturday. So, you call your friend and tell him that you're not going.

"But what about your ticket man? There's no refund on discounted tickets."

"Hmm maybe you can ask your other friends to see if any of them wants to buy it."

"Alright let me try... Maybe I can sell it on Craigslist..."

If your friend can't sell that ticket, he would have to take the loss.

To my mind, you have to buy it from your friend whether you're going or not. As soon as you say "Why not? Get a ticket for me", you assume the role of a guest and your duties are to pay for the ticket and attend the event. If you can't fulfill the duty of attending the event for a valid reason (alright, dream girl is a valid reason), you should at least fulfill the duty of buying the ticket.

In my example, you can't really predict that your dream girl is only available on that Saturday so you can't refuse your friend's invitation while you should have done that. However, there're many cases in real lives in which one can just say no after exercising a little bit of brain power.

For example, if you're already very busy with your full-time work, it'd be very difficult for you to accept a part-time volunteering work of, say, tutoring low-income students for free. Hey, I'm not saying that helping poor students isn't meaningful. You should realize though that you only have 24 hours a day. If you need to spend 12 hours at work and 8 hours to sleep, you only have 4 hours left for all the other things. Even if you're able to squeeze time out to tutor your students, the quality of your tutoring will nowhere be near good.

So, the first step of being a responsible person is to learn saying no. Even if you can fulfill the duties but the quality of your job will be bad, say no too. A little bit of perfectionism is healthy and you should say to yourself "If I cannot do this job well, I would rather say no and not do it at all".

"But then people will dislike me because I say no too often."

Well, maybe. The thing is, people will dislike you even more if you say yes and then say no later on. If you do that often enough, your friends or coworkers or boss or, most importantly, dream girl won't take your words seriously anymore.

So, know your limitations and say no responsibly :)

Previous article: "How to be a responsible person: Definitions"
Next article: "How to be a responsible person: Cut unused communication channels"

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