One Day At The Airport, This Is How I Learnt To Say NO

Saying 'no' is always a hard thing for everyone because of all the negativity (pun unintended) around it. Here's how one woman learnt to say no!

Saying ‘no’ is always a hard thing for everyone because of all the negativity (pun unintended) around it. Here’s how one woman learnt to say no!

Recently, at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad, India, I did not read an amazing self-help book or attend a coaching seminar. Neither did I have a professional or personal earth-shaking tragedy that forced me to change myself.

It happened the day we were returning to the United States from India. We were at the airport. While my husband stood in the long queue at the airline counter, I sat with the kids. The younger one got hungry and I took out some food. With my carry-on luggage in the seat behind me, both the kids sat in the next seat while I offered them a snack. An elderly woman approached me and asked me to vacate a seat for her. Just like that, I said NO. This is how the conversation went:

EL (Elderly lady): Ask your kids to vacate the seat.

Me: And where will they sit?

EL: In your lap.

Me (motioning to all the bags already filling my seat): There is no place.

EL: They can sit in my lap.

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Me: How? There are two of them.

It was at this point that a young man sitting next to me offered his seat. The ‘old me’ would have emptied my seat of all our belongings and asked the kids to sit while I stood. As I later analysed this experience, I realized two things. One, the elderly lady probably had a right to ask, considering that she was visibly tired and I could see that she needed to sit. On the other hand, having her ‘win’ meant I would have gone through a lot of discomfort. There was no real reason for me to do so. There were several seats in the airport vacant and no one was dying.

Kids at the airport (Image is the author’s own)

I am a people-pleaser and saying no has always been very difficult. Over the years, I have gone through a lot of pain, saying yes when I should have said no. It took more than a decade and an encounter at an airport for a change to begin.

When you feel trapped in a situation, wanting to say ‘no’ but the ‘yes’ seems to slip out easily, this is what you can do. I call this my ‘Crossing the Road’ rule.

Slow down: We live in a fast-paced world where information is transmitted at lightning speed and people expect you to walk and even talk fast. Take a moment to understand what you might be committing to. Unless someone is dying, you have the right to take a moment or several to reply.

Look around and within: Why have you been asked? Can you do this? Can someone else do this better? Do you WANT to do this? What do you gain or lose? Sometimes, we don’t have a lot of time. In my case, my heart told me to say yes but my logical brain told me otherwise. The kids were tired and we had a long journey ahead. The ‘mom’ in me just didn’t want to do it.

Do it: Practice makes perfect. The more often you ‘Cross the Road’, the easier it gets. Now, I feel more confident in my ability to say no.

I love this quote by Suzette R.Hinton, “We must say “no” to what, in our heart, we don’t want. We must say “no” to doing things out of obligation, thereby cheating those important to us of the purest expression of our love. We must say “no” to treating ourselves, our health, our needs as not as important as someone else’s. We must say “no.”

What are your ‘No’ stories? I would love to hear from you!

Top image via Unsplash

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About the Author


I am an Indian living in the United States. Family comprises my husband and two boys who keep us on our toes and make us laugh. When I am not chasing them around, I work read more...

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