My uncomfortable experience saying no.
I recently attended a conference where some well-known celebrities were highlighted as keynote speakers. I was the most excited to witness the Kerry Washington conversation where she would be discussing women's equality.
During the course of the conference, everyone learned that the seating for these sessions was first come, first served. AKA: Get there early if you want a good seat.
Knowing this, I showed up to the Kerry Washington keynote 45 minutes early and positioned myself right at the front of the line. I was so proud of myself. I knew I would be one of the first people in, I could get a seat close to the front and actually watch her instead of just looking at the screen.
The doors opened a little early and we all hurried in. I walked straight to where they were directing me, but when I got there, there was some confusion between the security people about reserved seating. There were two seats right next to a bunch of reserved seats with no signs on them. I finally just sat down in one of the chairs without a sign on it. Success! Now I can breathe.
The girl next to me, who had also been waiting in line by me, was wasting time talking to a security person about seating arrangements. The longer she talked, the more people walked in and sat behind us and the room was filling up. She was trying to find two seats because she was waiting for her friend to get there.
She turns to me and says... "Would you mind moving?"
& Out of nowhere, I said no.
I am not kidding when I say she was genuinely shocked and if I am being honest, I was shocked too.
I spent the entire session more uncomfortable than I have been in a while. Feeling so guilty for saying no. Feeling so awkward and embarrassed still sitting next to this person who was clearly irritated with me.
I think it is important to note here, that this person did not move back a row to sit with her friend. She chose to sit next to me instead of moving... Which means she only wanted to sit next to her friend at *my expense*, not her own.
It took about 6 hours until I noticed my body had returned to normal after being paralyzed by this interaction. I knew I had every right to turn down her request, but it still didn't feel good. However, this was a splendid learning opportunity for me.
I learned that while it is often uncomfortable, it's okay to say no. I don't have to cater to other people all the time. I can decide to sit in my amazing seat and not give it up for a stranger just because they asked. I learned that not all guilt is justified, and sometimes we punish ourselves for things that aren't that bad.
I hope this story inspires you to try saying no to something you don't want to do. Instead of agreeing to something out of guilt or habit - try saying no once in a while.