Friday, March 13, 2009

The Need to Please

I suffer from a debilitating disease. There’s no cure for this particular ailment, only a self-administered treatment, which I’ll have to diligently implement for the rest of my life.

I suffer from a “Need to Please", sometimes referred to as “I Just Can’t Say No Syndrome.” Unfortunately, I’m not alone in suffering with this dreaded disease, but at the beginning of the New Year, I committed myself to proactive plan to deal with my little problem that isn’t so “little” anymore.

In January, as I admitted I had this problem, I stumbled right out of the gate when I agreed to attend a finance meeting with a few of the board members of the non-profit I work for. My boss requested my presence at this meeting that was scheduled for the evening of January 19, which also happened to be the M.L.K. Day of Service this year. When I questioned my boss about the date of the meeting she assured me she realized the office was closed for the day, but it was the only time the relevant parties were available to meet. In addition to coming in on my day off, the Mango Tribe had planned to get on the road by mid-afternoon to head down to Obama’s inauguration. Now, despite all of this, I still agreed to attend the meeting---- gritting my teeth all the while. Back at home with Loverman, and on the phone with my friends, I bemoaned my boss’ insensitivity, completely dismissing my own responsibility to simply say, “No, I can’t make it.” Finally, a day before the meeting, I called my boss and let her know that this wasn’t working for me and I’d have to miss the meeting. I was torn, because I hate to disappoint people, but I also I have a greater responsibility to my family and getting on the road early made more sense. Guess what, when I returned from the inauguration, I learned the meeting was inevitably postponed due to scheduling conflicts of some of the board members. I felt vindicated.

About 10 days ago, I got a call from a colleague asking me to participate as a panelist at a grant review in Boston in mid-April. The foundation facilitating this grant review is offering a modest honorarium and would handle my travel and lodging expenses. During our initial discussions about the process, I provided the dates in April I wasn’t available, explaining that I’m teaching on Tuesday afternoons until early May. After getting the available dates from the other perspective panelists, it was determined that the panel would meet on Weds, April 15, with everyone traveling to Boston Tuesday afternoon--- everybody but me. I assured them I didn’t mind missing the dinner they were providing for Tuesday evening, but asked whom should I speak to about making my travel arrangements? They told me to go-ahead and book my travel arrangements, they would reimburse me, and to let them know if I needed a hotel room for Tuesday night. After going to, I soon learned that a roundtrip, non-stop ticket would cost more than $700, and a less expensive flight with a layover could take me out of my way as far as Durham, North Carolina. A train from Philly to Boston is six hours and the earliest Id be able to get a train is 7pm, which would get me to Boston after midnight. Surely, this was out of the question. Again, I hemmed and hauled, not wanting to disappoint my colleagues, I tired to justify going out of my way to make this happen. I talked it over with Loverman and thankfully, my well-grounded man helped me to see the light and I called the foundation and withdrew my commitment to participate. Soon after I spoke with them, they sent an email offering to make my travel arrangements, but I remained firmed and explained that at this time, this wouldn’t work for me. I felt better.

Now, my need to please doesn’t mean that I’m a doormat or a pushover. But in these troubled economic times, I’m grateful to have a job and regular opportunities to bring extra money into the house, it’s sometimes just at the detriment of what’s really reasonable. I simply would like to be more realistic about what’s in my best interest at the outset, rather than having to go through a convoluted ordeal to extricate myself from something I had no business agreeing to in the first place.

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