I think my life has an inverse relationship with the writers and the members of the editorial staff at Harvard Business Review (HBR). Here’s why: As I get older, HBR’s writers and editorial personnel seem to get younger. As I get more mature, more things become obvious to me. As the folks at HBR get more childish, fewer things seem obvious to them.
As Exhibit A, I offer this article — “How to Say No to “Grabbing Coffee” — which offers up this slice of salient sagacity:
As more of us get vaccinated and we begin to venture out, we all face a unique opportunity to reset how we invest our time … The good news is that it’s possible to maintain your self-respect and your relationships even if you turn down an invitation.
Here’s the thing. Unless I’m interacting with my grandchildren — or with the young-student audiences with which I share my books for children — most of my communication is with adults. My self-respect isn’t in jeopardy in any of my communication with adults, nor are my relationships with them if I need to decline an invitation. To the contrary, most of them respect me for my honesty and straight shooting.
It’s easy enough to imagine that lying through my teeth would ding my self-respect. It’s equally easy to imagine being caught at lying through my teeth would compromise my relationships. So, I don’t do it. The best solution to any problem is to not create it in the first place.
It’s About Time
The only thing I could see putting serious crimps in my self-respect and my relationships is being caught writing for, joining the editorial staff of, or reading HBR. My only hope would be to chalk it up to a huge chronological and intellectual regression caused by being struck in the head by lightning or watching Darcey & Stacey. If I babbled incoherently enough — and spent an inordinate amount of time huddled in a closet, drooling in my shoe — I might be able to pull it off. But I’d like to leave open the possibility that I could come up with better, more constructive things to do.
Speaking of time, the HBR article goes on to say this:
Ask yourself a few key questions to home in on what will feel most meaningful to you. What do you miss most from the time before Covid-19? What would you like to leave behind as you establish your new routine? Having a sense of autonomy and purpose not only helps you feel empowered but also improves your ability to manage your emotions.
Here’s a really key question: Do you want to go to whatever the hell you’re being invited to go to? If not, there’s a one-syllable word that hasn’t yet been banished from dictionaries; although, it’s definitely on the Endangered Word List. It’s this: No.
Having a sense of autonomy and purpose may empower you to manage your emotions. But having the sense to say no allows you to manage your time so you have more of it to think about how autonomous, purposeful, and empowered you are.
Now drop the HBR and put yourself in timeout.