I’m a nice person. This is not normally a bad thing – except when being nice starts distracting me from what I need to accomplish. My first instinct is to help people, to be nice, to chip in… and if the amount of time it will take doesn’t match up to the money it will bring in, well, I’m helping people, right? Sadly, after a couple of rounds of this I can see the results: me stressed out, my personal projects delayed, and general regret. I need to say no.
Does that mean I can’t help people? Of course not. Volunteer work for charities is always possible – in its place. Taking time to help a writer in Group to learn, to grow… that’s on the agenda from now until forever. Helping out a friend on the occasional weekday – if it’s a good friend. Sure. But I have to be jealous of my time, otherwise I end up a week down the road staying far too late at the keyboard while my husband cooks dinner and asks if I’m ever coming down. (Not that I’m ever complaining about him cooking for me. Ever.)
When I did account management in the business world, I got really frustrated at those flaky people who had to be reminded eight times to do anything useful for you. Who always pushed me off in favor of something else. Like, more than twice. Every time I asked. But – and here’s the big but – I’m starting to think that maybe (in a small way) they had it right all along. If you do the most important things first – importance being defined by yourself, your needs, and the needs of the clients paying the bills – you let the chips fly where they will otherwise.
This is not very nice. You end up politely (or unpolitely) saying no to a lot of good things. You come off as flaky to the fringe people in your life. You have to get bitchy to the people who won’t leave you alone – and I hate being bitchy. But. If I do this correctly, I get to the end of the week having accomplished everything I needed to – with a little time left over. I’m the one cooking (I love cooking). I can see friends. I can relax.
So: is being a helpful and nice person really worth my sanity? I think not. (Polite) bitchiness gets me a lot farther.