Would you like fries with that? You sure? How about the shirt off my back?

I like to satisfy people.

I’m not a do-gooder. I’m not one of these people who volunteers and spends every waking second serving food to the homeless, or passing out blankets at hospitals, or sitting with the elderly.

But I do like to please people. Sometimes to a fault. I hate to say no. I hate to disappoint. I hate to think I had an opportunity to help someone who asked for it, and I refused to take it.

When I do something, I do a good job. I’m precise and accurate. I loathe careless errors, so I make damned sure not to make any myself. I like to produce good things.

Because I like to satisfy people.

But the problem with always wanting to satisfy people is that you’ll never succeed. What’s that saying? You can only please some of the people, some of the time. By never saying no, I always end up stressed out, over-committed, and I end up letting people down. Then I feel badly.

And I fix that by offering to do more.

You can see where this is going, I’m sure.

I’ve been getting a lot of requests for beta reads, lately. That’s when an un-published author asks you to read their manuscript and give them comments. I always say yes.

In the past, if I got over-committed, I’d just not respond. I’d feel guilty as hell, but I didn’t want to disappoint them, so I wouldn’t send them anything at all.

But I’ve decided it’s time to grow a spine, and I’ve started saying no. I’ll read a few pages, and if it’s not working for me, I send the aspiring author an email saying so. I’m not rude about it; I just tell them what’s not working — in my opinion — and send them on their way.

I thought people would be pissy. Irritated. Angry at me for not reading more than a few pages.

But I’ve gotten more emails of thanks from this exercise than for all the beta reads I laboriously slogged through in full.

There’s a guy I work with who always says it better to under-promise and over-deliver. People respond when you give them more than they ask for. Conversely, people hate feeling cheated out of their due.

“No” carries a lot of power, and demands respect. It’s not a bad word.

Just an effective one.

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