All posts tagged #Flexibility

Say Maybe to No Before Yes

Habits comfort and constrict. Reading at night before you go to sleep signals to your body and mind that the day is at an end and dreams are up ahead. Planning your day puts you in control of the hours, or at least makes you feel that way. Saying yes all the time puts me in a bind. I know that no is a good word. It’s just that it sounds so negative I find it difficult to say.

The power of saying no without feeling the guilt of letting someone down or hurting someone’s feelings is a power I’ve just started wielding. Trying to wield, is a more accurate statement. I haven’t gone all power hungry and “Just Say No” tyrant on the world. I’m just saying no a little bit more.

I’ve said no in the past. But I’ve never stopped with “no, thank you.” No, I must add a reason­–I already have plans with so-and–so, or an excuse­­–can’t make that date, or apology–I’m so sorry I just don’t have room in my schedule. I do the same thing when I receive a compliment.

“Your necklace is beautiful.”

“Oh, thank you, it’s my mother’s aunt’s hand-me-down, wasn’t even sure if I liked it when I got it.”

 

“I like your dress.”

“Nordstrom on sale, double points too. I’m sure they have more at the Michigan Avenue store.”

 

“Your story was enjoyable.”

“Well, you know, gee, I just keep getting in these crazy situations.”

My mother always told me to just say, “thank you,” and move on when someone says something nice about you. Instead, I say, “thank you,” and run on and on and on.

The real problem with just saying no might be related to my habit of initially responding with a yes to any question, offer or idea. This then leads me to behave like an appellate court, and reverse my lower court decision, replacing a yea with a nay. And like any good court, I must issue an opinion documenting the whys, wherefores and whatevers of my decision.

Aha! Perhaps the next step in becoming comfortable with the no word is to learn how to say, “Let me think about it,” or “maybe”, or “sounds wonderful however.”  If I’m not justifying a change of mind maybe I won’t feel the need to justify at all.  Maybe, just maybe.

What Happened When I Met The Prince?


“Seriously? You met a prince and it’s all about what you wore?” my sister wrote, referring to my most recent post.

“Yes, but if you read the post prior to the unveiling of the LRD  you would understand why,” I wanted to respond.

Recap: Last week I met Prince Alois, Hereditary Prince of Liechtenstein. Husband is Honorary Consul General of Liechtenstein for Chicago/Midwest. When I learned about the princely introduction I thought to myself (and aloud), “What does one wear when meeting a prince?” I figured that out and here’s what happened.

As we approached the castle I realized I didn’t know what to call the Prince. Your Excellency? Your Highness? Prince? Sir? Before I could ask Husband, who was several paces behind me, or the Ambassador, who was moving our little group along, we were ushered upstairs to a receiving room. I’m not sure that’s what the room is really called but since that is where we were received that’s what I’ll call it.

Prince Alois met us at the doorway and the Ambassador prepared to introduce each of the four Honorary Consuls and the two HC Spouses in attendance. Husband motioned for me to go ahead of him.

“I don’t want to go first.”

“Please, go ahead.”

“No, you speak the language and I don’t know what to call him.”

The Ambassador introduces Husband and he says something in German that makes the Prince smile and shake Husband’s hand a little longer and harder. I see a friendship blooming in front of me.

“And this is Julie Danis,” the Ambassador says, and indicates that I’m with Husband.

And so the Prince shakes my hand with a great smile and says something engaging–in German.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I only speak English. He’s the German guy in our house. It is a pleasure to meet you, thank you so much.” And I move on, quickly, realizing I had no idea what to call him so I just avoided the greeting all together, much like I do if I can’t remember someone’s name and don’t want to be found out.

“Shall we do the photographs first,” the Prince suggested. We moved to another room/hallway/photo op location. The official court photographer (I’m assuming) positioned us around the Prince and took a gazillion pictures.

“Don’t squeeze my upper arm,” I say to Husband.

“What?”

“Smile.”

After the picture session the Prince steps to face the half-moon of Honorary Consuls and Spouses.  The Ambassador explains where we are from and what we have seen and done in Liechtenstein for the last several days. A server passes beverages and light canapés.  It’s only 4:50pm and a glass of wine sounds like a fine idea.

I wouldn’t say I was star struck, but I felt speechless and the need to talk at the same time. Like the time I met President Clinton and was at a loss for words until I couldn’t stop myself from telling him: “We share the same birthday along with one of the Wright Brothers. I’m not sure which one but I think It’s Orville.” (It is.)

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t asked about the format of this meet and greet. Clearly my obsession with what to pack/wear had pushed all other thoughts of protocol out of my mind. Against my late mother’s better judgment (she always said my mouth would get me in trouble) I leaned over and whispered to the Ambassador, “Would it be appropriate if I asked the Prince a question?”

How couldn’t I ask a question? I’m the “why, why, why” girl, according to Husband. Always wanting to know why he’s done, said, or thought something. That’s a hazard of being a consumer insight professional. I need to know the why behind the what.  And truth be known, I had been thinking of what I might ask, if he opportunity presented itself.

“I think that would be fine, okay,” the Ambassador responded.

At the next lull in the back and forth I interjected, “Sir, Prince (I still didn’t know what to call him), if I may, if you can…we’ve had a wonderful program full of meetings with different departments and offices and the university…and I’m wondering, if there’s one thing you would want us to take back to our different regions, one message about Liechtenstein, what would that be?”

Phew. That was the longest, rambling question ever. Why didn’t I just ask the question I really wanted to ask, the one I often asked consumers and clients: “What keeps you up at night?” Because I was afraid it might be misconstrued as personal, and therefore definitely inappropriate.

“Hmm,” the Prince started.

“Feel free to have two or more,” I offered, not wanting to constrain him.

I wish I could quote his answer, but I can’t. I believe his message is this: Liechtenstein’s economy is feeling the effect of being reliant on exports to the EU. The country is small but mighty in entrepreneurship, education, high-tech manufacturing and self-reliance. Increasing awareness and interaction between the United States and Liechtenstein is what Honorary Consuls can do.

Our group agreed that we could carry the Prince’s message back to the United States. We all thanked him for his time and energy. In the end it was a perfect visit, except for one small thing, which I’m sure he would have never noticed or remembered.  I just wished I had said: “Your Serene Highness, I think I can do that.” Because that’s how you address a prince.

I’m up earlier than normal. But I read the papers for longer than usual. Time saved on hair and makeup is lost in a wardrobe consideration kerfuffle.

Most emails that populate my inbox by 7AM can be deleted without opening. The usual collection of newsletters I thought I wanted and can’t unsubscribe to because I might miss something, the LinkedIn group notices, and spam asking for money to be wired immediately or offering easy and cheap access to a better life through drugs.

An unexpected email causes me to hover over the delete button and start rethinking my day. My day that was so carefully planned out last night: writing group, committee meeting, tax advisor, two errands and home to a list waiting for me on my desk of calls to make and things to do.

I’ve been invited to attend a meeting at WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio station, with a media innovation class that I am helping out. This is a meeting where I can meet everyone at WBEZ I could want to meet. I start to reorder my day in my head.

“You can’t do that. You can’t cancel on your committee meeting, where you are a co-chair, at the last minute,” the good girl angel says on my right shoulder. She’s peeping out behind my silver earring, reminding me of my obligations.

“Oh yes you can,” says the other character – neither angel nor devil, an ingénue perhaps – jumping up and down on my left shoulder. “Seize the day. This is an opportunity waiting to be lost. You know you want it.”

Be quiet. I’ll figure it out.  But first I need to find my car keys. I hate to cancel commitments. I find my keys. Is this opportunity knocking or a detour blocking. My car is dead. What do I tell my committee? Why not the truth?

I drive downtown in Husband’s car wondering how its keyless start option works with a valet.  Stuck behind a concrete truck I negotiate how I can leave the committee meeting early to arrive at WBEZ just a bit late.

If I go to WBEZ what if anything would I say to the people I might meet?  Darn, I wish I had my elevator speech down.

Lake Shore Drive is a dead stop. How can I be responsible while responding to unforeseen opportunities, responsibly? Flexibility is the key to managing life’s twists and turns. Go with the flow, even if it isn’t flowing.

Why does it seem that I always leave early to arrive late? And does it even really matter, if in the end, I am wholly present and honest wherever I am?

 

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