Respecting the No

We get enthusiastic about things and want to share them.  That’s great.  But conversation yesterday made me aware of how important it is to respect other people’s “no” when they don’t want to share.

We were talking, specifically, about the challenges of recruiting volunteers  — something that might be coming up in a lot of contexts, both political and social.   And there are even tasks at work that might best be thought of as volunteer work, labor that goes to enhance the social structure of  our workplaces but isn’t directly part of a job description.

Often in these cases,  we are enthusiastic about the task at hand, but when asking others to join us, we need to respect their “no”.  Not badger, not push, not make them feel guilty about not joining in. Let other people’s boundaries, even if we don’t understand their whys, be real to us.

I have to thank Mjnk for making the aspect of privilege clearly part of the conversation.   When we are recruiting for political or social organizations, we are asking for unpaid work, for a donation of someone’s time.   To someone with relative privilege and ability,  the marginal impact on their life may be small.  But to someone experiencing less privilege in any realm, the burden of the unpaid work may be disproportionate. That’s true for people with health challenges, financial challenges, or people in groups that are already marginalized.

We can reach out to people and ask them to share our commitments, our community building, and our enthusiasm.  But when they don’t or can’t invest their unpaid work, “respecting the no” means continuing to accept them as they are, with the gifts they bring willingly.