I spoke to the builder working across the street about the small job of repainting needed on the front wall of my building after the gutter was cleared.
All he had to do was decline.
He said, “Yes.” He said yes five times, which included seeing me in the street and knocking on the door twice to reassure me.
And then he vanished.
The painter decorator next door who is a one man band has offered to help three times and not followed through three times.
A next door neighbour with whom I have been liaising about something else entirely followed our conversation by telling me he’d like my number and would ring.
That was two weeks ago.
We are less than two minutes apart. I put a note through his door saying I am sure he is busy but I need to know – does he have time for this or not?
A friend in PR tells me she now sends four emails – increasingly jokey – “Gosh, I feel like a stalker” – before she rings almost to be greeted with “What a wonderful idea …” and resounding silence.
What is all this? What happened to politely declining – whether it’s a job, a junket or a third cupcake (I hate cupcakes)?
Refusal is not what you want to hear but it’s clear.
Whatever it is, find somebody else – says the refuser – I don’t want to/haven’t got time.
So whoever is on the refused end has to start again.
But suspension, evasion, saying one thing when you mean another – starts to make you (the one who is doing the asking) feel that you are in the wrong.
You shouldn’t have asked, you have over-expected, your deodorant has failed.
It leads to lack of trust – trust of yourself and trust of anybody else.
Recently former Conservative Prime Minister John Major suggested that the government take some responsibility for the increased prices of electricity and gas demanded by the energy companies. He said reasonably, that should we have a cold winter, these bills would become a crippling item for an ever larger number of people
And the Tory party immediately fielded a minor functionary bleating about “looking for alternative sources of supply from cheaper tariffs.”
What alternative sources? What cheaper tariffs? Where? Who?
The position of the energy companies is summed up by a circular I just received from one of them which promises
to freeze energy prices until 2017 “our longest ever available energy deal”, “no prices rises guaranteed until March 2017”.
And then right at the bottom of the page “Correct at the time of going to print. Tariff can be withdrawn at any time.”
Would you trust them?
We have all known for years that no matter who is in power giving with one hand and taking with the other is what politicians of any stamp do
For example the press tell us at regular intervals about the joy of wood burning stoves.
Getting your gas and electricity from the same place turned out to be as good a wheeze as decimalisation for a price hike.
Locally we are forbidden to burn wood domestically without specialised equipment, though the council admits this involves a very small number of people.
But the wood burning pizza people are exempt in the name of earning a living and there is a cement factory complete with emissions and 24 hour day lorries at the bottom of the street.
Clearly your pollution is your pollution, and mine is mine.
Of course there is skill in learning to decline with courtesy.
It may take a while to learn and you won’t learn it from a computer.
Your will learn it from a person, a parent, a teacher, a mentor, somebody who isn’t necessarily wiser in other aspects of their approach but who can teach you something you need to know.
The increasing distrust who spreads yeast like through every branch of our increasingly complex society makes us wary of any kind of relationship.
Who can you trust? We ask each other beseechingly.
Trust has got confused with assent.
But you can’t trust someone who says “yes” when they mean “no”.
Note: * Addo Annie is a character in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma! and she sings a song that begins
“I’m just a girl who can’t say “No”!