I am no longer being mean – I am merely protecting myself from other people’s inadequate ‘boundaries’
Like a lot of people, for many years I said yes to things I didn’t want to do. This was a combination of conditioning – it pays to be “nice” – vague fear of missing out and basic conflict avoidance. Without giving it much thought, it seemed to me there was no easy way to turn things down without causing offence or running against the grain of my own personality. Hostage negotiators and people in business presumably had workarounds for this inhibition, but whatever their tactics, they weren’t available to the rest of us. All we had, growing up, was the maxim “Just say no” – a slogan so useless it became a universally recognised and decades-long joke.
A lot has changed since then. In the past 10 years, a language has developed, mainly from social justice and feminist movements, but also from academia, to describe latterly opaque states of discomfort and the right we have to resist them.
Emma Brockes is a Guardian columnist