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Learning to say no is a reasonable New Year's resolution

Last year as 2007 approached, a reporter called and asked for my New Year's resolutions for a story she was writing.

I have long grown tired of the same old diet resolution to lose 10 pounds, which was my sole promise for many years running. Being the bright person I am, I finally discarded that futile exercise and moved on to another fruitless declaration. When I gave it to the reporter, I was firm. I meant it. Never have I had greater determination to stick with something. I was so resolute with my resolution, I believed I could really do it.

Plus, I welcomed the chance to publicize. I figured that would aid me in keeping my brand-new, never-before-used resolution.

"I'm putting my foot down on special favors and saying 'No.' That means that I won't be getting autographed NASCAR memorabilia on a regular basis for casual acquaintances and they'll be on their own for finding tickets for sold-out ballgames."

You'd be amazed at how many strangers call me up or e-mail me for favors that are beyond bold. Sometimes the brazen fortitude leaves my mouth hanging open.

One man wrote, "I have never read your column or any of your books. Never cared to. But yesterday, I happened across your column and saw where you are a published author. I have written an excellent novel and am in need of help in getting it to the appropriate publisher. How can you help me?"

Now, let's be sensible here. If you're going to ask a favor from me, you need to suck up to me really good. Like my mama, I respond well to a little flattery. Do not, under any circumstance, dismiss me summarily then ask a big, imposing favor. That e-mail did not receive the favor of a reply.

I am regularly approached by people who want me to donate books for auctions or use my NASCAR connections to obtain signed merchandise. After helping a charity auction a couple of years ago by calling in a lot of big-time NASCAR favors and receiving a major hassle in return, I am now off that wagon.

Race passes and hard-to-get ballgame or concert tickets are another area where my help is often sought by the casual passer-by in my life. A couple of times, I've gotten them as a way of saying thank you for a kindness that had been given to me. But I've always said, "This is a one-time deal."

Still, they have called and asked again. This from people I barely know.

Then, there are my famous friends from whom people want favors. Finally, I've learned to be protective of those friends and say "no" when someone asks me to ask them. I hate being the bad guy but I hate even worse being made to feel rotten over doing what's right.

Let me admit this: I'm terrible at saying "no." I'm so tender-hearted that I just want to help where I can and pass along my blessings. There comes a time, though, when you have to pull in the reins. Especially when I'm doing so many favors that it's eating up my time and keeping me from getting my work done.

So, I resolved to stop doing favors in 2007. I did very well for two weeks then someone needed tickets to the Super Bowl. Then, in the blink of a ticket scalper's eye, I was back in the favor business. I've been much better, though. I've turned down a lot of requests in recent months.

Still, if you could help me figure out a way to stop completely, I'd surely be grateful.

I'd consider it a great favor.

Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)" and "The Town That Came A-Courtin'."