Life Advice



Single File: Saying NO

Susan Dietz on

It's one of the hardest things to do. For me, it still requires double doses of intestinal fortitude. And most of my friends say it's the same for them, too. (The females, that is; men don't seem to have as much trouble with the NO word. It just could be they've got an extra "No" gene.) Whatever the gene pool, most of us could use some tips on the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

Take phone calls, for instance. How many times have you been involuntarily glued to your phone, pressed by a zillion other things you should be doing -- all because you couldn't conclude a conversation? How many times have you let a friendship -- or a romance -- linger far too long because you just couldn't muster the nerve to call it quits? Consider this:

It's so much easier to effect an ending if you've brought about the beginning, because the power already resides with you. That goes for social interactions as well as phone calls.

Be frank, but be kind. Don't apologize or lie or give extraneous excuses. If you have to go, you have to go. Be steadfast.

Don't worry about making the other person feel rejected. If the conclusion is handled with sincerity, you won't hurt their feelings. The thing is, you might even move up a notch or two in their esteem! (And not incidentally, in your own.)

Regard saying goodbye as another form of initiation. Because once again, you're in charge of what happens to you. Taking the reins of your life is so much better than letting someone else call the shots, it just might become a habit. Hope so.


Today's tip: Practice complaining. It's in the same ballpark as refusing. Not easy for most of us, with males less distressed by it for some reason. Tell the counterman at your local coffee shop your coffee needs refreshing, as it's gotten cold. Or that you'd like another half-cup, on the house. The more you do things like this, the easier it gets. Speak up in your most dulcet tones. Don't hold it in. You're going to feel pretty good about yourself. And it'll be a more comfortable world to live in. Don't suffer in silence! Get used to having things your way -- within reason, of course. Mention your new project to friends. I bet they like it and follow your lead. Agreed? Write and tell me how it's going.

DEAR SUSAN: I hate it when people say "Oh, don't worry. You'll find someone." As if I'm looking for a misplaced pair of earrings! (Or, more to the point, a needle in a haystack!) Well, I'm 32 years old and I haven't 'found' anyone yet. I know it has less to do with me and more to do with the lack of single men in their 30s on Long Island and the options being few and far between. There isn't much anyone can do to help the situation, I know. Still, I wish I could accept the strong possibility I'll never be in a romantic relationship, and that it's OK. -- From the 'Single File' Blog

DEAR BLOGGER: Before you accept a loveless future, come close and listen closely. At 32, you're in your prime. Don't waste your energy looking too far ahead, because much of your future will be the result of your choices. Don't count yourself out too early in the game; have faith in yourself. After all, at 32 you're in your prime, experienced and thoughtful -- and optimistic enough to face tomorrow without trepidation. (Fear is the great leveler, keeping people from realizing their potential. Have enough faith in yourself to sidestep that trap.) In your thirties, you're desirable and wise -- a rare combination that could bring you what you want. And what you want (I hope) goes beyond Anyman. Let's think this through together: Can you arrange to meet men from other places besides Long Island? Must he be in his 30s, or can he be younger or older and still win your heart? You see my point here: Being more flexible about a man's age and home base will immediately widen your horizons. But don't make the mistake of narrowing your thirties to a search for that needle in a haystack; devoting your days to husband-hunting makes you appear old, tired, undesirable. That's not you. You're in your prime. Do more with it.


We've uncovered another treasure trove of "Single File" paperbacks -- in perfect condition, signed by Susan, ready to enjoy. Send $15 and your address: Susan Deitz, C/O Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at




Dick Wright Steve Kelley Dog Eat Doug Paul Szep Mother Goose & Grimm Taylor Jones