The UBER driver wasn’t thrilled about going to the Portland Transportation Center straight away. He wanted to stop and pick up four pizzas, a family-size fries, and three bottles of Sprite from Portland House of Pizza first. Secondly, he wanted to drive the pizza party to a home semi-close to the station. All this before taking me to the station. This was not on the itinerary, and I was peeved. After all what would the rest of the cross-county trip to see Number One be like if the mojo was clouded on step one?

“I’d appreciate you taking me directly to the bus,” I told Marshall, the UBER driver of the blue Ford Focus with dark tinted windows. “It’s going to be a mob scene and you’re putting me in a weird place by asking if we can stop at PHOP and then go to someone’s house. Getting to the station early is why I called for an UBER when I did.”

Marshall grunted that he’d drop me off and then go “all the way back” for the food. I nodded and we rode the rest of the way in uncomfortable silence.

I was angry, but I wasn’t exactly sure of the core reason. Why did I feel like an unaccommodating jerk because I didn’t want to veer from my well-planned, partially executed step one? Why was I also full of resentment that Marshall assumed I’d be OK with his opportunity to double-dip on my dime? Maybe the guy was just trying to make a buck and, in most cases, I’m all for working smarter and efficiently. But there’s a fine line between efficiency and over-committing. And Marshall overcommitted.

We all know masterful efficient people. Not the out-of-control, control freak types because they’re a whole different animal. I’m talking instead about the people who are seamlessly organized and manage time well. Their desks are tidy. They make their own checklists. And most admirable of all, they remain calm when others are spinning.

Speaking from experience, over-committers often fancy themselves as efficient. Their intentions may be noble, but saying yes to too many people, too many times, leads to mistakes. It ultimately results in disappointing the very people they were hoping to appear efficient for. True over-committers also see asking for help as a sign of weakness, which to them, is almost as bad as passing up an opportunity to be efficient.

Behavioral therapists tie over-commitment into poor boundary setting, which is why chronic over-committers hate to say no. They’re the ones who sign up first for the church potluck supper, who agree to an extra carpool shift, and who promise clients and coworkers unreasonable deadlines. They’re people pleasers in a tail-chasing cycle of fending off disappointment with more over-commitment. It’s hard to watch these people set themselves up for stressful situations, and ever harder to be one.

After a few minutes at the longest traffic light in history, I asked Marshall why he took on two jobs at once without letting either client know. He was bound to disappoint because I wanted to be dropped off directly and the pizza party people wanted hot pizza and cold soda pronto. Was it greed? Poor service? Or simply a wish to work efficiently without thinking through the consequences?

Unaccommodating jerk or not, I wasn’t dropping a boundary I had set for myself through careful planning. Although I could relate to Marshall’s possible decision-making reasons, my boundary was coming first and I didn’t yield.

As the new year unfolds, I’m keeping this lesson front and center. People pleasing is fine but so is saying no. After all, efficiency is a life goal but stressing out and dropping an overloaded plate isn’t. That said and as always, I want to thank you for reading. Enjoy your meal and reach out anytime.


Natalie Haberman Ladd is an award-winning columnist who puts her ADD diagnosis to good use. The proud mother of two millennial daughters, Natalie enjoys a codependent relationship with her dog Mellie, who came from Mississippi to rescue her. Reach out:

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