How to Say “No” and Enforce a No Make Up Lessons Policy
Now that you know how to move to a no make-up lessons policy, it’s time to learn how to implement your policy! I hesitate to use the word “enforce” because the word has a rigid ring to it. And the idea of getting rid of makeup lessons is NOT about being mean and rigid. It’s about creating healthy boundaries in your life so that you can create margin in your life to give to the people who need you, like your kids, your spouse, your family, your friends, and those that know and love you no matter what! You can even give that margin/time back to your piano students, but you can only choose how you give it if you have it. Unfortunately, giving make up lessons without boundaries frequently means that you have no margin.
How do I stick to my no make up lessons policy?
I have heard teachers ask, after they moved to a no make up lessons policy, “How do I actually enforce this? I have such a hard time saying, ‘No!'”
Before I tell you a wonderful secret about saying no, can I tell you something that may surprise you? I have always struggled saying no. I used to say yes to everything and I used to think that was the right thing to do. I used to do everything when I was a teenager and in my early 20’s. Someone asks me to accompany them at church? “Yes!” Someone else asks me to accompany them and practice the same night? “Why, yes!” A third person asks me to play a duet with them and arrive 1.5 hours before the first practice, “Why, yes! Of course. Why not?”
What does saying “No” mean?
But at this point in my life, I have to say no. I have to say no a lot more than I say yes these days. And incidentally, there’s a beautiful little saying that has helped me a lot and may help you:
Every time you say “yes” to something, you are saying “no” to something else.
Every time you say “no” to something, you are saying “yes” to something else.
That perspective has helped me a lot. Now, when I feel badly about saying no to something now, I ask, “What am I saying yes to?” Most of the time I realize that I’m saying yes to my kids or yes to my mental health, or yes to less stressful living. That makes me feel a lot better about saying no to anything!
But my story is not the main focus of this article. I just wanted to assure you that this advice does NOT come from a self-confident, extroverted, “I always know what I want and I’m confident in every decision I make.” That’s not me in the least.
I’m there with you. It’s hard. But that’s why I want to share something super practical about saying no…especially when someone asks you for a make-up lesson.
The secret to answering, “I want a make-up lesson!”
I was reading Eugene Petersen recently in an excerpt where he talks to pastors about how to protect their time. Whatever you think about church and pastors, Eugene hit on something KEY for all of us and I’ll edit it to help you see what I mean. He says:
The appointment calendar is the tool with which to get unbusy…It is more effective than a protective secretary; it is less expensive than a retreat house. It is the one thing everyone in our society accepts without cavil as authoritative.
When I appeal to my appointment calendar I am beyond criticism. If someone approaches me and asks me to pronounce the invocation at an event and I say, “I don’t think I should do that; I was planning to use that time to pray,” the response will be, “Well, I’m sure you can find another time of the day to do that.” But if I say, “My appointment calendar will not permit it,” no further questions are asked.
If someone asks me to attend a committee meeting and I say, “I was thinking of taking my wife out to dinner that night; I haven’t listened to her very carefully for several days,” the response will be, “But you are very much needed at this meeting; couldn’t you arrange another evening with your wife?” But if I say, “The appointment calendar will not permit it,” there is no further discussion.
The trick, of course, is to get to the calendar before anyone else does.
Let me translate this to the piano teaching life:
If someone asks you to give a makeup lesson and you say, “I was thinking of taking my kids to see a movie,” the response will be, “But you owe us a lesson and can’t you find another evening to do that with your kids?” But if you say (and say it kindly with a smile), “The appointment calendar won’t permit it,” then there is no further discussion!
If someone asks you to give a makeup lesson on the weekend and you say, “I was thinking of going to the store or reading a book since I haven’t done that in weeks,” the response will be, “But we pay you for this time and you owe us time since we couldn’t be at lessons this week and you can read or go to the store any time!” But if you say (again, do it kindly with a smile), “I’m sorry, the schedule won’t allow it,” then there isn’t much room for discussion, is there?
The 21st Century secret to saying no
Again, there isn’t much room for discussion, is there? That weird silence that follows? Just wait. That “But, I think you can make it work” comment? Just say it again, “I’m sorry, my schedule won’t allow it. ”
Don’t over-explain. Ugh. I do that too often.
I call this the 21st century secret because we’re all too busy in this century. And there’s nothing more powerful in people’s lives these days than their schedule. So learning to use the sacred schedule to help us seems to extremely effective these days.
But don’t try to articulate your schedule. Just be firm and kind when you enforce your make up lessons policy. If they keep asking you or give you a hard time about your make up lessons policy, remind them of the options that you offer like the swap lesson, or the performance class, or remind them that you can work for them during their lesson time (like with lesson plans, choosing repertoire, creating worksheets).
But if you don’t have time in your normal teaching schedule to give the lesson, then don’t cave and give away time in your personal schedule. Do you see the difference? Separate your teaching schedule from your personal schedule. and then protect your personal schedule! Parents protect their personal schedule and you are the only one that is going to protect yours! You decide when you want to work. Don’t let it be decided for you.