You’ve probably been there – you’re chatting easily with someone when the conversation goes in a direction you’re not comfortable with. Then you hear; “But you’re so good at these things, perhaps you could just…”, or “If you don’t help me I don’t know what I’ll do” or the classic “If you loved me you’d do it”. Suddenly you’re trapped and stuck because you want to say no but feel like you can’t…
But there is another way and in this blog I’ll show you how. Watch the video for the full story or see below for the notes (and a special shout out to Kaos the Cat who makes a star appearance in the bottom left corner!)
I’m dealing with this difficult subject today because this is National Conversation Week and conversations great if we know how to kindly but firmly set our boundaries. Before we look at how you can confidently and skilfully do that, I want to say this isn’t to blame or shame anyone as most people who do this (and you may even have done it yourself) don’t realise it. With that said, lets look at how you can deal with it.
STEP 1 – Ask For Time / Tune into You
People can catch us out of the blue with their requests. It might be you’re having a busy and stressful day or you’re just caught off guard. This is when we’re most vulnerable to either agreeing to something we don’t want or reacting in anger. So the first thing is have a set response to all unexpected requests. Ask for time to think about it.
At this point you don’t have to go into how busy you are or give what feels like excuses. Thank the person for asking you and tell them when you get back to them. When you’re calmer (and have the time) think through what they’re asking. It might be something you want to do but you don’t have time. If so, weigh up your priorities and if it does feel important see if you can move things around. Only do this if it’s important to you. You may want to consider the relationship you have with this person. It’s not wrong to do things out of duty or obligation if you’re choosing to. Knowing you have the choice is key here. If it’s something you don’t want to do, however, you really do need to say no. Well look at how in step 3.
STEP 2 – Don’t Take It Personal
If you suspect the other person isn’t just trying to persuade you but are using manipulation or guilt tripping this needs addressing but first know it’s not about you. You’re not responsible for the behaviour of others. That comes from them and their situation. Maybe that person genuinely feels no one else can help them but you don’t have to buy into that. There are many ways to deal with problems and you don’t have to be the rescuer, the solver or the fixer of everything. In fact, when we do that we take away that person’s ability to solve their own problems and realise their own independence and sense of agency in the world.
If you suspect the person does know what they’re doing, that still isn’t your problem. Their motivation isn’t your responsibility or problem if you don’t buy into it.
STEP 3 – State Your Boundary And Hold It
As you saw in step 1, a boundary doesn’t have to be rigid – that’s a defence not a boundary. So once you’ve decided what’s right for you, prepare to tell the other person. Don’t feel you have to give a list of reasons why – in fact if you do it can make you feel like you’re justifying yourself rather than making an empowered decision. Something as simple as “Thanks for asking, but I can’t do it at this time,” or “It doesn’t feel right for me”. You can offer to help in some other way but you don’t have to. Make sure you’re not acting from guilt.
If the other person isn’t taking no for an answer, tell them you don’t want to talk about it anymore and if they don’t listen, leave the situation or change the subject. If they persist after this consider the time you spend with them. If you don’t have to see them, don’t. If it’s a family member or colleague that you have to see, limit the time you spend with them or talking to them. I heard someone talking about the 80-20 rule in their relationships. They aim to balance 20% of their time around people they find challenging and 80% of their time with people who make them feel good and respect their boundaries.
I hope that’s helped! If you try it out and want to share your feedback with me, please do. And if you need help putting this into practice in your life, you can get in touch with me through the contact page. And while you’re here you can sign up for updates from my newsletter below and get your free guide “How To Overcome Anything”. Thanks for reading.