I hear it all the time. Over and over. From my friends, from my family, and from my clients.
"How do I just say NO?"
"How do I get my ex-wife to stop calling me?"
"How do I get my mother to stop meddling in my life?"
Ugh! Relationships! They are tough - aren't they? But when I think about the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt, it makes me realize - the ball is in my court. I may not be able to control them and how they act towards me, but I can control my reactions towards them.
Its all about setting boundaries. Its the ultimate act of self-love when you recognize your own limits - what you can and cannot tolerate, and honor yourself by setting limits and sticking to them. Learning to set boundaries is learning to be a good friend to yourself. Don't you teach your children what good and bad is, and when someone makes them feel bad, its not acceptable? Then why do you tolerate bad behavior for yourself?
Now, I am not saying to turn a cold shoulder on the world, or stop answering the phone - that is not realistic. But there are ways to deal with difficult people, and keep your sanity.
The first step is to realize that nobody makes you do anything, but you. In other words - when you think "UGH! He makes me so angry!!".... No, he doesn't. YOU make YOU angry. YOU chose to get angry. He may know how to push your buttons, but you still choose your own feelings - no one can choose anger for you. Once you realize that YOU CHOOSE every emotion and reaction you have, then it becomes easier to choose acceptance or forgiveness over frustration.
Setting boundaries is an expression of self-love and care. It should be as important as good food, exercise and sleep. If you are letting someone infringe on your time and step on your values, its no wonder you are stressed, tired and frustrated!
Yet we continue to let people tap our precious resources - our time and energy! Why?
Because we don't want to cause conflict. Its uncomfortable to say no. We like to please people, or we may not want to admit to ourselves that we simply can not "do it all." Unfortunately, we ultimately disappoint ourselves by burning the candle at both ends, or sacrificing personal time and energy for someone else. Sound familiar?
So how do you say no?
- Just say NO. We all heard it from the Reagan's in the 80's and it still applies today. A firm "Sorry, I can't do this right now" is sufficient enough to get you out of most situations.
- Take FIVE - If someone is especially persistent say "I will have to get back to you." Let them know you will get back to them (and give them a time frame) and then you can decline with an email or a quick phone call letting the person know your schedule is just too full.
- Deal, or no deal - If you would like to do what they are asking, but do not have the time or resources to do it on their terms, try the "I would love the opportunity, but can we ... " You never know, your suggestion may be something the person hadn't thought of and it works for everyone.
I had a client try this technique for the first time several weeks ago. She works in a very busy office that is very demanding. She is now finding herself not only doing her own job, but also the job of someone she will be training. The demands that were being placed on her were overwhelming, and she was coming home each night to sheer exhaustion and frustration.
The following week, she called me and when I asked her how she was making progress on setting boundaries, she said "You won't believe it - I just said "I would love to assist on this, but because I am training a new person, its just not going to work in my schedule" and the person said "Ok - I totally understand" They worked out a new compromise, they started a dialogue about the work that had been loaded on her, and she is finding her co-workers and managers to be more cooperative. "I can't believe how easy it was to just say NO."
Another tool I use with clients is the "Absolute YES" list. Spend some time creating a list of situations where its OK for someone to infringe on your time. In the case of my client who had an ex-wife who called on a whim about every little thing, my client wrote on his list things such as "my son", "money", "child-care arrangements"... his list was about 6 items long, and if his ex called about something not on his "YES" list, he asked her if he could contact HER back when he had time to discuss the situation. Now the ball was in his court. He kept his promise and called her back at the exact time he told her - he was in control of the situation. Because he had cleared the time and space to deal with her, he found he didn't get as frustrated, his energy stayed up, and was able to have a decent conversation with her. He set boundaries for himself, and was better able to deal with frustrating situations, creating a more cohesive environment for their son.
Is there a situation or person that is demanding of your time or energy? There are solutions, and I can help. Feel free to call me or email me about the situation, I would love to hear from you!