Every time you say yes, you say no to something else. It’s common sense – but for some people, our ‘yes’ and ‘no’ aren’t equal. And because we want to please people, we say yes a lot. It means our boundaries are about as tall as a foot stool, and some people have no problems kicking it over whenever they want something from us.
Let’s be clear – it’s important to say yes in relationships! When both people give and take mutually, we can support, love and care for each other. But when this balance shifts and one person is eating away at the time and energy of the other over a sustained time, it can harm the relationship and cause bitterness.
So how do we set clearer boundaries – and keep them? For people who have gone through trauma, saying no can be a challenge because we risk losing people’s love and affection. Yet if we don’t say no when we need too, we devalue ourselves. And often, we have no energy left to help our friend, let alone ourselves. Can you relate? Here are four steps to set boundaries in your life.
1. Decide on your non-negotiables
What is important to you? And what HAS to be done before you sleep at night? Make a list of these and priorities them. Then write down how much time you spend doing each of these activities. Socialising, going to work, exercising, meal prepping, and cleaning are all essential and deserve time in your week, but do you have enough time for all of them? You may find that unrealistic expectations from friends, family members or people at work is detracting from your other necessary tasks. Take a look at your list and see what needs to be changed. And if there is something you dream of doing but never have time for, why not add it to the list? Perhaps by looking at your boundaries, you will discover time and energy for yourself. After all, you don’t have to do everything for everybody.
2. Set your phone notifications on silent
People don’t breach our boundaries with one request or conversation – it tends to build up as we happily say yes, until we realise we are exhausted and needed to set clearer boundaries. A key way people do this is through phone notifications. Whether they are texting or calling you, or interacting with you online, that ‘ding’ can send shivers down your spine. When notifications pop up on our phones, we feel like we have to respond immediately. And if we don’t, we can feel anxious and out of control. A great way to combat this is to set your notifications on silent during certain period of the day.
If you need to finish a crucial task at work, are spending quality time with your family, or you just need some space, silent mode gives you the ability to switch off. This is also a great tool at night to ensure to guard your night’s sleep.
3. Say, “I’ll get back to you”
When people ask for something, our immediate response is to say ‘yes’ or ‘that sounds great!’ Sometimes we want to be involved, and other times we feel guilty or compelled to help out. Instead of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ immediately, say ‘I’ll get back to you’ and give yourself a few hours – or days – to consider their request. This gives you a chance to assess how much time and energy you have; if you are motivated by shame, pride or guilt; and means you can talk to trusted friends about the request if you need outside advice.
4. Wait before you respond – if you respond at all
After saying, ‘I’ll get back to you,’ weigh up their request against your list of non-negotiables and how much time you have in your week. If you want to help and have time for it, say yes. If you can help out but only in a certain way, then make this clear. And if you can’t, or don’t want to engage, just don’t. You don’t need to make an excuse, a polite ‘no’ is enough. After all, your time is valuable. And just because you said yes before, doesn’t mean you have to say it now.
BREAKING PEOPLE’S ASSUMPTIONS
Sometimes the people in our lives aren’t asking for something directly – they just demand our attention or energy. and their presence or constant communication breaks our boundaries so we feel burnt out. They assume we are available 24/7. When this happens, ask yourself if you need to respond at all. A random meme, comment, rant or invitation to hang out that is sent frequently doesn’t always need a response – especially if you are busy. When we let people cross our boundaries, they assume they can continue to do this, and we feed that by responding to everything. So test out silence, or wait until the end of the day to respond and see what happens.
Some people don’t bother asking for our help or presence, they just steam roll over us and assume we will say yes. In those situations, it can be extremely difficult to set boundaries because we find ourselves in the middle of conflict we never wanted! If that’s the case for you, you have two options: either tell the person no straight out, and ask them to leave (yes, it will be awkward but necessary). Or, ride this situation out and make it clear to them that this will not happen again, and that there is a process they must follow next time. Ultimately setting boundaries can be hard and people can become offended – but that’s not on you. Practice clear communication and set out what you can and can’t do. This is how to sustain a healthy long-term relationship.
Do you struggle to say ‘no’? Contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now.