Have there been times you had to force yourself to do something just so you wouldn’t upset your mom or your best friend? How many times have you caught yourself yelling at your kid just because you wouldn’t know how to set your boundaries with love? How many times has your partner told you to stop complaining or whining while the only thing you were trying to say was that you felt uncomfortable or hurt or not respected? More than once, I bet!
Setting our boundaries is something most of us haven’t learned to do. “I wish I could but I can’t say no, there’s no way” is an argument I’ve heard many of my clients say. When I ask them why they answer that the idea alone makes them feel unkind, unhelpful, disrespectful and even arrogant at times. They also believe that if they say “no” there’s a high possibility the other person won’t like them anymore so they’ll be left alone. So they continue to be unhappy and to be taken for granted.
There is an explanation of course. And that is because as children we all wanted to be liked and loved so we would do whatever it would take to please our parents, our relatives, our friends. So even though we’re grownups now we still behave like the little child we were years ago.
And then I tell my clients the good news: “You don’t have to keep on behaving like this any longer and that is ok.” “But how? I don’t have the courage, I feel guilty,” is a typical response I get. Let’s see how.
Saying “no” calmly and with decisiveness is not a talent but something we can all learn. It takes conscious practice and extra time on your part but you’ll be amazed at the results. You can learn to recognize and express what you want and what you don’t want. You can learn to be both assertive and kind.
Here are some questions that may serve as your initial guide:
- What are your personal values?
- In what ways can you respect yourself so that others will respect you?
- What phrases can you use to tell people what you do want instead of what you don’t want?
- How can you express anger in more appropriate ways?
- What are you grateful for?
Once you learn to communicate in a different way you will be able to set your limits with confidence, respect and love towards yourself.