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Last week there was question posed on the Daily Post at WordPress which asked, “What can’t you say no to?”. Typically I love to read the Daily Post ideas, but have found them to be more like questions asked on an awful first date, as opposed to an entire post topic… until I read this one. Here’s my answer: I can’t say no to people.

I used to have a hard shell and a hard heart. I worked in law enforcement. I was tough. After some necessary changes, and a career hop, I started to soften up. Maybe it was due to working with high school students, which I loved, or having something along the lines of my dream job, but my backbone started to melt slowly out of my body. Before I knew it, I was spineless.

Moving to a new location often does something strange to me: it makes me say “yes” to any obligation. It’s as if I had changed my name to Carl, from Jim Carrey’s “Yes Man”. 

Neighbor: “Would you like to slowly wash the outside of my house using only a toothbrush? I’ll pay you $50.”
Me: “Yes!”

Potential friend: “Would you like to attend my Pampered Chef/P31/Scentsy party and pay an arm and a leg for something you don’t need or have the money for, eat fattening food, drink cheap wine, and leave feeling exceptionally low on self-esteem?”
Me: “Yes!”

Stranger: “Would you please help me change my tire even though you’re wearing all white and are headed to a job interview?”
Me: “Yes!”

Truth be told, I don’t want to do half of the things I say yes to, but that is how our society works. It’s how I keep friends, keep a job, stay married, help the needy, and keep a full calendar.

I am coming forward as a new and improved Caitlin. My backbone has regrown. Watch out for (drum roll…) BOUNDARY SETTING.

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Why are boundaries so hard to set for some people?
I have found myself involved with person after person who either doesn’t respect my boundaries, or hasn’t created his/her own. I have to take charge; it’s up to me. The best thing I can do is say “no” once in a while, be firm in agreements and conversations, and only agree to activities/events I really enjoy. Otherwise, I’m cheating myself, and lying to the other participants.

Why are boundaries so easy to cross for others?
It’s simple. Someone who doesn’t recognize a boundary from a bouncy ball is unable to set their own boundaries in place, therefore, they are unable to recognize that you’ve set any in place. My personal opinion is that selfishness causes people to not respect others’ boundaries, and not set their own. Those who are stubborn, spoiled, or stuck-up do not care if you have boundaries. The world revolves around them, right? Wrong. It’s time to put them in their place (respectfully).

How to set basic boundaries:
-Boundaries are healthy, but difficult to enforce. They require someone to admit that something is not working, to pause, take a step back, and assess the situation in a mature manner. Sometimes boundaries unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings, to which I say, “Grow a back bone, and get over it!”.

-Different relationships call for different types of boundaries.  Think about all the types of relationships you have in your life. Marriage, parenting, siblings, friendships, coworkers, and strangers. Set boundaries unique and appropriate to each relationship.

-Know what changes you want to make and what changes you need others to make. This is only a small step. The key comes from knowing how to achieve those changes. Make lists of small daily steps you can take to make progress toward your end goal. For help with goal setting, refer to my post about setting and accomplishing goals.

-Commit only to the things which make you comfortable. This is not to say “never step out of your comfort zone,” but to help you quit saying “yes” to things just to please someone else. If they pressure you, it means that they do not respect your boundaries.

-Communicate clearly and effectively. Use “I feel” statements, as opposed to figuratively pointing fingers at the other person(s). Sure, it’s easier to just be passive aggressive, and to stop talking to the person if they’ve wronged you. This doesn’t solve anything, and will leave them hurt and with questions.

Be ready for the outcome. You may or may not get the results you wanted, but you will get the outcome you need. You might hurt someone’s feelings, you may lose a friend, you may need to look for a new job, but you’ve stood your ground, and successfully set boundaries for yourself.