This is a topic that I am deeply passionate about. I began to explore this topic a few years ago after reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. The essence of the book was this:
- When women say NO the topic is open for discussion.
- When men say NO the conversation stops.
It’s important to note that this book was written 10 years ago. Additionally, this is certainly NOT a generalization that can be made for all women, men, or relationships between men & women. This concept is speaking to an issue that many of us can relate to – establishing boundaries.
Sure, establishing boundaries sounds great, but how is it done? Below are three key steps that can help:
- Identifying your need (awareness).
- Stating your need aloud (assertiveness).
- Holding yourself accountable (accountability).
Identifying your need
Are you saying “no” when you mean “yes,” “maybe” when you mean “no,” or are you putting other people’s needs before your own so often that you have no idea what you want? Here’s a good litmus test → How often do you feel disappointed or let down by others?
Disappointment is an unmet/undisclosed expectation.
If disappointment is something you’re familiar with, try to get more deeply in touch with what’s under the surface. Try answering the following questions after a disappointing interaction.
- What reaction was I looking for?
- What reaction did I get, and how did it make me feel?
Stating your need aloud
This is the tricky part. Once you identify your need, you then have to speak your need. Our loved ones aren’t mind readers, and we have to learn to advocate for ourselves. This is by far the most challenging step in establishing clear & healthy boundaries. It can be terrifying because by stating your need clearly and honestly, you risk the other person being upset, which can feel like rejection or abandonment.
Holding yourself accountable
This is the final step, and the step where no can become a negotiation. Say you’re self-aware or self- differentiated enough to let someone know how you feel and what you need from them. What’s next?
STANDING YOUR GROUND.
Forming new habits can stretch us outside of our comfort-zones, and it’s called a comfort-zone for a reason…IT’S COMFORTABLE! Deep down we all want to be seen, accepted, loved, and valued. However, if your needs stand in the way of what someone else wants from you, they may not like it. The real challenge is not negotiating your needs to make it easier, or more comfortable, for someone else.
Now, I can almost hear objections as I’m typing, “What about compromise?,” “I don’t want to be rigid,” “I don’t want to be mean,” “I don’t want to be inflexible or unkind.”
I applaud you for your kindness, and I understand.
Only you will know when a compromise compromises your values. Ultimately the only person who knows your needs, is you.
“You are the only thinker in your mind.” ~ Louise Hay