As human beings, we have preconceived notions about everything from the kind of car we should drive to how we should feel at a funeral. Setting boundaries is no exception. Questioning these notions once in a while can give us a new perspective – and allow us to reclaim our personal power.
Lie Number 1: You must be polite. And sometimes that means putting up with things. But it’s better to avoid conflict and know that you’re being a good person than to be seen as rude.
Good manners are important in many situations. But manners are a bit limiting – and superficial. Respect runs much deeper. Treating people with respect, and expecting to be respected in return, is a much more powerful (and useful) perspective. When you respectfully challenge someone, there’s no need for conflict. And if the other insists on fighting, you can respect yourself enough to walk away. If the issue needs to be resolved, you can do so when the other is calm.
When you follow the “rule of respect,” you may become less accommodating – but only of bad behavior! With respect as your guide, you’ll always be polite enough.
Lie Number 2: Setting boundaries isn’t good for your close relationships. Sure, boundaries are fine for people who just want to take advantage of you, but not for your close friends and family. Your closest relationships are too important to risk.
The truth is that setting boundaries can be good for a relationship. Consistently ignoring your own needs and desires poses a far greater risk to your most important relationships than setting reasonable, healthy boundaries. When we cater to others at our own expense, we end up resenting them. Saying no when it’s appropriate (not taking a phone call when you really need to relax, refusing to lend money, etc.) allows us to feel valued – by ourselves, of course, but also by others. If they’re used to getting what they want, that respect may take a little while. But it’s worth waiting for – and working for.
Lie Number 3: You need to explain yourself. If you’re not going to “go along,” you need a good reason. If someone were to ask you, “Why not?” you’d better be ready with a good excuse.
When a friend or family member wants us to do something, we often feel as though we need an excuse not to do it. It’s as if we should do whatever those whom we care about want us to do, and any other decision requires justification. Don’t get me wrong; explanations are often important. If a good friend asks for help and you’re just too busy, this is not the time to go with, “No is a complete sentence.” You’ll probably want to tell her what you’re busy with, so that she knows you still matter to her. (And if you talk about things a bit more, you may find a way to be of some assistance.) But when your colleague wants to borrow money, “I can’t help you,” is enough.
Making excuses is usually a form of self-defense. We’re trying to avoid being judged – or even attacked. People pick up on your insecurity, and some of them will be all too happy to use it against you. If someone attacks you for setting a reasonable boundary, then it’s time to take a good, hard look at that relationship. With everyone else, I encourage you to deal with your fears. Trust those around you to accept your decisions without elaborate explanations. And when they don’t, let go of the need for their approval. You’ll feel better about yourself when you do.
These are just three of the lies that affect our ability to set healthy boundaries. If you’d like to see what other misconceptions may be affecting your decisions, I have a whole chapter on lies in my second book, 7 Keys to Better Boundaries. Understanding the truth makes boundaries, and therefore relationships, much easier.