SAY ‘NO’ – The Way to Establish Boundaries

Let’s get something straightened out. For those of you who aren’t liberal enough, you’re not going to get it. Some of you may think you get it; you want to get it. You claim that you could relate to others with what you’ve personally been through, but you could never understand what it means to live someone else’s life. To be a has-been, you need to actually “have been”.

Telling someone off with the two-letter word can be a powerful statement in and of itself. You’re setting a boundary between them and you; a mark of how far you’d go for them. Of course it is only natural that anyone being told off “no” would like to hear a reason for it. There is that suggest of genuinely wanting to know. For the most part, you’re almost tempted to give them your excuses. You hope that they could be persuaded to see things through your eyes, too.

I’m going to break it to you: they don’t need it. You don’t have to do the persuasion bit. All that’s left after saying a firm, comprehensible “no” is to proceed with your own programme. As for the other person; so long as you’ve fulfilled your end of your responsibilities, then they just have to respect that decision. It’s entirely up to them as to how they’d want to make peace with it.

Giving a succinct “no” for an answer; without any further justifications can bring about an important change in how others see you. You’re giving off the impression that you are not one to be taken lightly, or to be taken advantage of. Your generosity is not to be mistaken for subservience.

Here are some things I wished I had known for the longest time; growing up. Knowing when to say no at the appropriate time can be tricky, but it’s not so mind-boggling as you might think.

“People think focus means saying yes to the things you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Steve Jobs

1. Never do more for others than you would do for yourself

This is especially true in the case of friendships and romantic relationships. You tend to go the extra mile. You would do anything to please them. Maybe it’s done out of the fear that you might someday lose them, or perhaps you want to be seen in a more positive light by presenting yourself as a loyal, unquestioning Number Two. All you are really losing is their respect for you as your own individual.

You can’t be their yes-man. It’s important to not make yourself so accessible for others to step on you. It never seems that way in the early stages, but it begins to feel that specific way once you’re far off in the deep end.

There is hardly ever any undoing in relationships. So, make others feel welcome in a similar manner how you’d like to be treated. Don’t do anything more than what you would do for yourself.

In other words, you don’t have to necessarily push everything aside to accommodate someone else in your priority list. Respect works both ways. Most of the time, both parties have to take the extensive measure to ensure that they are doing what’s right by their own sanity and flexibility.

2. Silence is an answer in its own right

Before I get into this, full disclaimer: you shouldn’t be giving anyone the silent treatment. That’s not how this works. This is the part that requires deep self-understanding.

This stems from the proverb that is (most possibly) of Arab origin, “Speech is silver, silence is gold.” The saying states the value of silence over reason. Clearly, not all people are capable of being reasoned with. When you say no, there will be people who would attempt to deny you that liberty; talk you out of it.

Therefore, it may do you better to walk away from the situation, not because the going gets tough, but rather because you know your self-worth. You simply don’t tolerate others being difficult, too.

I’m not imploring that you disappear out of the blue. Surely you’d give them the courtesy to let them know in advanced about your intended absence. For all you know, higher-ups may even show you more respect for having the decency to inform them, allowing for more flexible planning on their part.

3. Saying “No” as a way to see others’ true colours

People have a knack for being “friendly” when needed to be. They can be quite convincing, too. That is especially true if you are overtly fond of them. You see them in a good light because you want to believe them to be.

Give them a “no” for an answer and see what turn the relationship dynamics would take. Take into account of the context of the situation, too, however. Most importantly, don’t allow things to get to the point of hurting you. People are also very much capable of doing just that.

Granted, if someone is used to hearing “yes” specifically from you, it may come off as a shock to them at first. Genuine people recover rather quickly from being turned down since they better understand that you’ve got your own time to manage. They keep in mind that you’ve got a life to live, separate from what they have with you. The bad ones often mistake it as an offence or betrayal, and would have no qualms so as to gaslight you or try to guilt trip.

What comes next is a no-brainer. Keep yourself at a safe distance from the ones who are not above hurting others in the aftermath of their own problems. As TV show hostess and organising consultant Marie Kondo once said, “Discard everything that does not spark joy.”

4. Say “No” to yourself

Sometimes you can’t help it. When others request for your presence, you’re not coerced into helping. If anything, you just feel inclined to say yes. And there is never any one specific reason for it. It’s just the most human thing to do, you think.

“What could go wrong?” you ask yourself. So, go figure!

If you really believe it is the right thing for you to do, by all means, no one is stopping you. You don’t have to say no to the request as a whole. Instead, say no during the process of helping, basically should ever the person you’re helping overstep their boundary.

You can be present with them, but that doesn’t mean you are to just stand there and take everything they throw at you. You need to show them that your intention of being there is solely for solving the problem and not to handle anything beyond that, including them.

And remember; it is always your right to withdraw yourself from the sticky situation if they continue to disrespect your bounds. That was, and always will be, an option. Even if they act rude outwardly, it’s important that you behave better than that by walking away courteously; without starting a feud.

5. Anything is possible; not everything

This leads to my next point: when you say you’d do anything to help someone out, that does not intrinsically mean that you’d follow through with everything that person asks of you.

Not always do people intend to overwork you. It just gets to that unfortunate point when people forget or lose sight of the whole point of you saying yes in the first place. This is often done out of desperation in needing to have a problem solved.

Do what you agreed to do, and leave the rest for them to figure it out. Somehow, they will just have to manage. Similar to how a worker is paid overtime; unless you are offered the same kind of compensation, be at peace with the fact that you’ve done what was expected of you.

6. Understand what it means to respect yourself first before you respect others equally

Being a people pleaser, which is exactly what a yes-man is, prevents you from expressing your real self. You mask behind a persona that works to fit what others think you should be. Your sense of self deteriorates.

You live only to make others happy. That makes one to desperately cling onto others with the deep-seated fear of losing those who give us a sense of purpose. This is quite typically how depression develops. Nothing gives you meaning, unless it were to come directly from someone else.

The truth is, it is impossible to be fully committed to someone else. There will be disagreements. Once all hope is lost in that toxic relationship cycle, you are left completely adrift. You are desperate to rediscover what makes you ‘you’.

Avoid being a people pleaser. It is common economic knowledge to know that people’s wants are unlimited when the means to fill that bottomless cup are scarce. Your mental and emotional well-being were not built to sustain everyone around you.

You need to know what does right by you before you could do right by anyone else.

7. Know the difference between rights and limits

You have the right to help anyone. That’s established. It is free will. Now are you familiar with the concept of a limitation; how far exactly are you capable of achieving that end?

It is best to use your instincts and trust your thoughts.

Similarly, you also need to bear in mind that as much as a person, typically your office place superior or a parent, has authority over you, there must be an understanding that there are some lines that are not to be crossed. Usually it goes without saying, but some people just can’t take a hint.

As soon as hurting or distress is brought into the picture, regardless whether it is a question of physically or mentally, that is when enough is enough. Even under employment, there is still a statement issuing a worker’s scope of work. It was never a prerequisite to go above and beyond the job description.


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