What if you had a tool kit that when accessed, could help you build a more peaceful, loving and fun relationship with anyone in your life? Would you use it? Remember that you can have the shiniest tools in the world, but if they sit for too long, they can get rusty.
Boundary setting is an important aspect of relationships. Without them, we become permeable membranes that are enmeshed with all of the others who do the dance of life with us. They may keep us safe from emotional hijacking and allow us to speak our truth with less fear of offending or needing to tiptoe around potential landmines. When I am able to clearly delineate what that means to me, I can be fully expressed. For many years, I didn’t have healthy boundaries and felt like a doormat, or as one of my clients refers to it “Wall to wall carpeting” that I allowed people to walk over. I was an emotional contortionist who would bend over backward to please people. I would rescue, fix, save, heal, cure….or so I thought. I practiced ‘savior behavior’. When I closely examine my actions, I see that they could be perceived as altruistic or arrogant. A little of both, I suspect. As a therapist and facilitator who teaches this stuff, you’d think I would know better and see these types of interactions coming a mile or so away. I am a prime example of the idea “We teach what we need to learn.”
One thing to know is that boundaries are not walls. They are not meant to keep anyone out and not there to block our vision of other people and their needs. When I am able to freely say yes to what I want and no to what I don’t want in any and every aspect of my life, without those ‘uh oh’ twists and turns in my gut, then I am on the right track. When I have goose bump’s which I call my ‘truth barometer’, then I know I am on course. People may not like hearing no and I may not like saying it, but ultimately it keeps my relationships clean and clear.
I have many teachers who offer potent ideas for creating appropriate boundaries. One is my friend Reid Mihalko (who created Cuddle Party) and offers two (among many) pieces of advice “Say what isn’t being said,” so we are not withholding our feelings and “Always leave the campground better than you found it.” Good guidance even if you aren’t a Boy Scout.
Another is a colleague named Glenn Gausz with whom I have worked for many years. He is wise and phenomenally experienced in the fields of mental health and addictions. He is my go-to guy at the office when I want to pick someone’s brain about tricky situations. In a staff meeting, he was sharing his response when an insurance company didn’t provide the support for treatment that his client needed. His response was “That’s unacceptable.” Plain and simple. No wiggle room. I imagine that the person on the other end of the line did a cartoon double take. I have since adopted those two words as my default if nothing else works.
The third is my son’s girlfriend’s 3 year old son. Collin is a little wise man in a tiny package. When he is asked to do something he isn’t too keen on, rather than saying no, he will respond with “I don’t think so,” said in a sing songy way that is too adorable to refute, even as we attempt to convince him to do the thing he is being requested, which he usually does eventually.
Combined, these powerful statements can help build your assertiveness tool kit and enhance all of your relationships.