Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

I was just thinking about my trip upstate to do an event this weekend and felt a little pang of guilt over something I did that seemed small compared to the rest of my activities that lovely day. Liz, a woman I know lives near the location of my talk. When I told her I’d be coming up there, we made plans to have lunch before my talk. My talk was at 2 PM. I told her I’d get there close to noon and would call when I was at the exit so she could head out to meet me.

I called when I was about 5 miles from the exit to give her some warning. Liz suggested a nice restaurant. I asked if I should meet her in the shopping center by my event or was there somewhere more convenient. She directed me to a spot along the road into town with some dirt parking. She said she’d be there in 10 minutes, adding she’d just had a shower and had to get ready. Hmm, I said I’d be there around noon and she wasn’t ready. She assured me it wouldn’t take long when I said I didn’t have a lot to time.

But it did! But the time we hung up, I was at the exit and the place to meet at was right there. It was a parking area with rocks and mud. I was dying to get out of the car after my long ride but it was unappealing. I sat there for 20 minutes, on the side of the road, surrounded by overgrown weeds, big puddles and dirt. I didn’t get up early and allow time to drive up to have a relaxing lunch to sit in this ugly place, bored. I tried to call Liz at home but no answer. Her cell phone wasn’t on.

So I did what I teach other Nice Girls on Top to do—I left, drove to the shopping center and went to a restaurant solo. I felt empowered!

Liz called twenty minutes later. She yelled at me. “Where are you? I was there! At 12:20.” But she wasn’t since I was there past 12:30. I told her she should have been ready and I couldn’t reach her by phone. I didn’t want to waste more time in that awful spot. She denied being so late and scolded me for not leaving her a message at home since she’d forgotten to bring my cell number with her. I told her, calmly, that none of it was my fault and refused to apologize for any of it.

Then I said I had to hang up as I wanted to enjoy my lunch. She blustered but said goodbye.

Ten minutes later Liz called back. She’d calmed down, must have accepted she was wrong, and asked if she could join me for lunch. I nicely agreed and she came over. This time she apologized, acknowledged she tends to be late for everything and that she shouldn’t have told me to meet her in that desolate spot. I agreed with her but said no more and was friendly. There was no point in being mad or scolding her. She knew.

Never once did I say I was sorry since I wasn’t!

The rest of our time together was pleasant. My nice demeanor seemed to feed her guilt. She hung around when I did my event and occasionally brought up what she did with apologies. Yelling at someone who does something wrong puts them on the defensive. Annoyance at your tone can supercede them from taking responsibility for what they did wrong. It’s important to keep your cool when addressing inappropriate behavior so your point gets across without emotion.

Addressing the issue in a calm, amicable way gives the person who did wrong the most guilt and the most chance for them to take more responsibility for their behavior. Scolding makes them turn on you.

I found it funny when I felt a little guilt about leaving on Saturday. But it passed very fast. A little of my old DoorMat tendencies came out but I saw and conquered them! It’s important not to hurt others but even more important not to hurt yourself. I gave Liz over 20 minutes. I had no reason to feel guilty. So the feeling passed quickly! I didn’t go up there for her and I was entitled to have the relaxing lunch I came for.

Many of us were brought up thinking that it’s polite to wait for people who keep us waiting. It’s not. They’re the rude ones!

Now I understand it’s my choice to wait or do what I have to do and leave the person who’s late in the dust. I understand that things happen that are beyond someone’s control. But Liz just wasn’t ready when I said I’d be there. Not my problem and I wasn’t waiting longer. I took responsibility for agreeing to meet her in that spot instead of going directly to the restaurant. But I had to leave when I realized she wasn’t respecting my limited time.

Don’t feel obligated to buy into other people’s bad habits. If waiting doesn’t inconvenience you too much, wait a while. But we don’t have to wait indefinitely for someone who doesn’t call and does what they please. It’s your time so why waste it?? When you deal with people’s lateness, they often learn. Otherwise, it’s your choice to make plans with them.

I have NO regrets for leaving, except that I didn’t leave sooner. ?

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