Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#YEAR OF YOU! A How Bourgeois Mini-Series. Lesson TWO: Straight-Forward and Easy Ways to Learn How to Set Boundaries and Start Saying "No"

** Ack! Once again I rambled a bit longer than I have intended to. And, I feel like this series is getting SERIOUS! (I'm more of a silly rather than a serious girl.) So, with our next installment after this, I'm going to mix things up a bit and  promise to deliver a light and fun post!  We'll be talking about creating our own little , special spaces, and how to go about it! No matter how large or limited your space is.  Also, outside of the mini-series, I have the urge to do some more light hearted posts. Anyone else have spring fever? A spring/summer wardrobe post will be coming your way soon! I've gone the pastel route with clothing this time around. Hopefully the pastels will look nice with my gray hair! And, there will always be more recipes and day to day going-ons to come.  Thank you so much for reading along! I am forever grateful. xoxoxo**

Hi friends! 

WOO HOO! I've been searching for some writing time for the past week or so and have finally found it. Don't you just love that feeling when you've been trying to carve out time for something specific, and after trying and trying, you eventually find it! I love that feeling.  Between another snow day, Jon traveling last week and this week,  and Noah being sent home not feeling well both weeks too, quiet writing time just wasn't happening. But today, I'm back at it!!! :)

(One morning last week, we woke to so much snow, that we were able to take a sled ride through town, before they shoveled all of the sidewalks! It was really fun. And...good *exercise* for Mom too. I have a feeling I won't be able to pull him around much longer!)


Just like finding time to tend to one's blog, or practicing the basics of self-care, or setting  boundaries, what matters most is not how often you get things done, it's that you stick with it, and get back at it eventually.

Today, I'd like to talk with you about what I think many people would agree is a very challenging skill to learn - the ability to say "no" to other people's requests without fear or guilt! This skill goes hand-in-hand with the importance of knowing how to set boundaries for yourself and others in your day-to-day lives.  I have some quick, straight forward tips that I'd love to share. Tips that can make a huge and WONDERFUL impact on your life! I promise. :)

First, I've  been having fun with these Instagram videos. I don't know what I'm doing and they're honestly silly, but here is a ten second preview of what this post will be about. It's strange to see myself on the blog in video form, as opposed to just a picture! 


Ok, that was a little awkward. 
Let's begin by tackling the art of saying "no."  How to know when to say "no" and how to say it more easily, with more confidence and grace. And.......... without too much guilt!
Then we can discuss boundaries and how to set them.

First, a story a story though...........................................

Once upon a time I had a wonderful friend, (and still do) who said to me, "Lauren, you have rounded heels!"  And I was like...."WHAT does THAT mean!?"  And my friend said, "that means when people push, you fall over. You're a push-over!" I WAS a push-over, just like a Weeble Wabble, only actually, Weeble Woobles wobble but they don't fall down!



And you know, my friend was right! I wasn't angry at her for calling me a push-over, I was THANKFUL, and not because..... I'm......a.....push-over................
No! I was appreciative because it got me thinking, and sparked many conversations and the realization that - Being a push-over, a PEOPLE PLEASER, it's an exhausting, unhealthy way to be in the world!

Let's take a couple minutes and talk about being a people pleaser, and what it can do to your soul and energy! Let's learn about WHY you're a people pleaser and how to lessen this pressure.

First things first though. There is a difference between a helpful person who does things for others and a people pleaser.  There is a difference between somebody who seeks harmony and peace with those around them and a push-over.  

It's beautiful and important to help others when you can, but a people please will say "yes" to every task and favor asked of them. This is even during times when another obligation would not be easy or healthy for them to take on. Sometimes agreeing to help is much much easier than to face than the fear of disappointing others. But this can be eroding to ourselves.

We all love getting along, making sure that everybody feels heard and valued, but a push-over might agree to things just for the sake of not rocking the boat. Even when that means agreeing might be to their detriment! Sometimes going along with others at our own expense, is much easier to face than causing waves. But this can be draining to ourselves. 

Think about your own life. Did you say "yes" to a volunteer job that you really didn't have time for, but you didn't want people to think that you don't care? Or perhaps you took on an additional responsibility at work, just because you didn't want to disappoint a co-worker. For my readers with gray hair, did you cover your grays much longer than you wanted to, just so you wouldn't have to challenge societal norms or risk disappointing your spouse or other people in your life?

When it comes down to it, many many decisions that we make have the potential to be driven by our fears of letting others down, looking bad or causing conflict. While conscientiousness and courteousness are VERY important in life, making choices when based in fear is one of the least healthy patterns that we can get into. Being a people pleaser will drain you. It sucks your energy and your time. It can leave you feeling resentful for  all the obligations and agreements that you've made, as they are now pulling you in every which way. Resentfulness and the stress that comes with it is highly destructive and not worth it! 

It is important to remember that you can not save everyone. You can not be everything for every person in every situation. Making choices and agreeing when you have GENUINE interest and motivation and the time to give your 100%, is a much purer service to others, than when done out of fear or obligation. 

So where do we go forward from here? In the past week, I've heard two different people, on two separate occasions, mention the words, "SELF COMPASSION."  I like that term so much. Compassion and empathy, I personally believe, along with love, are the most important feelings to have a capacity and understanding for. If you have self-compassion, you can then say without conviction, " I MATTER." "MY NEEDS ALSO MATTER!"  

That's the whole core of this people-pleasing struggle. We tell ourselves that attending to our own needs first, makes us selfish. It doesn't, it makes us burnt out. And, if you're burnt out, eventually, you will have little to give. Conversely, some of the people who have had the most to give to others in life, achieve this because they've mastered the art if addressing their needs as well. 

PART ONE.  SAYING "NO"

So, how do we identify the times when it's important to say "no" and to turn down a request? For one, you need to listen to your heart. Does the request get you excited? Are you genuinely happy and have the desire to help out? Or, is your gut trying to tell you that something doesn't feel right? 
You need to look at the practicalities too? Do you have the available time to honor this request? Do you have the energy and resources that are required?

I have posted the following info-graphic before, but I just love it so much, that I wanted to share again. It helps you make the decision of when and how to say "no!"  This LIFE CHANGING graphic was made by the amazingly talented Anita over at Live Like You're Rich. I highly recommend a visit to Anita's site, where you will surely learn as much as I have on a variety of topics. Tips, tricks, life-hacks and a whole lot of caring, thoughtful writing. Anita's insights have helped to shape my life for the better, and the following guide is now one of my go-to's when I'm struggling over a decision.




I LOVE this flow chart!!!! It's great, isn't it!? 

Before we move along to HOW TO say "no" with less stress and the most grace possible, I need to quickly convince of of something! I need to convince you that saying "no" to people is ok. That MOST people aren't going to hate you, that your true friends won't leave you. You need to know that when you say "no" and set boundaries,  you usually won't be irreparably disappointing those that you care about. Family and friends that have an invested interest in you will understand and will care about your needs being honored and met too. If they don't, then perhaps the value that they place on their relationship with you, is not as high and caring as it should be. We only have so much room in our busy lives, fill that space with relationships that carry mutual respect, value and positivity!

You know that friend that called me a push-over? Guess what!? Now, she is the one person in the world that I have the easiest time saying "no" to, with the least amount of guilt! I know that my friend is a true friend, one that will never ditch me for being honest, and turning down her request when it's just too hard for me. She knows that I gladly say "yes" when I can, and I say "no" when I need to. We have a mutual respect and a deep understanding in our friendship, and for that, I am incredibly thankful! It's quite amazing really, and you can have this too! (I love you friend!!!!) 

I recommend for starters, identifying a few friends or family who you really value, who you might have the opportunity to say "yes" or "no" to often.  A simple, genuine dialogue can really set the stage for years to come, and make it easier when you have to turn them down. It might go something like this:  

"Hey ____,  I just wanted to talk to you for a minute about something that's been on my mind. I'm learning how to be a little more aware of my needs and I realized that I tend to say "yes" to things because I want to be a helpful friend and I care. But, I sometimes say "yes" to requests without stopping to see that I actually don't have the required energy and time to take on the extra request. 

The point is, I want you to know that I value our friendship and I GLADLY say "yes" to you when I can, and when I can't, and I say "no", it's not personal. It's not a reflection of how much I care.  I'm happy that we're close enough that I can tell you how I'm feeling, and I think this makes our friendship even more special!"

You can change this dialogue up to fit the situation, or er.......us LESS words....... but you can see that openness can really really help. It's scary to put your feelings out there. It's frightening to talk about a vulnerability that you might have, but this will only strengthen truly caring relationships. 

Now that we know when to say "no" and we've learned that it really isn't the end of the world to do so, let's get a few tips on HOW to say "no"!

It's never easy to turn someone down. Well, it might be easy for some, but not most of us. There are a few ways to make the turning down a bit easier on you AND on the other person! I call these tips "pillows." I imagine them as bright, puffy tools to make saying "no" a little bit softer. Don't forget to bring out your pillows!

Pillow #1 - Positive Preface                                                                                                         I really believe that positivity and warmth can go a long way. Nobody likes to disappoint others and turn them down, but there are ways to do it in not such a negative light. I say, lead with positivity. Open your reply with a message of caring, let the other person know that you value their request. For example, "Judy, I love when Peter comes over and we can help with babysitting. He always makes us laugh, it's so much fun. I'm sorry, but watching Peter on Friday is just difficult with our schedule..........."   Or,  "Thank you for asking me to chair this event! What an honor, truly! I care so deeply about this organization, it's very meaningful to me, but unfortunately, right now I can not........."  Don't lie or embellish your positive statements. Others can feel your honesty or lack of. Express your caring or gratitude and then politely decline. This tip will hopefully make both parties feel a little more comfortable.

Pillow #2 - Offer What You Can                                                                                            This step is not essential, surely not an obligation, but if there is something alternatively that you really WANT and CAN do, something that will NOT tax you, you might just want to offer it up! (Just be careful not to offer out of guilt!)  For example: "Judy, I love when Peter comes over and we can help with babysitting. He always makes us laugh, it's so much fun. I'm sorry, but watching Peter on Friday is just difficult with our schedule. I'm open next Friday though, if that works."  Or....."Thank you for asking me to chair this auction! What an honor, truly! I care so deeply about this organization, it's very meaningful to me, but unfortunately, right now I can't commit to a chair position. I LOVE organizing and working on the auction item displays though. I could help with set-up on the day of the event."

Another way to offer what you can, but without a concrete time-frame or a definite commitment is, to express your desire to help at some point in the future on you're own terms, when you are able.  Like this: "Judy, I love when Peter comes over and we can help with babysitting. He always makes us laugh, it's so much fun. I'm sorry, but watching Peter on Friday is just difficult with our schedule. We'd love to have him over sometime again. I'll give you a call when things open up."  Or ......"Thank you for asking me to chair this auction! What an honor, truly! I care so deeply about this organization, it's very meaningful to me, but unfortunately, I can't commit to a chair position. I will get in touch with you if my situation changes down the road, and there are small jobs that you need help with."

This is a tad tricky because you need to make sure that YOU are the one "making the call", the one with the ball in their court. It's tricky, but a nice gesture and a way not to close the door completely, if you are interested in a later possibility. Again this is NOT AN ESSENTIAL STEP, not in the least. The most important thing here is to only offer an alternative if you want to or can. I want to stress this! Most of us genuinely want to support our friends and family, and this is a nice way to show you would like to pitch in where you can!

Pillow #3 - Close on an Up Note!
Whether you offer up an alternative suggestion or not, BOTH ways are 110% FINE, ending on a positive, well-wishing note can be really nice. It doesn't have to be a long, drawn out apology or an explanation that (seriously) it's not personal! No, just a nice one-liner to reaffirm that you care. Here are a couple of examples:  "Judy, I love when Peter comes over and we can help with babysitting. He always makes us laugh, it's so much fun. I'm sorry, but watching Peter on Friday is just difficult with our schedule. We'd love to have him over sometime again. I'll give you a call when things open up. Thanks for asking me, I feel really lucky that we're friends and have each other to lean on."  And....."Thank you for asking me to chair this auction! What an honor, truly! I care so deeply about this organization, it's very meaningful to me, but unfortunately, I can't commit to a chair position. I will get in touch with you if my situation changes down the road, and there are small jobs that you need help with. Thank you again for asking me, I can't tell you how flattered I am to be considered."
Basically a "thank you" plus some "gratitude". That's all it takes! :)

Truthfully, I struggle EVERYDAY with saying "no" to things. It's an on-going practice. Please don't feel discourage if this doesn't come naturally to you. I don't think it's natural to want to disappoint. Just keep at it and remember that YOUR NEEDS MATTER TOO!

PART TWO.  SETTING BOUNDARIES!

What are boundaries? I kind of don't like the term "boundaries", it sounds a little dramatic for this discussion. It sounds super serious. It is serious business to make sure that you have boundaries, but not in a personal space/safety sort of way. What I mean is coming up with a set of "givens" for yourself and for others to know about yourself, when it comes to how you're willing to be in the world. For example, how many hours are you willing to work each week? How many volunteer projects are you ok with taking on in one year? Are you a person who needs their sleep - should friends know not to call after 9:00pm? How about this one, are you an introvert, and even though you are asked to go out on the town each weekend, can you set a boundary with others to just one night of PAR-TAY a week!?

I'd like to use a personal example here. It's something that I am still struggling with and have been trying to figure out since Noah started school full time.  I'd really like to establish and keep a boundary of no socializing during the week, during the hours that Noah is in school.
Gosh, what a rigid stick-in-the-mud I am, right!? I know, but here's the thing, every single human being and their schedules and workloads and situations are different, and for me, having that block of time from 8:00am - 3:00pm to get my work done is SOOOO important and HAPPY to me! Socializing is important too of course, but that's why we have the weekends! :)

If I'm not doing my house chores, like cleaning or laundry, I'm out running errands, or I'm doing dinner prep. This work understandably takes up a big portion of the day, if not all of it. For me, the reason why I hesitate to spend any leftover time during the day to coffee or lunch with friends, is because I need that scare, open time to QUIETLY sit and write! It's my treasured time. It is very important to me. I know from 3:00 onwards, my day will get loud again and I won't have the time or energy to write. In my house, 3:00 means driving to and from school, then homework help, then cooking dinner, eating dinner, helping to clean up dinner. Noah needs to get ready for bed, I need to exercise and take a shower. Just regular things that we all might do. By the time it's said and done the day is over. So, my weekday "me" time is really special!

Although I've gotten better over time at politely saying "no" to nice invitations, I still struggle with a lot of GUILT. Guilt when I have to turn down someone that I value for a little lunch or coffee. At first, I tried to be moderate, you know, grab coffee or lunch sometimes, but honestly, while every,single.time. I would have a great time and loved visiting, it would always throw me off my writing schedule. While I can make exceptions from time to time when needed, I have come to the conclusion that I really do best when sticking to a boundary.

So, I started with a small step, by instituting the Monday/Friday no exceptions rule. On Mondays and Fridays I guarantee myself that from 1:30-3:00 I have writing time. In fact, on those days, I try to not obligate myself to anything additional - social/volunteer/meetings/appointments on those days unless I absolutely have to.

In my mind, this blog is my life's "work" and I allow myself to say "no" to things without guilt on these days, because I learned to finally value my writing as something more than a pointless hobby.
There are still three days in the week where I do feel guilty for not par-taking in PTA meetings or coffees very much, but truth be told, writing or no writing, I'm usually too busy with home stuff to meet anyway. Most of my friends understand. A few I feel, might have taken my lack of availability as something personal, which I feel sad about, but need to let go of.  But mostly though, it's just a known given that Lauren is just at home doing whatever around the house and perhaps plucking away at the computers keys, and it's ok.

I used to say "yes" to everything and I was stressed and got little done, especially with this website. Today, because of my new awareness for boundaries, I get everything that I need done at home, and I have a new sense of purpose and happiness because I have some writing time. It's fabulous! For however difficult and scary and awkward the feeling of setting boundaries is, the end effect can be just what you needed.

You are braver than you think!

Really, you are. You can do this. If you're a parent or even if you're not, think about it this way...
when you lack boundaries, and you are in turn running around, doing everything for everyone, each and every time, and you are left with no time for yourself, - you are teaching your children that this is the way to be in the world. You are setting an example for them, for everyone,  that self-care is not that important to you. You need to love yourself and value yourself enough to provide proper self-care! 

So let's think about more boundary categories. We'll get into relationship boundaries another time, but are there people, family or friends who feel a little......"toxic" to you? There are people who leave you feeling less good about yourself or drained after a conversation, time and time again. One boundary that  you could have is "no toxic relationships in your life" or , if you must have a semi-toxic person around, perhaps the boundary could pertain to your communications. For example, you could decide that, "if while speaking with this person, they begin to yell,  you will simply say that you're going to go now, and that you can speak again another time when raising our voice is not involved." Boundaries can really pertain to most anything. They're the contracts that you make with yourself, to live by your own, healthiest terms.

Yesterday we attended the funeral of our sweet friend and neighbor. We loved her so much. I'll just call her "R" because I don't to name her publicly as she was actually a little well known! One of the things she was known for was being colorful and vibrant and whimsical, with a fantastic sense of humor. Her personality was bigger than life! R's heart was huge and giving and caring, and her laugh could fill a room. It was contagious. When they say somebody was "one of a kind", I think this was written for R. Oh she, and her happy energy will be so so missed.

There was another part of R that was notable and fabulous though. Her granddaughter talked about it in her eulogy to Grandmother. She had received a condolence email from a friend, and this friend said that she would always miss the feisty Grandma R, and that she was such a wonderful roll model to her because  She was an example of a remarkably strong and independent woman who lived by her own rules.

Yes! Exactly! I wanted to jump out of my seat during the funeral yesterday and say,  "Yes, she was roll model with her strength for me too!" R taught me that you can ABSOLUTELY be one of the most caring and giving people AND have perfectly fine boundaries at the same time.

She did what she needed to do. Turned down invitations without a long apology, effortless, and honestly said: "Maybe next time!"... and she really meant it.  Her colorful, animated fashion sense, it beat to R's own drum and she was proud of it, never embarrassed of her uniqueness. (It was said that R. only wore colors, no black. I understand, I could barely pull one dark outfit together to wear to her funeral!)  It seems that she went out into the world and pursued her goals with determination, not having time to suffer many fools. R was an example of how living with well meaning boundaries can strengthen us, and help us to reach our goals, while providing at the same time, a reserve of time and energy to also care for other people.

This post is getting to be a bit longer than I intended, so I think I'll go now. I hope that you've found some of this helpful in learning how to better assert your needs. It all goes back to the introduction and first installment of this series - making YOU and your needs a priority, because you matter!


For more resources and information on these topics:
Hay House Radio - "Radio for your Soul" - 24 hour live streaming of Hay House Author's shows! There is a great, free app to stream to your smart phone as well. I love it!

Remember, a lot of things in life take practice.  So don't give up! Until next time, when we lighten up and have some fun with creating little spaces of our own!

xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo,
Lauren 







3 comments :

Valerie said...

Oh I know what you mean about saying "No!" The people pleaser...yeah sorry to say that was me for SO many years,and unfortunately sometimes I still am. I just hate to disappoint people SO much. You wrote this little post so clearly...it just underlines everything I believe! I love all of your tips/pillows. =) You have such a gift with writing! I plan to get a copy of that Cheryl Richardson book, sounds like something I would love to read. Thank you for such uplifting and encouraging thoughts. Your blog never fails to make me smile.
Your friend, Valerie

Lauren said...

Hi Valerie!!!

Oh I know! I'm with you 100%, it is just SO hard to disappoint people. Yes! :(
I still struggle with the whole saying "no" / boundaries thing everyday. It's a learning process. And, actually, I suppose the best thing is, if we are happy and able to say "yes" more often. Then, we don't get as much "no" practice in! So it takes time. Go easy on yourself, we're all human. :)

Oh Yay! I think you will LOVE Cheryl's book as much as I did. My copy is from the library, but I'd like to by it. The book is written in such nice, little chunks. It's just great.

Thank you , thank you , thank you for ALL of the support and encouragement you've been so kindly sending my way. Thank you for making a difference in my life with your warmth.
I hope you have a GREAT day today Valerie!!!
xoxoxoxo,
You friend,
Lauren

Lauren said...

Hi Valerie!!!

Oh I know! I'm with you 100%, it is just SO hard to disappoint people. Yes! :(
I still struggle with the whole saying "no" / boundaries thing everyday. It's a learning process. And, actually, I suppose the best thing is, if we are happy and able to say "yes" more often. Then, we don't get as much "no" practice in! So it takes time. Go easy on yourself, we're all human. :)

Oh Yay! I think you will LOVE Cheryl's book as much as I did. My copy is from the library, but I'd like to by it. The book is written in such nice, little chunks. It's just great.

Thank you , thank you , thank you for ALL of the support and encouragement you've been so kindly sending my way. Thank you for making a difference in my life with your warmth.
I hope you have a GREAT day today Valerie!!!
xoxoxoxo,
You friend,
Lauren