Too Nice? Tips On How to Set Boundaries and Stop Saying Yes
Dear April Masini,
I am a nice person, but sometimes I think I'm too nice. I have trouble saying "no" to people even if they're asking me to do something I really don't want to do. It's at the point now that people just expect me to say "yes" when they ask me to do something. How can I learn to start saying "no" to people? Or should I just go on being the nice person that I am?"
Can't Say No
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Can't Say No,
Some think they a-l-w-a-y-s need to be "nice" They have difficulty saying "no" and typically wind-up being stepped on. This can add a lot of stress to life and is not necessary. If this sounds like you need a little help learning how to set boundaries.
Here are a few tips for setting boundaries in relationships:
– Flair For The Dramatic: Choking or breaking into a faint is one way to set a boundary that eliminates the need to converse. Of course, if you stop choking or come to, the problem remains. For those with less of a dramatic flair, the following boundary setters can be put into use with effect:
– The Elusive Boundary: Someone’s at the door — I really have to go.
– The Passive Aggressive Boundary: You don’t really want me to do that …
– The One Two Punch: I’m sorry. I’m not interested in having a conversation with you any longer. The trick to this line is to deliver it — step one, and then not to linger — step two. Without step two, it’s an invitation for engagement.
– The Non-Sequitur Boundary: When someone asks you to do something or engages you in something you don’t want to do — change the subject. So, for instance, when your wife says, "I’d really like to plan a vacation for the family," you say, "Did the lawn get mowed this week?" Watch re-runs of Friends for the character, Phoebe, queen of the non-sequitur.
– Go To Feelings Boundary: Express your feelings as a boundary. For instance, if someone assigns you a volunteer job that you don’t want to do, say, "I don’t want to do that." Many people respond to feelings of statements, rather than separating them out from actions and behavior. If you’re dealing with one of those people, emotional statements will set boundaries.
– The Evolved Boundary: When you’re able to separate your feelings from your actions, you don’t need to explain your feelings in order to set boundaries. You just set them. For instance, you can say, "I’m not going to do that." The tone is important here. If you deliver your line with anger, it’s perceived as a challenge. If you deliver the line with grace and lack of emotion, and even a little Mona Lisa Smile of politeness, your line will be perceived as power.
– The Compromise Boundary: If you are ready to set a boundary, but aren’t comfortable disappointing other people, you can set your limits, but offer a bone to the other person. For instance, if your boss wants you to get them coffee, and you don’t want to, you can say, "I can’t get your coffee because I really want to get this project in in time for you — but I can get you a sandwich or a snack when I’m done."
Reasons Setting Boundaries Is Productive:
- Save time. Not setting boundaries prolongs the boundary being set. Until it is set, time is wasted fuming over not setting it sooner, fuming over miscommunications, etc.
- Get To Know Me. The sooner you know your boundaries and set them, the sooner you present a clear picture of who you are to everyone else. Vice verse, too. Disasters happen in relationships when people hide their boundaries — like not wanting children in a relationship, etc.
- Feelings are preserved. While people pleasers hate setting boundaries because they think that they are pleasing others by not setting them, the truth is that they end up feeling taken advantage of, then they blow up, and the person they blow up at is confused and hurt. It’s a mess — and setting boundaries can keep the mess cleaned up.