I have a little secret:
When I was younger, though I would have denied it at the time, I was a yes girl. I was a good little worker, but when it came to sticky situations at the office you could push me over with a puff of air. I was easily agreeable, always playing nice (or too nice) and not easily ready to rely my feelings when something felt off.
This leads to inner turmoil, hurt feelings and at one point – a walkout. Although I had legitimate reason to walk out, and it was the right choice for me, you can see how the cap on the bottle can explode when things are shaken up and there is no release valve.
At some point I realized I couldn’t keep doing this both for my own sanity and for the advancement of my career. People don’t respect push-overs. Plain and simple. They might love them – after all, they are the easiest people to work with! But respect is minimal.
So I started really figuring out where my boundaries were. This didn’t come all at once, but one-by-one as new situations would pop up I had a chance to figure out where my line was and draw that bitch in the sand.
What happens when you don’t have boundaries?
Here are a few things I have learned always happen when you are not setting your boundaries and enforcing them:
- You give an inch and people run like the wind with it. Some people really have to be treated like children with clear set, almost forceful boundaries or they think that you, your time and your life are a free-for-all. I honestly don’t think they are rotten people, they just don’t know any better. And you are letting it happen. If you have been a YES person forever, you have to teach them that this isn’t OK with you. Like children. (Without the baby voice).
- People lack respect for you. How can they? You are a bottomless pit of yes! If you don’t come across as someone that is true to themselves and knows what they want and don’t want it sends a confusing message to people. Leaders are strong and solid. (Well most of them, anyway).
- Inner turmoil brews. Do any of these sound familiar? Resentment from not getting paid what you think you should (even though you said it was OK)? Anxiety over a nasty co-worker that you are afraid to stand your ground with because you don’t want to be mean? Having a client that calls you after hours all the time but you don’t want to upset them by not taking their call? This is not a fun place to be. It will never stop happening unless you draw the line. There are very few mind readers out there.
- You are under-valuing yourself. It’s your birthright to be healthy and successful. Inner turmoil, feeling disrespected and walked all over doesn’t equal healthy and successful. In order to live a healthy and successful life you need to set your boundaries. Get out of victim mode.
- Not setting boundaries keeps makes you a victim. Regardless of others see you this way or not, you will technically always be the victim of the YES-bomb.
Once I started setting boundaries I noticed something: I was less stressed and more confident. Even after a situation where I needed to really needed to be harsh and assertive with my boundary line, it felt great!. This isn’t about saying NO to everything now, it’s about explaining how you feel, presenting your case being true to you and leaving the ball in the other person’s court. (And maybe saying a whole lot of NO.)
It’s also about what happens when the person ignores your boundary line despite being clearly set out. This is a really easy way to feel out who should be in your life and who shouldn’t.
What happens when you start saying NO and creating boundaries?
- Be prepared for backlash. Especially if these people have been overstepping your boundaries for years. This is totally normal. You can rejoice in the fact that it’s now their problem not yours! If you have been honest and direct, fear no guilt. Don’t give into the pity party. And feel confident you are being true to YOU. Celebrate backlash. You are doing it right.
- You may upset some people. AND?! In life we have disagreements and it’s acceptable for people to be upset with you now and then. A disagreement isn’t the end of the world and on the positive side, it often gets people talking and negotiating.
- You will find out who is worth having in your life. If backlash happens and someone just can’t live with the boundaries you are setting and negotiations fail, consider this a red flag. Be cautious of relationships that drain you…many times they are not worth the time and it may be time to move on.
- You will have much less stress. This is the best! Because we all know that stress stinks. Once you are direct and the line has been drawn, you can relax knowing that the other parties are now aware with what you will and will not do/tolerate/put up with/get paid/etc.
- Grow your confidence. Once you have practiced saying NO (or YES) with ease for things that work for you, you will become more and more confident about the decisions you make and the activities that you do agree to.
- You will attract better jobs/clients/people into your life. Being clear on what is cool and not cool with you is powerful. Whether it be about scope of work, how much you are charging, or office hours, putting it out there ensures that the people who don’t work well within your lines, need not apply. This can save hours and hours of endless frustration.
Example: Before I take on any client I make sure that we are going to work well together. I give them a series of questions before our strategy session to get to know a bit about them and their working style. Once our call is done, I do an evaluation to see how well they fit within my business, and how well I could serve them based on their expectations. I am flexible and fair, but I also know what I can and cannot tolerate. If they don’t fit in, there is no point in us working together…it could lead to endless cost and frustration for both of us.
Build Your Boundaries
Here are my non-complicated tips to stop dropping the YES-Bomb and start setting your boundaries:
- Listen to your gut. If something feels off, take a second to think about it, then speak up. You have a voice to be heard.
- Practice saying no. Look for opportunities to practice.
- Spend more time with people who’s boundaries you admire or who have little problem saying no and being assertive.
- Be honest and clear.
- Don’t avoid people and beat around the bush about something that you don’t want to do. This creates stress. Just say no. No explanation is required.
- Don’t give in to guilt trips. This is a silly attempt for someone to disrespect your boundaries. It’s not mature, and it’s not cool.
I’ve written this to be about our work lives since it can be a struggle for many of us…but this applies to all aspects of life.
Have a wonderful week of saying no