It’s nice to be nice. It’s nice to do nice things for others. However, when nicety is unreciprocated, taken for granted or turns into an excuse for others to be dismissive of you as a human being, then it becomes a problem.
It occurred to me a few years ago that I was held in a very different regard by others to what I had always assumed. Activities and meet-ups often involved multiple changes that would inevitably make it more inconvenient and expensive for me. I spent hours waiting for people to turn up. I was repeatedly interrupted. I was owed money. It wasn’t uncommon for me to receive messages or have conversations that began with a phrase that I have come to loathe:
Can I ask a favour?
The favour. The seemingly easy and straight-forward request that would always turn into a complicated mess and leave me feeling stressed and resentful, particularly when there was no acknowledgement or thanks afterwards. And yet, the one time I remember needing help which would have meant someone having to go out of their way, not a single person responded. Not one.
Of course, being kind, having empathy and sympathy for others and doing our bit to make someone else’s life should be a natural part of our existence. I like doing things for others to make them feel better. I like surprising those close to me to make them smile. Nevertheless, I’ve found that, for self-preservation and self-care purposes above all, clear boundaries have to be put in place for the more high-maintenance. This isn’t because they were bad people, they were simply used to Suzie: The Lapdog.
I decided to make some changes and use words that I had previously found difficult to use:
No, thank you.
I can’t I’m afraid, I’m busy today.
No thanks, it’s not really my thing, but thanks for the offer!
At first, it was really interesting. What I discovered was that my ‘no, thanks’ was not considered to be my final answer. It actually caught some people off-guard and surprised them. Often, a conversation would ensue as to why I wasn’t available or couldn’t do something, as if an explanation was required. I would be asked the same thing multiple times in the hope that I would change my mind, only for it then to be passed off as a joke if I made it clear that I wasn’t impressed.
However, over a period of time my consistency started to pay off and now I feel confident enough to understand and verbalise what I will and won’t accept, which is something I would never have done in my younger years.
Here are things you can do to make your life a little easier:
1. Learn the power of no and stick to it. Don’t permit yourself to become involved in what I refer to as a ‘bartering’ style discussion ie. ‘How about you do this and I’ll do this…’ or ‘What about if you do this instead?’ The answer is no. No no no. No. There’s isn’t any need for nastiness or negativity while you’re saying it, but stick to your guns. No.
2. Don’t be afraid of potential disagreement or verbalising your boundaries. It’s ok to tell someone that consistently showing up 45 minutes late is unacceptable, unless it’s an emergency. If plans are frequently changed, it’s ok to tell someone why it has become less convenient for you. Don’t negate your own feelings to accommodate those of others if it means you are left feeling upset afterwards.
3. Remove your expectations. The primary cause of my disappointment was that I had an expectation of how someone would feel and/or behave, or that they would be willing to help me out in the future in return. It was wrong of me to make those assumptions.
4. Avoid explaining yourself in too much detail, but remember that you don’t have to be nasty about it. An ‘I’m really sorry, but I’m busy I’m afraid’ should be more than enough.
5. Pick yourself up from the floor, stand up tall and realise your self-worth. You are a good person. You have your own life. You are entitled to an opinion. You deserve to be treated with the same respect and consideration that you show others. Start reminding yourself of this regularly.
6. Learn from your experiences and avoid repetition in the future. I don’t hold grudges, but I don’t forget, following the ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me’ idea. It works.
7. Try to avoid feeling guilty. Guilt is the primary reason for many of the ‘favours’ I have done over the years, and became the aftermath after saying no. You’ve done nothing wrong, therefore have nothing to feel guilty about.
8. If necessary, distance yourself. Don’t make yourself as available.
9. Stop apologising or accepting blame! I’ve written a number of times about this. You are allowed to feel the way you feel about something.
10. If all else fails, get rid of those causing you distress. Harsh, but necessary in certain circumstances.
Remember: You are only treated in the way you allow yourself to be. There is a difference between being easy going and a doormat. Set your boundaries, remove your expectations, build your confidence and live life for your own happiness and not just the happiness of others.
And life will be much better for it!
What about you guys? Do you find your good nature being dismissed or taken advantage of?
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