Life is a constant dance of give and take – of offering and receiving. It feels wonderful when we are giving to our loved ones from a place of wholehearted generosity. Those easy, openhearted yesses are so satisfying and mutually beneficial.
But, when we’re feeling a “no,” things can get a little more sticky.
We don’t want to hurt their feelings. We agree when we don’t really want to.
Or, we say no indignantly, and with less care than we intended.
Whenever we struggle to set clear, healthy and loving boundaries, our relationships can begin to feel unbalanced. For many of us, honestly expressing our limits with kindness and clarity when a no arises within us, can mean turning off ingrained auto-pilot habits of agreement and conflict avoidance.
Why Doesn’t Autopilot Work?
Think of the last time you were asked to do someone a favor.
Were you willing? Did you feel obligated?
Did you stop to think about whether or not you wanted to extend yourself to that person, in that way, at that time?
For those of us whose autopilots are set to “accommodate,” we may long for others to see us as kind, as helpful, as cooperative. However, an unaware “yes” when we’re really feeling a “no” can cause a chain reaction of backfires longer than the Brooklyn Bridge. There’s always a price to pay when we agree resentfully.
Rather than allowing your default response to take over, take a minute and pause. A quick “give me a second to think about that” or a “let me see if that will work and get back to you” can buy you the space you need in order to really check in with yourself to see if you’d like to honor the other person’s request, or make a different request of your own.
The Million Dollar Question
Once you’ve paused and bought yourself some precious time to self-connect, ask yourself “What works best for me, here?” Check in with your values. Remember that the highest quality solutions in any given situation usually care for your own needs, the other persons’ needs and the needs of the whole. Give yourself space to take multiple perspectives, but remember to fully include yourself, and your own authentic needs before agreeing to something that doesn’t actually honor you, too.
When we take this time to self-connect and to check-in with our own authenticity, we sometimes find our way to a wholehearted yes.
Sometimes, we discover a strong no, or a longing for a creative third option.
Either way, the key here is to pause and find out what we are really needing, and then allow ourselves to engage in creative dialogues with others from there instead of simply defaulting into overly accommodating or conflict avoidance patterns.
Remember, our ability to express firm, loving boundaries when needed, keeps us connected to ourselves and protected in our relationships. They help us build deeper connectedness, and are actually a gift to our relationships, as everyone benefits from the deeper trust that results from our honest yesses and nos.
Interested in finding out more?
Check out some additional blog posts and this youtube video for more scripts and inspiration:
Loving Boundaries, Deeper Connections (Blog entry)
Why is Setting Boundaries So Difficult? (Blog entry)