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The Right To Refuse Don’t Be A Doormat? You Don’t Have To Agree To Everything A Boss, Friend Or Family Member Asks Of You; Start Setting Some Boundaries

Loraine O'Connell The Orlando Sentinel

Oh, great. You’ve done it again.

The boss just asked you to work late and you said, “Yes, sure, no problem.” Then you scrambled to get hold of your spouse so he could pick up the kids at day care.

Of course, you’re still kicking yourself for saying yes to your in-laws who want to visit next week. You have neither the time nor the inclination to entertain them.

And you’re smarting from all the yeses you’ve been hissing at the kids lately. What kind of message are you sending them when all they have to do is whine or hold their breath to get you to cave in?

You’re just a person who can’t say no.

It’s a common affliction among both sexes, though women are especially prone to it because of their socialization.

“Women have been taught to be the caretakers, to be responsible for relationships,” says Marti Lisa, a licensed marriage and family therapist with the Episcopal Counseling Center of Orlando, Fla.

“We haven’t learned how to create and maintain appropriate boundaries.”

And appropriate boundaries are what enable people to say no without feeling guilty or fearful that the person on the receiving end will stop loving them - or liking them, or respecting them, or employing them, depending on who the receiver is.

Boundaries are the metaphorical walls we put up to separate ourselves from others. We all display behaviors that characterize our boundaries. For instance, a total inability to say no signals a person with no boundaries, says Lisa.

“These people tend to be overcompliant pleasers with no sense of separateness” from others.

Because these people don’t have a high sense of self-worth, they don’t realize they’re entitled to say no.

“They feel the only way to keep people in their lives is to be a yes person,” says Peg Seykora, a licensed mental health counselor in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

Of course, most of us would say we “just don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.”

Lose the guilt, Seykora says.

“You can’t control someone else’s feelings,” Seykora says. “If they choose to be upset, they’re choosing it because they’re more concerned about their needs than your needs.”

Twits.

But what about yes-sayers who fear that a “no” will result in rejection by a loved one or a promotion that never happens?

“If someone won’t accept your right to say no, you want to look at that relationship,” Seykora says.

But don’t lose sight of reality.

In the workplace, relationships are unequal. The boss is the boss - and you’re not.

If your boss is a hellion who has punished you for saying no, your only options may be to accept the situation or find another job.

Even in your personal life, Seykora says, “You train people how to treat you.”

“If you’ve trained everybody around you to treat you as a doormat or as passive, it’ll take a long time and a concentrated effort to retrain them,” she says.

“Some people will leave your life because they want a doormat. That’s the risk you take.”

Nevertheless, our inherent right to say no doesn’t give us free rein to be belligerent jerks. A person with healthy boundaries says no firmly but kindly.

MEMO: These sidebars appeared with the story: ASSERTING YOURSELF Practice in a mirror or with a supportive friend. Start with a low-stress situation, such as sending food back that isn’t cooked properly. Buy time. Don’t say yes right away. Say you want to think about a request and you’ll get back to the person making it. Deliver your negative response graciously. Preface it with something like, “This probably isn’t the answer you want, but …” or “I don’t mean to disappoint you, but…” Use body language that conveys self-confidence - head high, eyes looking directly at the other person. Use a firm but pleasant tone. There’s no need either to raise your voice or to simper. Orlando Sentinel

BOUNDARY LINES People with healthy boundaries: You are willing to say no, to let others know when they’re steping on your toes; you’re also willing to say yes. You have the ability to make requests and to seek alternatives when others must say no to you. You have a strong sense of identity and self-respect. You make appropriate self-disclosure; you reveal information about yourself gradually and only as mutual sharing takes place and trust develops. You expect shared responsiblility for relationships. You recognize when a problem is yours or another person’s; when it’s not your problem, you don’t jump in to rescue the other person. You do not tolerate disrespect or abuse.

People with rigid boundaries: You’re apt to say no if a request is going to involve close interaction. You have very strong defenses to protect yourself from getting close to people; You may pick fights, for instance, or stay so busy you leave no time for one-on-one relationships. You avoid closeness because you fear either abandonment or engulfment. You make little or no self-disclosure, perhaps preferring to draw the other person out but not sharing information yourself. You have an inability to indentify your own wants, needs and feelings. You have very few close relationships, though you may have many acquaintances.

People with “collapsed” boundaries: You can’t say no for fear of abandonment or rejection. You share too much personal information too soon. You take on other people’s feelings rather than just feeling empathy. You have a high tolerance for abuse and for being treated with disrespect. You believe “I must have deserved it” when treated badly. You do anything to avoid conflict. You have no ability to see flaws in others because you’re focused on being what you think other people want you to be. You have no sense of self. Orlando Sentinel

These sidebars appeared with the story: ASSERTING YOURSELF Practice in a mirror or with a supportive friend. Start with a low-stress situation, such as sending food back that isn’t cooked properly. Buy time. Don’t say yes right away. Say you want to think about a request and you’ll get back to the person making it. Deliver your negative response graciously. Preface it with something like, “This probably isn’t the answer you want, but …” or “I don’t mean to disappoint you, but…” Use body language that conveys self-confidence - head high, eyes looking directly at the other person. Use a firm but pleasant tone. There’s no need either to raise your voice or to simper. Orlando Sentinel

BOUNDARY LINES People with healthy boundaries: You are willing to say no, to let others know when they’re steping on your toes; you’re also willing to say yes. You have the ability to make requests and to seek alternatives when others must say no to you. You have a strong sense of identity and self-respect. You make appropriate self-disclosure; you reveal information about yourself gradually and only as mutual sharing takes place and trust develops. You expect shared responsiblility for relationships. You recognize when a problem is yours or another person’s; when it’s not your problem, you don’t jump in to rescue the other person. You do not tolerate disrespect or abuse.

People with rigid boundaries: You’re apt to say no if a request is going to involve close interaction. You have very strong defenses to protect yourself from getting close to people; You may pick fights, for instance, or stay so busy you leave no time for one-on-one relationships. You avoid closeness because you fear either abandonment or engulfment. You make little or no self-disclosure, perhaps preferring to draw the other person out but not sharing information yourself. You have an inability to indentify your own wants, needs and feelings. You have very few close relationships, though you may have many acquaintances.

People with “collapsed” boundaries: You can’t say no for fear of abandonment or rejection. You share too much personal information too soon. You take on other people’s feelings rather than just feeling empathy. You have a high tolerance for abuse and for being treated with disrespect. You believe “I must have deserved it” when treated badly. You do anything to avoid conflict. You have no ability to see flaws in others because you’re focused on being what you think other people want you to be. You have no sense of self. Orlando Sentinel

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