Hello, my friends! First, allow me to apologize for my fickle posting schedule. I’ve had some challenges that are not insurmountable, but I’ve needed to take some time to myself to reflect on who I am, and come up with some strategies to deal with them. For today, I am choosing this topic because this is exactly what I am dealing with on every side of my life. So, maybe in writing this, it will help me to find the courage to draw specific boundaries and retain my own sanity. See what I did there?
Throughout my life, I’ve been faced with people who I just do not understand. I often joke that I was raised like a feral dog, so my sense of social mores and politeness are often baffling, even to me. I was the youngest of 4 children, then later 6 when my dad remarried. All of my parents did the best they knew how to do. We were never homeless. We always went to school. But I never really learned manners, or how to show gratitude until I was an adult, on my own, observing others. I am now highly irritated at the lack of courtesy and manners around me. I guess I figure that if I was able to learn that mailing a thank you card for a gift was polite, then why should others, who were not raised like I was, be excused from this? If someone took their preciouos resources (time and money) to give me a gift, the least I can do I’d take my resources (time and a postage stamp) to express gratitude.
I have also found out that the world consists of givers and takers. Both are very good at what they do. However, givers are often manipulated by takers. They play on their good nature and sympathy to get exactly what they want, then rarely show gratitude in their actions. A text message of ‘Thank you!!’ Just doesn’t cut the mustard. Lately, I am finding that takers are coming out of the wood work to prey on me. Not only to take advantage of my empathy and good nature, but to follow up with a guilt trip if I don’t follow their code of conduct and do exactly what they expect of me.
Let me get a few things off my chest, then I will move on to strategies for givers in dealing with this. First of all, if you are staying with someone in their home, it is not your right to drain their resources. Offer to make meals, bring groceries, help clean up the house, and don’t leave cups and dishes scattered in your wake. Clean up your messes. Observe how your host lives, and follow their lead. Maybe even offer to treat your host to dinner. Secondly, if someone goes out of their way to help you, or do you a favor, maybe consider doing something special for them. You don’t have to spend money. Write a nice thank you card. Offer to mow their lawn. Maybe even house sit. Let your actions show that you are thankful that they sacrificed to help you and you appreciate it.
My personality is such that my initial reaction to anything I don’t like is to avoid it. If I feel like someone is trying to manipulate me, I just ignore them. I don’t answer the phone. I don’t return calls. I am short on responses to emails. I know that is not the correct way to deal with things, and I wouldn’t encourage it, because all it is going to do is encourage the taker to just keep calling, texting, and emailing. Rarely is the outcome what I want, which is for them to just go away. What I should be doing is setting my boundaries. I should be answering the phone calls, and when the person asks me for what I am anticipating, I should say, I’m not able to help you with that. When they ask why, I don’t owe them an explanation. We are allowed to say no. We have every right to put our own interests in front of others. That doesn’t make you selfish. It makes you not co-dependent. It is not your job to take care of other people or their problems. If you choose to do it, great. But you are not obligated to do so. The fact of the matter is, you can ALWAYS say no.
I have learned to ask myself, “Am I willing to follow through on this?” If I am not willing to follow through, then I must say no. I shouldn’t be offering to help anyone move if I know that at the last minute, I am going to bail out. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of ‘hinters’ in my life. These are people who don’t come out and directly ask me for anything, but they hint at what they want. For instance, “I really want to relocate to your area, but I don’t know where to apply for a job or where I should live. Oh, but my current employer is abusing me and I don’t know what to do. What should I do? You’re so smart, what would you do?” This person hasn’t asked me for a place to stay or for me to put in a good word at my own employer, but they are certainly using techniques to play on my emotions. What is their end game? What is it they want from you? The best thing in this situation is to stay out of it. When I was in grade school, my parents fell for this one with a step cousin. He lived with us, for longer than he said he would, wore out his welcome, became the master of the television, and was all around annoying. In fact, who among us hasn’t fallen in this trap? What is unfortunate is that I believe that we all just want to be helpful. More often than not, we just end up used, abused, resentful, and unwilling to do it again. Side note, if you have been the person who stays with someone and wore out your welcome, I hope that you can find it in you or conscience to make things right.
My advice is to set your boundaries. If behavior isn’t acceptable to you, don’t accept it. Don’t surround yourself with people who are just taking advantage of you. Ask yourself if they would be there if you didn’t have something to give them. Relationships should be two way streets. There is no law on the books that prohibit you from letting people go. If the relationship is leacherous, let it go. Back away. If they question what is going on, tell them that this is just not working out for you. We don’t need to fear hurting other people’s feelings. I mean, I’m not advocating being a jerk here. I am saying that people who take advantage of others aren’t really concerned about the damage that they are doing. So why are you concerned with saving their feelings?
Now you may say, “But I can’t just let go of my boss or coworker! What do I do?” Well, this is the toughest situation because you are kind of stuck. In this situation, I usually try to be pleasant and still ask myself, “am I willing to follow through on this?” If your coworker annoys you, don’t engage them on personal topics. Keep it to business, and be as pleasant as you can. If they are not doing their job, and it’s not affecting my job, I ignore it and let them deal with their consequences. If it does affect my job, I have a discussion with them, and keep all emotions out of it. If things don’t change, I leave it with my boss. If the boss does nothing, I document. If things fall apart, you now have a record of attempting to correct the situation. You may consider getting HR involved at that point. DON’T sabotage anyone else. Keep the emotions out of it. Follow your company’s guidelines in dealing with conflict. And document EVERYTHING!
I do understand that this may be contrary to your religious tastes. I get that. You have to do what is right for you. If you want to continue to turn the other cheek, more power to you. I, however, will no longer choose this. We are not on this earth to be used by others. It is my right to say what I am and am not willing to do. I am not bound to do everything that suits my parents because they are my parents. If they are taking advantage of me, I have a right to say no. I hope that you are able to courageously take a look at the toxic relationships in your own sphere and bravely stand up to those more interested in what you can do for them rather than what they can do to contribute to a healthy relationship. Do not let the deceptions ever make you question your own sanity, as I am currently questioning mine. I’m going to listen to my own advice here for sure…
I’m (You’re) probably not crazy!