Have you ever given thought to the factors that influence how easily (or not) you’re able to set limits and stick to your boundaries based on how people respond?
Identifying your patterns, where you excel and where you struggle, can help get you one step closer to setting the boundaries you need to be at your best as often as possible.
Some people find it particularly difficult to set boundaries with people who tend to get angry and treat them poorly any time they set a limit. Does this sound familiar to you at all?
Or perhaps it’s actually easier for you to set limits with people who get angry with you for saying no and who can be downright rude when you don’t do exactly what they want.
If that’s the case, it’s possible that you may actually find it harder to set and maintain boundaries with people who respond less reactively, even if they still don’t respect your limits set any better than those who end up angry with you.
I affectionately refer to both as boundary pushers. But today, we’ll take a look at people who may respond in a kind tone, but who have an underlying agenda to push your boundaries until you give in and give them what they want.
If you find yourself accepting to do things that you don’t really want to do, but do anyhow because you feel like you have no other choice in the matter, then don’t disappear just yet.
Boundary pushing can be more subtle than people getting angry when you say no. You may end up faced with someone who uses a friendly or even kind tone of voice, but who slowly wears you to exhaustion until you give in.
When faced with someone who communicates in ways that leave you feeling confused and manipulated, it may just be that you actually are being manipulated into doing something that you didn’t want to say yes to.
So how do I stop being manipulated to say yes when I really want to say no?
Well, the good news is that it all starts with you. By noticing what is happening in these types of interactions, you can change how you respond and get to a different outcome.
The best first step is to start noticing what emotions come up within you as the person you’re speaking with pushes you to change your mind.
If you start paying close attention, you’ll likely notice a difference in how you feel and respond if someone is being open-minded and asking questions to understand your decision as compared to if they’re pushing you towards a decision that mainly benefits them.
Notice the emotions you experience in response to what the person says to you as they push you to change your mind. Do you notice guilt? Perhaps shame? What about fear? Maybe anger? Resentment?
These emotions are clues that your boundaries are not being respected.
Notice what types of arguments are being used and how those elicit different reactions within you. For instance, one of my clients shared that they began feeling guilty when told “everyone else on the project has already agreed to do their part”. Another began feeling shame when told he was “just being too anxious” as a suggestion that he could actually handle the additional commitment being asked of him.
The more you start to notice the patterns between the types of conversations you have after setting a boundary, your own reactions and also the reactions of the person you’re talking to, the more you’ll find yourself equipped to respectfully stick to your boundaries.
Ok, I’ve noticed what I’m experiencing as people push me to change my mind. Now what?
As the other person continues to push you to do something you’ve already said no to, you can step out of the pattern by not justifying or explaining your reasoning.
Instead, try saying something such as “I really do understand that this is a timely matter and I appreciate how important this is to you. I’m starting to feel uncomfortable with your questions though because I’ve made it clear that I won’t be able to commit to this at this time. Maybe I could help you brainstorm some other solutions that might work instead?”.
Think right now of someone who commonly tries to convince you to do things you’ve already said no to. Now imagine the look on their face if this is how you responded instead of simply continuing to explain again and again why you can’t do what’s being asked of you.
I won’t say that it’s immediate magic because that would be naive.
But I will say that by you taking responsibility and respectfully sharing your experience of the interaction, it may be just enough to nudge the other person to take a look at whether or not they need to rethink how they approach you when you set limits.
Because boundary-pushers push hardest on those who only hold their boundaries until the pressure becomes too great to withstand.
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