Any interaction where you are an unwilling participant is an insult to your soul.

If someone wants to tell you something you don’t want to hear you are not obligated to listen. This includes things like: gossip, a story about a terrible thing that happened, a personal attack, a rude joke. You are not obligated to listen. You can say no, or walk away.

If someone wants to show you something you find terrible you are not obligated to look. This includes things like a photo, a movie, or a TV show that goes against your values.

If someone wants to hug you, you are not obligated to hug them. This is true even if you have hugged them before or even if they are relative or friend.

Your time, your attention, your energy, your physical space are yours. You do not have to share them with anyone, for any reason, at any time. The moment you realize you feel uncomfortable you are allowed to leave the situation.

If you feel confident that you can explain to them how you feel and that they will respect your feelings and stop, you can. But otherwise you owe them no explanation.

This is especially true if you feel they will attempt to make the situation worse by continuing to treat you in a manner that you do not like.

This is especially relevant if you notice any sense of fear or social obligation. If you feel obliged to continue the interaction or relationship because of a sense that you must (to keep the peace, to be “a good girl”, to keep the other person happy) or a sense of fear (he will retaliate in some way, possibly violent) then this is not a healthy relationship. Leave. If someone cannot interact with you in a healthy manner, you are not obligated to continue the interaction. Boundaries are essential for your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

If someone is saying that you deserve to be treated badly, leave.

Your time / energy / attention are yours. Every interaction must be mutually beneficial. If one person stays under duress (guilt is just as dangerous as being physically held) then it is not a healthy relationship. You owe it to your soul to leave.

Kay and Jane – on saying no.

There were two ladies, Kay and Jane. Kay had been working on a project most of the day at a large table. This table was rarely used during the day. It was primarily used in the morning and in the evening. Jane had seen Kay working on this project all day, and had seen how involved it was. There were many pieces of paper and many folders to sort them into. As the evening came, it came to be the time when Jane would normally use that table. There were other tables that could be used, but they didn’t have quite as much surface area. Kay asked Jane if it was OK if she used one of those other tables for her (Jane’s) project.

Jane said OK. She took her project over to another table and did it. It took 20 minutes.

Then she complained to Brenda, afterwards. “If I wasn’t so tired, I would have told her no, move!”

But she didn’t. She held the resentment in.

Important to this story is that Kay and Jane have had extreme difficulty talking to each other for many years. Jane is Kay’s supervisor, but feels that Kay does whatever she wants. In a way this is true. Kay doesn’t ask for permission to do a new project – she tells Jane she is going to do.

Also, both were raised in abusive homes where they were not taught about proper boundaries.

So who is in the wrong? Kay for not seeing that Jane would want to use that large table that she was working at? Kay could have finished her project earlier, or moved it.

Or Jane? Jane could have said, “No, that is a problem and I’d rather use that table”. Or Jane could have noticed an hour earlier how long and involved this project was and advised Kay that she would like to use that table at 7.

It was a big project, certainly. It was very involved, and would have wasted a lot of time to move.

My take? Jane was in the wrong. Kay asked if it was OK, and Jane agreed. It is immature to acquiesce to something that you aren’t willing to acquiesce to. You have to stand up for yourself – because honestly nobody else is going to. Also, the other tables were certainly usable. They weren’t ideal, but they weren’t terrible either. It was more of an inconvenience to Kay to move than for Jane to move.

The funny/sad part is that even if Kay had not asked Jane if it was OK for her to stay where she was and for Jane to use another table, Jane would have been upset. Jane is like that. And she would have complained to Brenda, who has no control over the situation. Venting to a third party never fixes the problem, and only brings the third party into your own personal mess.

I once read a great story about two guys who were trying to figure out what they were going to do that weekend. Bob asked Frank if he wanted to go fishing. Frank didn’t really want to go fishing, but thought that Bob wanted to go, so he said OK. Turns out that Bob didn’t want to fish either, he thought Frank did. So they both went fishing, and they both were miserable. It would have been great if they both had been honest. They could have had a really good time together if they hadn’t spent so much time trying to second-guess what each other wants.

I had a friend who stopped by my work one day. I asked her if she wanted to go to a frozen yogurt place for a little bit as I was about to get off of work. She said no, and said we’d need to arrange something later. A coworker thought this was very rude. It isn’t. She had other plans then that I didn’t know about. She was about to go out to supper with her husband. Also, she didn’t like to eat frozen yogurt right before a meal – both things that I didn’t know. She was taking her needs into consideration.

I’d rather her say no than say yes and feel resentful.

To agree to something just to make somebody else happy isn’t honest. If your agreeing to it harms you or is an inconvenience to you, then you have to speak up. If two people are involved in a situation, both people’s needs have to be met. Sometimes a compromise is involved. Sometimes neither party will get her way and nothing happens at all.

It is difficult to say no. We are taught to be people-pleasers. We are taught to keep the peace. But it is very important that we don’t become doormats.
Better to say no and feel guilty than to say yes and feel resentful.

It helps to analyze why you feel guilty to say no. Were you taught this by your parents or teachers? Were you taught that to speak your mind was bad? Were you taught that to stand up for yourself is bad? Perhaps they taught you this way because their parents or teachers taught them the same thing. Perhaps they feel a need to control others they feel are lesser than them.

Be a good little girl, and finish your meal.
(But you are full)

Don’t talk back.
(But what they are asking you to do is wrong)

Don’t marry this guy, he’s not the same race as you.
(But we love each other)

Don’t be friends with her, she’s lower class.
(But the upper class girls are rude.)