You can only nurture pointless relationships for so long.
Sometimes, you have to be willing to hold a courageous conversation to reinforce your boundaries.
Otherwise your life is no longer your own.
This isn’t just about saying no.
This is about filtering your life.
This is about safeguarding your time.
This is about honoring your boundaries.
This is about televising your priorities.
If want to keep backbone engaged, try these moves:
1. Reject invitations that don’t serve you. If you don’t make conscious choices about the individuals you allow to participate in your life, you won’t like your life. Period.
For example, I recently received an email from a woman I didn’t know very well. Her request was as follows:
“I’m going through a major life change and need advice from lots of people who aren’t close to the situation so they don’t approach it with a bias. Would you be willing to hear what it is and share your thoughts? I’d greatly appreciate it.”
Although my ears were flattered by the bend request, my heart told me to stay away. Not that I wasn’t sympathetic to her life situation. But I barely knew her. And this request came out of nowhere. Out of respect, I replied affirmatively and sympathetically:
“Thanks for reaching out. Sounds like you’re going through quite the adventure. Currently, I’m already over committed and won’t be able to offer my ears. Good luck.”
That’s how you keep backbone engaged. As Julia Cameron explained in Walking This World, “Don’t turn yourself into a food source for others, allowing them to dine freely on your time, talents and reserves.”
Remember: Life’s too short to surround yourself with people who use you as a garbage dump for their emotional refuse. Who is a chronic abuser of your time and attention?
2. You don’t have to react to every attention magnet. Saying no doesn’t make you snobby; it makes you discerning. Just because somebody wants to arrange a meeting with you so can he can pick your brain for two hours – and, ultimately, take no action on the advice you give him – doesn’t mean you should feel obligated accept the invite.
And certainly, there will always be incidents when making yourself available as a resource is a generous, worthwhile endeavor. Personally, I do this on a regular basis as a way to pay forward the help I once received.
But you’re not a lunch whore. And your time isn’t just valuable – it’s billable.
Besides, in order to be fair to everybody, if you said yes to one person, you would have to say yes to all of them. And that would result in you working a hundred hours a week.
Look: Nobody likes to be rejected, and nobody likes rejecting. But you can’t let the undertow of social guilt whisk you away into an endless spiral of unnecessary obligations you clearly loathe. Otherwise you’ll wind up interacting with people in a false performance mode, which is actually worse than not being there at all. Who is helping you build a future that you’re going to feel obligated to be a part of?
3. Speak up at the slightest sense of discomfort. If you don’t set healthy boundaries for yourself, people will set them for you. And then they will violate them. And then they will tell their friends to do the same. All because you failed to set a precedent of value.
Not because they’re terrible people – but because you never taught them how to treat you.
To avoid this, be prolific in your communication. Constantly educate people on your priorities. Especially those who are habitually taxing, or whose perpetual laziness constantly begs your assistance. Otherwise, in the absence of communication, people will make up their own story. And it probably won’t match yours.
When all else fails, sometimes you just have to look people in the eye and say:
“Let’s get something straight: I’m not your playmate, I’m not your project manager and I’m not your delegation receptacle. We’re done.”
Remember: Don’t be unfair to yourself by continuing relationships with people who abuse your energy. You’re a person – not a welcome mat. Is this an opportunity, or an opportunity to be used?
4. Everybody has a saturation point. When you simply don’t have the personal bandwidth to sit down with every stranger who wants to siphon your genius, you need to have alternative responses ready.
Here’s what I would do: Make a list of the top twenty questions one of these bloodsuckers usually asks. Answer each question in a paragraph. Save the file in a convenient location. Then, when the time comes, simply say:
“You’ve raised several key issues that I’d be happy to address. Here’s a helpful document I’ve put together that answers most of your questions. If you need anything else beyond that, feel free to holler. Thanks.”
That’s called a deflection. And it works because it’s respectful, positions you as an approachable resource; yet still reinforces your boundaries.
The best part: Instead of draining your creative bank account, abusing your energy and exploiting your brainpower for their benefit, most people will thank you, review the document, and never bother you again. What’s your system for rejecting people respectfully?
REMEMBER: Martin Luther King famously said, “A man can’t ride your back unless it’s bent.”
Filter your life.
Safeguard your time.
Honor your boundaries.
Televise your priorities.
Keep backbone engaged.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What are you prepared to say no to?
LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “11 Things to Stop Wasting Your Time On,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
Never the same speech twice.
Now booking for 2011-2012!
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