My sister and I were talking in the car the other day.
My sister has a long history of being hassled by guys and even now, in her mid-40’s, can’t really stand up to the friend who keeps messaging her.
I, on the other hand, don’t really have any of those experiences—the tiny incidents I could put into the category of “guys hassling me” have been shut down so fast there is no story to tell.
So we were talking about how this happens and I was suggesting strategies for how she could reply to her friend’s messages and she said, “but you have all your counselling skills to use when this happens.” I denied it at first, because it feels like being able to put people back outside my boundaries is an innate skill, but she is probably right—it has at the very least been enhanced by my counselling training.
One of the things you learn as a counsellor is that you are not responsible for managing other people’s emotional state. You do not have to placate them or make them happy and if they are trying to make it your job, that is their problem.
So I thought I would share some simple tips for maintaining boundaries and stopping a**holes of any gender.
If you are getting caught up or in an unending argument with someone, pick a message and stick to it. Decide on your line, and only deliver that line or variations of it.
Don’t get drawn into arguments and discussions or get caught up in their drama.
I recently had to cancel a booking for a kayaking trip on the morning we were supposed to be going out because the friend I was with had food poisoning and obviously couldn’t go. The tour company guy responded by saying he wanted to come to our hotel and collect 50 percent of the tour cost from me. I suggested this was very unfair for an activity I had not done and offered to rebook the date.
The dates I could do it were not available and he repeated that he would come to the hotel to collect the 50 percent. Instead of keeping up the conversation with him, I chose a line: “I am politely and firmly refusing to pay you 50 percent of a service that did not occur” and that was all I replied to his next three emails.
He stopped emailing and I never heard anything more from the company.
Good for: stalkers, salesmen, ongoing/endless arguments.
Call people out in polite but clear terms for their challenging behaviors.
Label “I hear you trying to persuade me” if the salesman is trying to persuade you; say, “I see you trying to intimidate me” if a guy is in your space; go straight for, “I don’t deal with a**holes” if someone is really in your face. Try, “I am not open to being persuaded/manipulated” if they keep going.
If all else fails, just walk away!
I recently withdrew from an ayahuasca retreat after the first ceremony (that is another long story that I haven’t decided to write yet), despite the organizer trying to talk me into staying.
Him: C’mon, stay. Drink! (bossy tone) Drink. (whiney tone)
Me: That persuasion won’t work on me.
Him: This is just your ego trying to stay in charge. (a common accusation for anyone who doesn’t get on the ayahuasca bandwagon)
Me: Pfft. That won’t work on me either. (walks away)
Good for: bossy and aggressive people, whiners, tantrums, bullies.
Be as certain as you can about your decisions, so you can stand your ground. Be aware of your internal dialogue and thought processes, so when people try to manipulate or direct you, you have a solid base to stand on.
Recent text exchange after a first date (context was me suggesting a “go slow” approach):
Him: You say you wanted to get to know me, but then you resist. First you conquer then you withdraw.
Me: Hang on! I have neither conquered nor withdrawn. I was just being clear about what would work for me.
I may be wrong (I don’t know him very well), but his text felt manipulative, like he was trying to make me feel guilty for having boundaries and hoping the challenge would make me back down. I think most of us are vulnerable to “disapproval” by others and we will withdraw our boundaries in order to not upset them.
Know yourself, know what decisions you have made and why, and stick with that.
Good for: manipulators
I don’t recommend diving into any of these in your personal and intimate relationships! Practice on salesmen, difficult colleagues and weird Tinder dates. These are strategies for keeping people out of your life or for keeping them within certain boundaries, so you don’t really want to use them on your family.
Feel free to share your tips in the comments and good luck!
Author: Tui Anderson
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: maxoz at Flickr