Getting to "NO"

Over the next four weeks, our topic is going to be “Saying No”.   We will take a deep dive into what it means to say no, what we think it means to say no, what your no style is, how to determine where your no is and give tips on how to frame your no for best results.  Each week will have an exercise to compliment the scope of that week’s post for you to do on your own time.

Before we take the dive, let’s get set up a little better.  The ability to say no goes hand in hand with our ability to set our boundaries.  Each time we say no, we are exercising our boundaries.  Boundaries are: Balanced emotional and physical limits set on interacting with another so that you can achieve an interdependent relationship of independent beings who do not lose their personal identity, uniqueness and autonomy in the process. (source; Johnson State College, Vermont) Of all the definitions out there, this one seemed to sum up the essence of boundaries in a positive empowering way.  Boundaries are not about being mean or selfish.  They are for everyone’s protection.  When you establish a healthy boundary with another person or organization, you empower them to also live truer to themselves with respect and value.  You eliminate the rather unpleasant feeling of violation and violating someone.

If boundaries are an important part of saying no, what type of boundaries can a person have? Below are the common categories for boundaries and what falls into each.  Some may overlap and require clarification in one category to better establish a boundary in another.   

Physical Boundaries:  These are boundaries involving our physical bodies as well as our personal space, such as bedroom, purse, desk or locker.  Healthy boundaries in this realm outline who and when you are willing to be touched.  This includes how far away from someone you feel comfortable standing to achieve your personal space bubble.  The boundaries also define access to your personal space.

Intellectual Boundaries:  Yes, even your thoughts deserve boundaries.  Everyone has value in their thoughts.  These need to be respected and not dismissed or taken advantage of.  You also have the right to not have to engage your intellect with inappropriate conversations.  Dismissing someone’s ideas or belittling them is violating their intellectual boundaries.

Emotional Boundaries:  Similar to Intellectual boundaries, emotional boundaries respect and value a person’s emotions.  Oversharing is pushing on the other person’s emotional boundary.  Think of it like asking them to give’X’ amount of emotion to you or you give to them.  We all have a right to regulate how and where we give our emotions away. 

Sexual Boundaries:  This combines physical, intellectual and emotional boundaries with our sexual desires.    What are your sexual limits, what are your sexual pleasures and what are you willing to engage in with who? Expressing our sexuality falls into these boundaries as does anything you consider to be sexual in nature.  Someone putting us in a sexual context is a violation of that.  This includes sexual comments, gestures or acts. 

Material Boundaries:  Our possessions are an extension of us.  Many possessions represent hard work and effort made by us to gain those material things.  As an extension of you they also deserve to be respected and valued.  What are you willing to share with people and under what circumstances?  

Time boundaries:  Time is probably the most precious of items in this list.  It is time that allows us the pleasures of relationships or seeing your thoughts come to life in what we create.  To protect that boundaries are created to identify what things you will give your time to and how often. 

In addition to these types of boundaries there are three styles of boundary setting; rigid, porous/fuzzy, and clear/healthy.  Rigid boundaries are strict, and they don’t change.  There may not seem to be a reason for the rules, but it is very clear that they are to be followed.  People who seem distant or over protective of their privacy tend to fall into this category.  Porous or fuzzy boundaries are not very clear and tend to change.   Someone with Fuzzy boundaries may overshare their personal life with people or get inappropriately attached very quickly. These people also tend to accept abuse or disrespectful behaviour with little defending of themselves.  This behaviour is often driven by a fear of rejection if they do not please people.  Clear and healthy boundaries may change as the situation calls for.  These boundaries are easily understood and show respect for everyone. 

You can download this week's exercise here

Next week we will tackle some of the reasons why people fear saying no and why saying no is healthy and good for us.

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