I am working on a series on difficult people and personal boundaries. I do think I’m doing a MUCH better job this round, I’ve tried before and felt I could do better.
Difficult people. We all get some. They might criticize every move we make, argue with us about how we feel and what we do. Some are ALWAYS late. VERY late. “That’s just how I am!” They announce cheerfully. Not everyone has outgrown kindergarten stuff, pushy, grabby, self-centered to the point of bullying others relentlessly, taking their stuff, using destructive behavior when they are not the center of attention.
There are game-players who manipulate, badmouth, play on our guilt and insecurities. Some people are aggressive, talk non-stop, want to control others. Others are clingers, insecure, want someone to do everything and make all decisions for them – and then they can be mad at someone else if their life doesn’t go as they’d like.
Passive-aggressive is another, all nice and sweet on the surface, non-confrontational, won’t say a word if someone is standing on their foot – instead they’ll stab at them viciously in other ways calculated to hit where it hurts most, while saying “Oh, I didn’t mean it THAT way! You’re just so insecure.” when called on it. I could go on but you know what I’m talking about.
There is some level of dysfunction in any interaction. We all bring our own experiences and expectations and it is probably impossible to get past all of that. But I’m talking about those people we hide from when we see them coming, or cringe away from in situations where we cannot get away from them.
They violate our boundaries. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. We just react and feel bad when we run into it. But others can only “get our goat” if we make it available to them! Boundaries mean keeping our “goat” comfortable and happy out in the pasture, unavailable to those who would provoke us, intentionally or not. Boundaries are deeply personal, complex and generally different based on situations. But what are they?
I am going to offer myself up as an example because it’s easier to show boundaries than it is to talk about them. You can begin identifying your own by thinking about the categories I place my boundary example in, and noticing when you feel uncomfortable in an interaction.
My Mom can hug me any time she wants. The guy I JUST met, who works in a shop I want to hire to do work for us? OH NO!!! My friends, well, I’m trying to do better with that one because so many people need more physical contact than I do. This is a physical boundary.
It might slide over into a material boundary as I feel like I OWN myself, though this one usually applies to our stuff. ie. is it ok to hit me up for a loan when I work VERY hard for the money I have – and I know you won’t pay me back? (nope, and I’ll say so too.) If some strange guy grabs me and hugs me we’re getting into sexual boundaries too.
How I FEEL about a situation where some creep I never even met before is suddenly grabbing me to give me a “friendly” hug is an emotional boundary. Since I work hard to take responsibility for how I feel, and I figure what I think is what determines how I feel, this one is pretty easy for me, usually. We’re getting into mental boundaries here, responsibility for what we think.
Setting emotional boundaries such as “I respect myself and honor my comfort levels.” physical boundaries like “I choose to defend my personal space from people who violate it when appropriate.” is a good start. The rest of this one involves taking responsibility for what I think about THEM too. “What a jerk! I bet his Mom didn’t even love HIM.” isn’t constructive and probably isn’t true either.
Do I feel guilty or somehow responsible for attracting someone elses’ poor behavior? “I must have encouraged them somehow in the way I dress or behave.”? NO, I don’t, but a lot of people do. It is, after all, far easier to cope with a world that we think we have some measure of control of. If there is nothing I can do to prevent this, the world is not something I can control. Gotta accept that one and learn instead how to deal with it constructively. Think about how we think about it.
Fact is, this person’s behavior is not about me. If they even SAW me they would notice that I am backing up and trying hard to get away. So it is about them. I can wonder where they got the idea this is OK. Maybe they are really insecure and needy. Maybe there isn’t anyone in their life who is physically affectionate with them.” Or maybe they are a porn addict that has learned some really un-helpful attitudes about my gender.
The effort of considering that there might be a perspective I could be compassionate about helps ME. Keeps my blood pressure down and helps me try saying helpful things like “Let go of me! I don’t like to be touched and I need a LOT of personal space. You’re violating me.” followed by “Get OFF me or I am going to scream bloody murder!” (never mention violence, that’s a dish best served as a surprise.) instead of mopping the floor with them right off, just because I can. It keeps me calm enough to THINK instead of reacting. This is in keeping with my spiritual boundaries, my personal relationship with my Savior and my God.
We always feel better when we have secure, well-considered boundaries and share them with others in a way that insures they will respect our boundaries. Note that the situation I described remains a dismal, no-winner in my life. I have yet to come out of the situation I described and even salvage a working relationship, much less a friendship. People who violate my person are not interested in my perspective, they are takers. I am FINE with this. I value myself. Sacrificing my values for anything leaves me feeling bad and I want most of all to be a person I am proud of and feel good about.
Edit to add: It is noteworthy that I have not yet encountered a situation besides the one I described above where I was unable to work with someone, no matter how trying I might find them to begin with. Indeed, the people who “rub us the wrong way” often have much to teach us and I have ended up friends with everyone I viewed as a challenge when I first encountered them, those described above excepted.
Think I will look at kinds of difficult people next, they tend to fall into distinct categories and since we KNOW what to expect from them after a few encounters, we can easily prepare to deal more effectively with them – if we HAVE to deal with them. Honestly, I don’t usually bother if it can be avoided at all.
When I just can’t avoid them, I have a whole list of things I practice in front of a mirror and with Brian to trot out for their benefit. Yes. Really. It’s about taking control of MY role in the situation in the nicest way possible so that I don’t open my mouth and unload what I REALLY think;) That would violate my spiritual boundaries.
This is in-work but I think it is getting close?
Statistics: Posted by rj5156 — Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:04 pm