Have you heard the story about two men and a donkey? It goes like that:
A man was riding a donkey. He saw a man carrying a large bundle. “Are you by any chance on your way to Las Cruces?” asked the wanderer. “Indeed, I am” responded the man on the donkey. “Could you give me a lift?” asked the man. “I am sure my donkey would not mind a bit. Get on.” said the man on the donkey. The man got on and both men went on in silence contemplating their luck. After a while the donkey owner asked: “Isn’t my donkey great?” “Oh, yes. You have such a great donkey!” They went in silence for another while when the man with a bundle said happily: “Don’t we have a great donkey, or what?” Shocked at what he just heard the donkey’s owner stopped the animal on the spot and told the man with a bundle to get off his donkey. “But why?” asked the surprised man. “I know the kind of you! First, it was my donkey that was great. Then, it was our donkey that was great. If it goes like that, after another mile you will probably tell me how great your donkey was! Get off! I have no more to say.”
Have you ever been in a situation where you had no choice but to say “No” to someone who seemed to almost have taken charge over your life?
Last month a very good friend of mine was asked to baby-sit a dog. The dog’s owner had to go on a short trip and my friend did not mind a bit to have her dog in his house over the weekend since his own dog loved to play with the other dog. The woman came back from her trip and took her dog home. Only a few days later she demanded that my friend took care of her dog again. And again. And again. It did not matter that it was middle of the week and my friend was at work. He had to report at the woman’s house and take her dog with him. In no time the woman became a social leech – someone who would suck the life out of you but was almost impossible to get rid of unless, of course, you took a very drastic measures.
Many of the so called “good souls” become victims of egoistic manipulators. We offer help, we offer advice, we are friendly, we do a favor for someone who asked and before we even notice, our friends, spouses, relatives, colleagues, neighbors or acquaintances not only come for more, they seem to move into the center of our attention and rearrange our schedules. They demand full attention and terrorize us with phone calls, e-mails and spontaneous visits. Sometimes the situation becomes so unbearable that we are to scared to even answer the phone or open the door. We suffer and yet, we are unable to say “No.”
We are unable to say “No” because we fear that we might hurt or offend someone. We are afraid to lose a friend or be accused of selfishness or indifference. We love harmony and want social approval. And we would rather suffer or hide instead of facing the person head on. But is it worth it?
The choice is really between our own frustration and our own happiness. Saying “No” may be the first step to a more fulfilled and happier life, but it takes a lot of courage. We might indeed become unpopular and lose some friends at first, but knowing that we are in control is more precious than friendships with unscrupulous people.
Saying “No” does not have to be hurtful or offensive, but we have to clearly mark our boundaries. We do not have to please others, and we definitely do not have to put their needs before our own.
Those who feel offended by our own “demarcation” are probably not our real friends because real friendship is based on respect. Boundaries do not put us into isolation, they simply define our private space in which we feel authentic and comfortable. Learning to protect our personal boundaries is necessary if we want to live a genuinely happy life.
By Dominique Allmon
Also of interest: The Art of Extreme Self-Care by Cheryl Richardson
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