What My World's Like

Being helpful and setting boundaries

Mar
23

i can do it!

It wasn’t until I was 16 that someone called me “Captain Correction.” My sister whole-heartedly agreed and my awareness of this tendency has come and gone since. My desire to correct, or inform, isn’t bred out of a sense of superiority; it stems from a genuine desire to be helpful and useful (read: in ways that I want or choose to be useful).

Last night, a girl who lives down the hall from me asked me for some matches and invited me over for some of her birthday cake. I should’ve said “no” because I’m not supposed to be eating sugar and I need to keep my word to myself (more on that later), but I opted to be polite and went over to sing ‘happy birthday’ and ate cake. I would’ve preferred to have gotten the cake and left, but stayed and talked to her and her friend.

In the course of our conversation, she mentioned that she’s trying out a new workout regimen. It went a little something like this:

Her: “Last week, I started this new workout and I really like it.”

Me: “Ok. What are you doing?”

“Well, I work out every day for two hours.” (As she eats a slice of cake that’s technically a large fraction.)

“Two hours? That’s not sustainable.”

“For me it is. I just go at night.”

“Well, what do you do?”

“I lift weights and do cardio.”

“Do you work the same muscle groups everyday?”

“Yeah.”

“Hmmm…that’s really not a good idea. You should alternate days. Why do you lift weights?”

“Because I like it.”

“No. You lift weights because you want to build muscle. You can’t build muscle if you don’t give your muscles time to repair.”

“Thanks, Leandra, but I really don’t want your opinion on this.”

“I’m just saying…if you scrape your knee, when you wake up, you’ll have a scab, but that doesn’t mean it’s healed. The same thing goes for your muscles. I’m not saying stop working out. I’d never tell you that. I’m just saying alternate days when you work certain muscle groups.”

She smiles, says “okay,” and abruptly changes the subject.

Initially, I was slightly offended with her “I don’t want your opinion” comment because she needs the advice and I could be an excellent resource for her. However, that’s her decision not mine. At the same time, I couldn’t help but to respect her for saying it. I’m SO going to jack it!

Last night was eye-opening for me in a few different ways.

1.) When someone declines your assistance (or your message, product, etc.), they’re not rejecting you; they’re rejecting it! Don’t take it personally.

2.) Even if you know what’s best for someone, they have to learn on their own. Just as someone knew what was best for you at some point in life and you rebuffed their advice. Everyone’s got to put in their own sweat equity into their lives, learn their own hard lessons. Don’t impede on the process.

A few weeks ago, I read this article from this life coach on how coaching has improved their life. One of the things they noticed was that they’ve become a better listener and–this is key–they wait for the opening in which they can ask if it’s alright to offer a suggestion. I hadn’t thought of that before…asking if I can help before doing so. Hmmm… I will take that into consideration in the future.

3.) In order for people to respect your boundaries, you need to put them in place and stand by them. It was awesome that she said she didn’t want my advice, but not so awesome how she pushed her cake on me after I said I wasn’t eating sugar. The difference between us was that I conceded and she didn’t. Noted.

Sticking by what you’ve laid out for you doesn’t make you rude. You’re not causing offense, but others may take offense when they don’t keep #1 in mind.

4.) There’s all this talk about keeping your word, but rarely is it self-directed. Keeping your word to yourself is of immense importance. Whether you’re conscious of it or not, you’re self-respect is tied to your ability to keep your word to yourself. I’m not eating sugar. You can offer. I won’t accept. That’s my word. I’ll be declining sugar and doing other things I said I would for myself…because my opinion of me matters more than yours.

Find the good, people. Be inspired. And be good to yourself.

7 Responses to Being helpful and setting boundaries

  1. I often find it difficult to follow #1, but I’m getting better. Giving professional advice/suggestions to teachers is a part of my job description. In the past, if I found error in content delivery (content knowledge) or teaching practices, I would immediately jump in. I would observe the error, explain the error, and then back up my suggested correction with research. Always seemed to fall on deaf ears. “Why haven’t they….?” or “Why do they …?” were questions I often asked, when changes were not made, and always attributed the unchanged to a dislike of me or my words. The fist step for me was to step back and put myself in their shoes. Whether my advice was valid or invalid, I had to imagine how it would feel to listen to me. This makes it easier for me not to take the rejection of advice personally. Next, I tried a different approach. If I saw errors that were consistent, I would design professional learning for all teachers related to the change I needed to see, so the person(s) who needed it most would not feel anything directed at them specifically. This is more work on my part, but more successful, nonetheless. Next and most important for me was respect. I hadn’t earned their respect. If I don’t respect you, everything you say to me is just “blah, blah, blah.” Why are they no different? This also takes longer, but once respect is earned, the transmittal and acceptance of suggestions is also much easier. I still cringe when I see something wrong, but now I use this as an opportunity to step away and reflect. Not always easy, but as I said in the beginning, I’m getting better.

    Thanks for sharing.

    #1: They are not rejecting me. Just my ideas. I try not to take it personally.

  2. Thank you for sharing your learning experience! I couldn’t agree with you more – we often forget to keep our promises to ourselves and I personally feel very little pressure to do so; however, I would have a rain parade if I broke a promise to one of my friends.

    Why do we often fail to respect ourselves as much as we respect others? I struggle with that everyday as I do feel that “I” should be most respected within myself.

    I have to start remembering #2 as well…

  3. I like how you turn specific errors into professional development for all. That’s really intelligent for the reason you highlighted and because now everyone learns from that “mistake” without knowing that anything specifically “wrong” by one person initiated the training. Brilliant.

    You’re dead on about the respect though. Respect is a major key in discerning what advice, if any, you take.

    I like to think that I’m kind of open-minded (note the “kind of” because I know I can be stubborn too) in that I like adding new ideas to my arsenal. If the situation were the other way around, I may not have listened to her, but I would’ve definitely done my own research after our conversation.

    There are a lot of people who take advice from anyone they think may have more information than them. Think about the spread of personal trainers before there were accrediting institutions. As long as you were “in shape,” you could tell someone what you’d done and you were “qualified.”

    I would’ve taken my advice to consider it.

    For anyone out there, considering a 2 hour workout regimen. If you are not a celebrity or trying to be a fitness model, you will find that such an approach is incredibly taxing on your body. You will need a minimum of 8 hours of sleep, and might find that you actually need about 9. If you don’t support those efforts with a complementary diet, then all your work is for naught.

    Just be smart and sensible. I’ve been there, done that. After a few weeks, 2 hours at the gym becomes a drain and you realize there’s more to life. If you want to lose weight, then take a holistic approach. It’s not just about what you do to your body, or what you eat, but BOTH. There’s also an emotional and psychological approach that needs to be taken for long-term success, considering on your weight-loss goals.

  4. This is my first time reading and I enjoyed it. I think out of every life experience and interaction, a lesson can be learned. Your interaction taught me that people often times don’t mean to reject me but they reject the knowledge that I bring.

    I have felt like I have been misunderstood my entire life. I hold so much passion for what I believe in that I want others to do the same. I am starting to realize the older I get that some mistakes are supposed to be made.

    Thanks for helping me believe that it’s not always me! I can stop taking things so personally.

  5. Denise Williams

    Leandra, you tagged me on this message, so I assume you wanted a comment. I have a great appreciation for everything has been said here, but I do want to make a few notes. First, mistakes as they are often referred are simply learning curves. I mean, how do you know what you don’t know until you make a step that provides you with the less than desired results. We also measure where we should be based upon what we see or read; but who is the authority to dictate where you should be in your life? I mean who rights this stuff and what is their source of measurement….experience or theory? We are not all using the same operating sytem, we don’t all have the same starting point, thereby everyone’s utility will not be the same. As someone who has lived, I am sure, many years beyond most of you, you live and learn. Leandra, as you know, I have been one to offer my opinion quite generously, I have learned not to and I just got that lesson a few years ago. I stopped because I felt I had enough on my plate and that I was no longer in the convincing business; however, that most certainly is not to say, that if I saw a friend or just someone on the street walking into traffic and they were blinded by their own preoccupation that I would not warn them. I don’t think I would want the ‘blood on my hands’ for not sharing pertinent information because someone else was too narrow to accept the insight. Additionally, often it is not what is said, but how, when, and around whom it is presented. No one likes to feel inadequate, such as the case of you attempting to impart to this young lady about exercising when there was someone else in the room to overhear the conversation. Perhaps a note would have sufficed. Okay, now you didn’t ask me for my opinion or direction, but as a natural leader, I would be less than who I am if I did not; furthermore, as your mother, that still remains my duty. Something to understand: some folk are in relationships for benefits, very few are in them for responsibility. Choose your battles wisely. (Wisdom comes from knowing, by doing, by being). Much love and respect, Mom

  6. Leandra, I just read through your mothers post, and she definitely had some excellent points. At one point above, you said in regards to the girl not wanting your advice on exercise, “she needs the advice and I could be an excellent resource for her.” The fact you said, she “needs” your advice stood out to me upon first reading your blog. And I too, have felt that people “need” to know or “should” know something because it will only be beneficial to them.
    However, it’s really the question of, does he/she actually WANT your advice. Approach is definitely key too as your mother mentioned. If she’s bigger or heavier then you as I think you alluded to, then she may have already had insecurities about weight and diet, and was finally talking the steps to do something about it, only to have you shut her down (in her mind).
    This is all hypothetical because I don’t know her and I wasn’t there, and not by any means to make you feel badly for what happened… but reading what you wrote, and being that we have similar personalities when it comes to wanting to help and “educate” others in areas we have done ample research in, I see that that in some cases, our knowledge can sometimes blind us or be harmful more then helpful.
    You bring up some excellent points, and I agree 100%. Especially with #1 because it is hard NOT to take someones rejection of your advice, personally. I think that’s why we get so angry when people don’t agree with what we are saying, our knowledge can make us riotous; then we get mad because we feel, how dare he/she not see things the way I see them, I know I’m right!
    I actually had a girl I went to HS with, message me recently and ask me what my “secret” was, because I’m in such “good shape”. She was in a contest to lose weight and actually asked for my advice. I gave her straight forward answers, first mentioning, there is NO SECRET, you have to put in hard work and be disciplined to see results. I gave her some excellent info regarding nutrition and exercise, and told her to research the subject to better understand and implement it. She wrote back, saying she would start working out 5 days instead of only 3 days a week. Out of ALL the info I gave her, that’s all she took. One sentence out of my 5 paragraphs, lol. Made me think about what your mother said, “I stopped because I felt I had enough on my plate and that I was no longer in the convincing business”…
    At the end of the day, you’re right, people have to learn for themselves, truly. And even when they do ask for your advice, usually they are only going to take what they WANT to hear and leave the rest.
    But if we place the mirror before ourselves, we’re all like that. Because if any of us were good advice TAKERS, we wouldn’t find ourselves making some of the mistakes we’ve been warned of through advice given by those who have, “been there, done that, got the t-shit” lol. Listening truly is key… and just like your mom said, we have to choose our battles wisely, because sometimes, it’s just not worth the time and energy, to help someone figure out what they don’t truly and wholeheartedly want to know in the first place.

  7. Thank you for these wonderful reminders and words of advice! We do need to be reminded every once in a while not to take things personally.

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