Category Archives: counseling

Is It Hard To Say or Accept “No”?

 

boundaries

It’s really common for a two year old child to say “no” even if they mean “yes”. It’s age and stage appropriate and any parent would readily say “Yup, don’t I know that one.”

But as an adult it can be just the opposite. How many times have you reactively said yes to someone because you really didn’t want to disappoint them or didn’t know how to gracefully give a turn-down? Did you say yes even though you doubted you had the time, energy or motivation to follow through? I know I have done this more times than I want to admit. I think I have also been a lot like a two year old at times – or at least I’ve said “no” too quickly.

Living in Los Angeles (perhaps Southern California) carries a stigma of being insincere in social commitments. I would like to say that it’s a total myth, but it isn’t. Probably because of overly committed lives which lack margin, we have often succumbed to the label of being flaky. But that is not a reputation we want to carry.

I have a lot of compassion, especially when it comes to (often overly) busy, productive people like business leaders, pastors, entrepreneurs and parents of small children. It’s really hard to turn people down when they have legitimate requests. But it has to be done to maintain one’s balance of life: a.k.a. sanity.

The Solution

I have often used the self-test I call “play the movie forward”. This is where I take a few seconds to predict possible outcomes to my answers. What will be the result of saying yes or no? I want to operate from a foundation of integrity, so I need to consider my answer carefully. It’s hard to tell someone “I don’t think that is going to work” in the moment, but it will preserve your reputation as a trustworthy person.

When it comes to relationships, this is particularly important. I have always felt that Nan has an endless amount of requests. And Nan would agree that she does. They are not unreasonable requests, just more than I can always accomplish in her time frame. So I must be thoughtful in my responses. It is better for me to endure the momentary discomfort of a turn-down, than the future possibility of disappointing her. The trick is to be firm, but kind.

Often the best answer can be a realistic offer of what you actually can do. There have been times when a client has been too specific on an appointment time that they desire. Our reply is to graciously offer any time slots that are open or supply a referral to another counselor that might have that time available.

When You Hear “No”

I would also ask if you are the kind of person that can take “no” for an answer. Are you too persistent or even hostile when met by a turn-down? Do you treat everyone as an equal or do you categorize come people as your servants? I am always horrified by how some people treat customer service representatives or service technicians. We are not to demean anyone, but treat everyone with respect.

I am ashamed to admit, but there was a time (in my pre-Christian days) that I had a measure of contempt for certain people. When I became a Christian I had to correct this. Whenever I encountered that sin within myself, I would say “This is a person that God loves and values as much as He does me.” It really helped to heal a corner of my heart.

If you are one of the people who struggle with saying or hearing no, I suggest you read any of the “Boundaries” books by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. It might really help you feel good about setting limits.

Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37 (NLT)

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (NLT)

Do Step or Blended Labels Seem Sufficient?

Blended, Step

One of the great things about having a cabin 4 hours away is that Nan & I have all that time up and back to discuss, plan, and dream. This week’s discussion was on adjusting to changes in family, whether the result of a break-up, separation, divorce or death.

When this happens (other than death) we often refer to them as broken families. And then when new families are put together we call them step-families or blended families. I am thinking that I would like to refer to them differently. The terms “dis” integrated and “re” integrated” seem better descriptions to me of what happens. In this context to disintegrate is to lose wholeness, not to disappear. We are no longer a whole family.

When a family breaks apart because of the sin of divorce (there is always sin present on one or both sides) the wholeness of the family is destroyed. Children will feel hurt and scared and even sometimes at fault. The security they felt will no longer exist in the same way as before. Even if the adult relationship was more temporary, if the kids bonded to the non-biological adult partner, there will be a ripping apart when the relationship ends. This is the disintegration side of this equation.

What always follows this change is a period of grief for all concerned and it should not be rushed. Probably the most destructive for children is when a new relationship is formed by a biological parent before they are finished going through the grief process of losing daily physical access to both of their parents.

No Dating?

I have sat with adults who were devastated because their custodial parent had serial relationships, often one starting before the other one ended. This is one reason we emphasize that dating anyone until a divorce is final is strictly forbidden. And we also do not want to see any married person have someone on the “back burner” whether in thought or actuality. Neither of those scenarios is God honoring.

In the case of death, being able to grieve before forming a new relationship is obvious, but a separation or divorce is a “living death”. The feelings are often more ambiguous. There can be more guilt or regret. It is emotionally risky to form a new relationship too quickly.

When the grieving has been given its space to go where it wants to go, healing can take place. Then we can think of the future. And if that future includes a new relationship, the process of reintegration can begin. Once the dating adults decide that they have a strong chance of moving forward, members of the new potential family can be introduced to one another. This begins the progression of getting acquainted and exploring the possibility of life together.

When this process of reintegration is done carefully, there is a minimum of trauma. When done haphazardly, the pain can last for years, if not a lifetime. I don’t know if you might be facing a disintegration or reintegration, or are in the pain of grieving. Regardless of where you are, take your time and be wise. Know that you are loved.

Extrovert, Introvert or Ambivert – Which Are You?

Ambivert

For all the ways that Nan and I are similar, there is one area that has been a struggle for us. When we are in a social environment, like church, Nan is ready to go home right after the service, whereas I want to stay and “work the crowd”. But it has always confused us that on a Myers-Briggs assessment she is an extrovert and I lean towards the introvert side of the scale.

What we have figured out is that Nan is an includer. She likes to connect people together to make sure they are not isolated. She likes to resource people. I like to connect with people, but then give them their space. I “turn it on” appropriate to the task or situation at hand, but then like to shut it down and recharge.

Whenever I suggest something, I am usually thinking small – as in Nan and me. But even before I can finish relating my idea Nan is usually thinking who else she would want to include. All of a sudden my idea starts morphing into something different. And it tends to make me anxious and want to stop talking before it grows into an introverts nightmare.

Now, Nan has no intention of causing me pain. She just gets excited by expanding the circle. But then I start to feel out of control. And so we get tangled. Nobody is at fault here. We just are different.

The Fix

Because Nan will always try to run ahead of me we have had to agree to over-communicate when dealing with commitments. Before inviting someone into our world or committing us into someone else’s world we have agreed to check with each other first. This is not easy for Nan and she sometimes forgets. I have to dig deep for grace when this happens. But I have to admit that my life is bigger because of her attitude towards people, and she might admit that her life has more margin because of my restraint.

A Third Choice

Fortunately neither of us falls into the extreme sides of the introvert/extrovert scale. As time has progressed we have probably both headed toward the middle – which we label ambiverts. If you are interested, I found these nine signs that you may actually be an ambivert.

  1. I can perform tasks alone or in a group. I don’t have much preference either way.
  2. Social settings don’t make me uncomfortable, but I tire of being around people too much.
  3. Being the center of attention is fun for me, but I don’t like it to last.
  4. Some people think I’m quiet, while others think I’m highly social.
  5. I don’t always need to be moving, but too much down time leaves me feeling bored.
  6. I can get lost in my own thoughts just as easily as I can lose myself in a conversation.
  7. Small talk doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but it does get boring.
  8. When it comes to trusting other people, sometimes I’m skeptical, and other times, I dive right in.
  9. If I spend too much time alone, I get bored, yet too much time around other people leaves me feeling drained.

I am not surprised that a lot of people haven’t heard of ambiverts, but it makes sense to me. So which one do you think you are? Introvert, extrovert or ambivert?