“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
Although many students in class already get this, a good number don’t. Or intellectually get the idea, but it isn’t yet incorporated into their lives.
“Being nice” versus setting boundaries. The two are not mutually exclusive. They do not form opposite ends of a dichotomy. This is not “Godzilla vs. King Kong.”
Being nice and setting boundaries are two completely distinct concepts.
I looked up “nice” in a thesaurus. Synonyms include: good, pleasant, agreeable, enjoyable, delightful, good-natured and charming. I didn’t see anything about being a doormat or not setting boundaries.
A boundary is a noun, an object. “Setting” a boundary is acting on that object. Nothing there refers to niceness. Nothing.
You can set firm boundaries in a nice way. You can set weak boundaries in a snarky way. You can set boundaries in many different ways. Setting boundaries itself is neither “nice” nor “nasty.” It’s the words you use, the body language, the tone of voice, that determines the level of niceness.
And, if the other person objects just to having a boundary set, it really does not matter how you set them. They will object to any boundary, and I would seriously consider limiting my connection with that person.
If you are one of those who struggles to set an appropriate boundary, try this exercise. Take out some paper and a pen. Write down what you can say (and how to say it) that really does NOT set a boundary; it’s more submissive, and you are hoping that the other person will take the hint without you having to actually set a boundary. Then write down a brusque and pointed way of setting that same boundary, also complete with body language and tone of voice.
Now start filling in the middle — change some of what made the second one abrasive to smooth it out, and change some of what made the submissive one too weak to strengthen your message. Envision your body language, and what the distance between you should look like. You can do this! We do practice this in our self-defense classes.
Stay safe, live life.