Most of us have laughed until our sides hurt at the old reruns of the “I Love Lucy” show. Besides the famous candy factory episode, one of the classic lines we all remember was Desi shouting out “Lucy, you got some ‘spaining to do!” whenever things went haywire!
A couple of years ago I threw all my things in storage and hung out Coaching in New Mexico for half of the year with my BFF. She and I got in the habit of randomly shouting that line at each other from another room just to see if we could get the other to start laughing uncontrollably. Yes, we’re dorks.
Which made me think this last week, after 3 separate Coaching conversations had me suggesting “say No easily and explain less”, how deeply ingrained it is in our society to explain, explain, explain.
We explain and explain and explain why we made the decision we did.
We explain and explain and explain, once again, why we just CAN’T do this thing we’re being asked to do.
We explain and over and over what we are thinking / considering / pondering.
In my experience, all this “over explaining” usually comes from two things; either a person doesn’t feel confident about their decision making skills and so repeats themselves over and over in the hopes of feeling like it was a good decision, or they are very attached to the approval of others and are explaining themselves to death in the hopes that the person on the receiving end will understand, see it the same way and agree. (meaning, be happy with them and their choice)
Maturity requires that we finally get comfortable with both of those things – trusting ourselves to make good decisions that are in our own best interest and letting go of the opinion of others. And yes, this is usually a pretty uncomfortable journey and takes some practice!
It begins with making a commitment to begin setting boundaries, in general, and then moves to being able to set them with more ease, confidence and fewer words.
Shall we have some fun and practice a bit?
Q – “Can you host the big family reunion in the park this year? You’re SO good at that kind of thing and I’m not.”
A – with ‘spaining – “Oh, gosh……I really don’t even like most of these people and each time someone has ended up getting in a fighting with all the drinking. I promised myself I’d not attend these any more. I guess everyone would be upset if we just didn’t do it, right? I’m so busy that I don’t know how I’d fit it in. My husband would kill me if I took this on, too. What would happen if we didn’t have it this year? If I did do it, you’d have to really, really promise to help me. There was this one game I thought would be fun for everyone but it would require a ton of prep work. Ugh. I hate even considering this but I guess I’d better look at a date now.”
A – “I haven’t enjoyed any of these events and am not willing to put it on my calendar this year. We’ve got some fun things planned that I’m truly looking forward to this summer.”
Q – “I need you to take on a new project this quarter because you’re the one the client want’s on it and we agreed.”
A – with ‘spaining – “Well, uh, I’m so busy right now with my own work and this additional project I agreed to last month, but……don’t you think the client would be Ok with Mike? I mean, I really appreciate that they want to work with me and everything. And I also appreciate that you think I’m the one to do the job. I’m just so busy. I’ve been working until almost 10pm every night since I took on this other project, too. I’m mean, I’m not saying I won’t, but is there someone else they might also be willing to work with? I guess I could do it. Could Betty maybe help me, too? Oh she’s crazy busy, also. Well, Ok. I need to get this report out by tonight but maybe we could stay late tomorrow and you could give me everything I need to get started?”
A – “That kind of additional project won’t fit with my current schedule as I also agreed to add in _____ this quarter. Would you like some help brainstorming who might be a good fit for this?”
Q – “I’m so angry that I do the majority of the work for the guests we have over and you just act like it’s so easy to entertain! I’m always exhausted and you seem to enjoy yourself!”
A – with ‘spaining – “OMG. Are you kidding me? You never ask me about having people over, then you spring it on me and assume I’ll be available to spend any time necessary doing all this prep work, just to see friends! They’re our friends – they don’t care that you made that sauce from scratch or that it took you 2 hours to put the centerpiece together. Why can’t it ever be easy? I’d love to throw something on the BBQ, make a salad and call it good. It would be fine. What are you trying to prove? I know our friends aren’t impressed when you’re so stressed that you can’t enjoy their company or they come in and see us fighting.”
A – “Honey, I love having our friends over and don’t mind helping with an elaborate party once or twice a year. But I’m not willing to spend my days off getting ready for guests all the time. I’m happy to work together to have simple get-togethers, but if you want to go overboard, you’ll need to take that on yourself.”
Get it? Saying “no” easily and being willing to do it with more confidence and less explaining. Not only is this good for you, its fabulous modeling for everyone around you.
Just remember – setting boundaries, even with a calm voice and direct approach will not necessarily be received the first few times around with joy and excitement! We teach people how to treat us and you’ll need to “unteach” people for a while, by sticking to your guns and still being kind.
You can do it. There’s great freedom on the other side!
Big love to all of you~!