Boundaries without anger

One of the hardest life skills is learning how to assert boundaries without being angry.

People will want you to do all kinds of things that it’s ok for them to want, and ok for you to say no to. It’s important to be able to say no even when you’re not angry or offended.

Some examples:

  • If someone asks you out, it’s ok to say no even if it was ok for the person to ask you
  • It’s ok not to want to answer personal questions, even if they weren’t offensive questions to ask
  • It’s ok to decide not to go to the movies with your friends
  • It’s ok to decide not to take particular job even if it’s a good offer and other people think you should

If you only know how to say no when you’re angry, it’s hard to say no to any of these things. And things like that come up pretty much constantly. 

And if you do become angry and say no to something, it’s hard to keep saying no after you cool down. Especially when the person you got angry at didn’t really do anything wrong. It’s also hard to keep saying no if the person did do something wrong, but not in a way that made your level of anger reasonable.

And even if they did something seriously wrong, it’s not possible to stay angry constantly. If you can’t say no when you’re calm, it’s really hard to protect yourself.

If you can only say no when you’re angry, it makes it really hard to have boundaries. It’s usually easier and more comfortable to allow someone to cross a line than it is to become enraged. Over time, this can get really bad, even if each thing taken by itself wouldn’t have been a big deal.

Anger is important. It has its uses. But it’s important that it not be the only tool you have.

Learning to say no without having to get angry first is hard, but it’s important. 

I know some things about how to learn that skill, but thus far I haven’t been able to put them into words. I’m working on it. Meanwhile, comments would be most welcome.