boundaries without fighting

A useful phrase



Sometimes people say inappropriately personal things in contexts in which it would be considered rude to say something along the lines of “Please stop talking about that”.

In those contexts, saying “thank you for your suggestion”, can sometimes work effectively to close a conversation without having to engage with the content of the inappropriate advice.

Or you can just say “Please stop talking about that” and let THEM deal with the awkwardness they made. (Assuming you politely tried to change the subject a few times already.) Because you see, this funny thing happens when you assume that you are the totally normal one and you have totally normal requests: everyone else will treat you like the totally normal one and whoever is bothering you will be seen as breaking the social contract.

And this is how social groups change! This is how social groups get better boundaries or stop making cruel jokes or learn to do things like bring toilet paper to the GM’s house for gaming! (What? All of my real life examples come from nerds of various flavours WHO ALSO tend to be the most stubborn and set in their ways, so trust me I know this works.)

Obviously this doesn’t work in every situation, but I really think there’s value in leaving relationships or social groups where if you do speak up like this you get gaslighted or shouted down or bludgeoned with privilege, because those people are already showing they’re more invested in themselves and their opinions than creating a healthy and welcoming group for everyone. I have a LOT of personal experience to back this up (I’m not going into it because this is long already, but you can drop an ask in my box and I’ll explain) and I’ve always been happier confronting and/or leaving the relationship. This is also really good practice for asserting yourself in real life and it’s one of the major things that helped me recover from some serious abuse.

So maybe that’s helpful to someone. (The original advice definitely works if you care about the person and just want them to STFU. Workplaces and family comes to mind.)

Agreed. Sometimes it’s good to tell people that they’re doing something wrong and need to stop. And it’s important to remember that it’s ok to do that even though it upsets people. Sometimes nothing can change without upsetting people.

Sometimes it’s not safe to push the issue, though. It’s useful to have a way to make the conversation stop without having to tell someone off.