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June 10, 2013

From time to time I encounter clients who struggle with co dependency and they often have no idea.

They are usually nice and wonderful people whose lives have being turned up upside down by people in their lives, whom they were simply trying to help.
There are a number of causes of co dependency, most notably being raised by an alcoholic or drug addicted parent, however I will reserve that for another post.

One thing I have found across the board with every single co dependent client of mine is that they struggle to say no to choatic people in their lives.

In this post, I discuss two cognitive strategies, that people who struggle in saying no to people in their lives can start practicing right away.

I remember years ago, a friend of mine casually asked me to borrow my car. I knew she needed the help, due to her economic situation, however I told her no.

” Why not? ” She demanded.

” I never let others borrow my car, ” I responded, reluctant to go into any details. She responded by hissing under her breath with a dejected look on her face. We were class mates and this conversation was taking place in the school library.

” Selfish, ” she quietly added as she picked up her bag. I experienced a jolt of anger after she had said this, then I made a choice to do nothing and let the anger pass. I felt compelled to wish her good bye, but decided against it, since she had decided to break the rules of social courtesy. Later she would call me to apologize for her behavior and I would assure her that it was water under the bridge.

The truth is that I wanted to help my friend, but I did not trust her. She had recently wrecked her car in an accident, and she had become stuck without a car primarily because she didn’t have car insurance. Further, for some time I suspected that she was habitually abusing an over the counter medication. I was actually prepared to tell her my specific reasons why, but since I still wouldn’t have loaned her my car, even if she showed me proof of insurance, and convinced me that she was not abusing drugs, I decided not to bother.

So why is this story important?  It’s important, because I hear similar stories from people who
struggle in saying no in their relationships. With the exception that they usually say yes, and suffer the consequences of going against their better judgment.

So here are two strategies for you to practice in saying no, when you need to, regardless of how you feel.

Social Courtesy Is Relative

Most people are nice, and being nice is a very good thing. However what happens when you are dealing with someone who is pushy?

What you do is make adjustments in your rules of engagement. Too often, we continue to play by social rules the other party isn’t playing by. It’s like we beleive that if we try hard enough the other person is suddenly going to become more considerate.

Now, I am not suggesting that you compete to disrespect the other person. I am however, suggesting that you become more firm and blunt, the less the person demonstrates any willingness or ability to take a hint the more blunt you should become.

For example in the story I shared, my friend really should have stopped at my initial response to her request. However she simply pressed on, and in return, I got more blunt. Also when she transitioned to becoming openly disrespectful, I simply ignored her. I maintained my values of regarding her with respect, while sending her a firm message that I was not going to pacify her.

Accept Rejection

Rejection is a part of life, and pretending it doesn’t exist while it is happening to you, is only going make your problems worse. The human brain is designed to be congruent, so acknowledging to yourself that your boundaries aren’t being acknowledged or respected, forces you to take a firmer stance with the other person. You are less likely to agree with someone you believe doesn’t respect your boundaries.

The bottom line is that regardless of how guilty you feel, you have to be prepared to be just as blunt and honest with your self as possible. Being honest with your self allows you to make better decisions with who you associate with moving forward.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a professional counseling and life coaching service.

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