Here’s how I work: I’m extremely friendly and respectful to those who obey the laws of common decency when interacting with others.
However, if someone is rude to me, I have a one warning rule. I’ll give a PMS-pass for the first occasion of rudeness (for men, I call this the Pissy Man Syndrome pass). After that, I will certainly stand up for myself and adhere to the boundaries by which I operate—rudeness will not be tolerated, so get it together or rue the day you didn’t.
We all experience difficult days, life events that challenge us, illnesses that make our days difficult and times of great stress that wear us down. It can be difficult at those times to be on our best behavior with our fellow human beings, and I am as guilty of this as anyone.
Additionally, we all have experienced levels of unkindness from others. We’ve each been on the receiving end of someone’s bad day or stressful situation. Oftentimes, the people who are the most unkind are the ones who need kindness the most. Unfortunately, their behavior often guarantees that they won’t get what they need.
Due to some recent negative experiences, I’ve been thinking about behavior in social situations with a particular emphasis on kindness or the lack thereof. In each of these experiences, the responses I received were not appropriate given the situation. These unkind behaviors weren’t reactions to a discourtesy that I’d shown; in fact, there was nothing in these encounters that I could really account for.
I simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got on the receiving end of someone’s bad day.
With a focus on kindness and mindful living, I feel that it’s important that we maintain strong personal boundaries, but that we also behave with kindness towards each other. It’s equally important to protect ourselves as it is to be kind to others when possible. It goes back to the “Do no harm, but take no shit” rule.
I fully embrace that sentiment, but it can be difficult to put into practice. Here are some ways we can embrace this as a part of our lifestyle when the PMS-pass has been used and social courtesy has not been observed:
1. Rather than collecting instances that have offended us, we need to speak out immediately and let others know that their actions are not acceptable. When a coworker cuts us off mid-sentence with a rude remark, instead of seething inside, we can calmly state that we will speak to them when we have finished our current conversation. If that doesn’t work, we can always take that person aside and remind them that while we are perfectly happy to attend to their needs, we do not find interruptions and rude comments to be acceptable ways of getting our attention.
By speaking calmly, we do no harm. By speaking up about how the action made us feel, we take no shit.
2. Rather than responding with an equivalent show of discourtesy, we can find ways to calmly state our boundaries. Instead of responding in anger, using abusive language or being passive aggressive, we can simply state what we will and will not allow. It’s as easy as calmly telling the telemarketer that we are not interested in their product, but we hope they have a nice day.
By stating our needs simply—without resorting to unkindness—we do no harm. By holding fast to our boundaries, we take no shit.
3. When we notice a pattern of behavior that continues to violate our boundaries, we can strategize about how we would prefer to handle this. We have the option of responding in kindness or we can choose to remove that relationship from our lives or limit our contact with that person. I’ve certainly had to eliminate relationships from my life when the boundary violations were simply too much to continue to manage peacefully. These relationships were limited (or in some cases eliminated) not in an act of anger, but in order to create peace in my own life.
By separating ourselves from these types of relationships, we do no harm, but also take no shit at the same time.
4. We can say “No.” We don’t have to explain our no. We simply have to hold fast to it.
Saying “No” to obligations that burden us does no harm and in fact protects our own energies. Holding fast to our “No” is our way of not taking any shit.
This is, of course, not a complete guide, but with these few basics, we may find it easier to navigate our social interactions with less frustration. By taking these four steps, we are taking responsibility for our lives and the relationships in them.
We can still practice kindness and be fully invested in our relationships. In fact, we’ll be more able to do these things when our time and energy is not being devoted to the anger we used to experience when we did not practice good communication or enforce our own boundaries.
Instead, we can live our lives in joy with other people who are willing to respect our sacred space.
Editor: Nicole Cameron