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Building Healthy Social Boundaries Part III

Beloved readers in the first post of this series I mentioned why boundaries are great.

In the second post of this series I discussed five ways to build boundaries, what they look like, and five things healthy boundaries require:

  1.  No over sharing.
  2.  No fear of “alone time.”
  3.  Polite, calm responses to deny requests for information she does not wish to share.
  4.  Possessing an awareness of what she feels comfortable sharing in any given situation, as well as what is actually appropriate to share in a given social context.
  5.  Knowledge of the difference between “friends,” “best friends,” and “acquaintances.”

(Want to know how to remove Frenemies from your life? Click here. Here is what to do about Zero-Sum People or toxic people you can’t completely remove or avoid.)

I’d read the first two parts, before this final section, if you haven’t already.

The purpose of Part III, the final part of this series, is to offer encouragement to journey through the process, which isn’t always pretty (or even decently attractive) depending on the people currently in your life.

Your relationship practices before establishing healthy boundaries often decide how difficult it can be, especially if they have caused people to view you a certain way or to feel entitled to certain things from you.

The following are a few things I’ve learned (the easy and hard way):

DO

  • Be (politely) Firm.
  • If you need to explicitly state the need for a boundary–do so.
  • Journal
  • Draw a line and stand by it. (This actually makes the process far less difficult long-term. I promise.)

DON’T

  • Go back and forth in your decisions.  (That sends mixed signals and no one likes those.)
  • Be embarrassed about taking control over a critical aspect of your peace and happiness.
  • Apologize.
  • Over-explain.
  • Give up.

BE ENCOURAGED to make this the day that you start making the best decisions possible in those you keep in your life, establishing healthy boundaries, and how you manage your relationships.

My relationships improved drastically for the better when I started saying: “I enjoy your company, but I need time to do something things on my own as well. I know you care about me, and I really appreciate your cooperation.”

As well as, “I’d rather keep my thoughts on this for myself.”

At first, I felt awkward, I had been a chronic over-sharer as my way of being friendly or an “open book.” But I learned an incredible life lesson in the process:

Those who honestly care about you will adjust and support you. 

They will want you to be at your best. Establishing healthy boundaries is an important part of living a balanced life.

(You can do this.)

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Building Healthy Social Boundaries Part II

You can read Part I on this series here, beloved readers. (Please do!)

Healthy Boundaries

The personal boundaries we create are not cookie-cutter. Still, there are some common traits exhibited by people expertly maintaining healthy boundaries that invisibly add peace to and remove drama from their lives:

  1. No over sharing.
  2. No fear of “alone time.”
  3. Polite, calm responses to requests for information she or he does not wish to share.
  4. Knowing what she or he feels comfortable sharing in any given situation, as well as what is actually appropriate to share in a given social context.
  5. Knowledge of the difference between “friends,” “best friends,” and “acquaintances.”

1. Oversharing

People over-share for many reasons: insecurity, narcissism, nervousness, desire to connect intimately too quickly, honestly not realizing she is doing so, culture differences, fear of silence in conversation, etc.

Whatever the reason: Please, stop.

Seriously.

The best way to stop over-sharing is to consider the value of what you are about to share and how it may or may not benefit those you share it with in how they relate to you.

2. Alone Time

If you fear silence, or being alone with your self and your own thoughts, it’s time to do some serious soul-searching.

There are times when being alone is absolutely necessary for focus (work), to de-stress (work and home), and to appreciate your own strengths and weaknesses (anytime).

Eating lunch alone does not make you odd–if you are seeking time to clear your mind, reassess your day, just because, pursue greater enlightenment (intellectual, spiritual, etc), whatever sails your ship. Again the important thing is why.

We live in a culture that promotes FOMO (fear of missing out). Sometimes “missing out” is exactly what you need to do, for your overall wellbeing. Even people we care about or enjoy can become part of life’s static–regardless of whether you are an ambivert, extrovert, or introvert.

Healthy amounts of alone time are just that–healthy.

To have them, you may need to politely excuse yourself or explain you would like a bit of quiet time. Period. #sorrynotsorry #noexplanationrequired

3. How to Respond

Many people don’t understand how to set healthy boundaries, or why they are important (like that coworker who simply cannot allow you or herself to go to the restroom alone), you may have to explicitly state what you want.

I don’t suggest you begin screaming:

“I NEED HEALTHY BOUNDARIES!”

while wildly undulating like an extra in a Shakira music video. #hipsdon’tlie

I do suggest you politely state what you intend to do or need.

Please don’t feel pressured into explaining why.

You can if you so choose, but I’ve learned the hard way that this trains me to “apologize” for why I am doing something that is healthy for me. This is a habit I’ve had to break in myself that I don’t intend to pick up again.

Trial and error has taught me short, polite responses are best:

“I like a quiet lunch, it helps me re-charge. See you in a bit.”

“I need a few minutes of some music about now. I’ll be back in a bit.”

“Time for a good book! I’ll be back in ____ minutes.”

“I need to mull over this for a bit. I’ll get back to you in an hour, thanks.”

“I want to really go over this in my head a bit. Thanks for understanding!”

You get the idea.

4. Know Your Limits

Know ahead of time for specific events and for general life what you feel comfortable sharing with others and why. This is up to you. You don’t owe anyone any details about your life, your opinions, your thoughts, or your emotional energy. A little mystery has its benefits.

You may need to spend time reflecting on this and/or journaling about it. You may not be able to discern these things right away–that’s okay! The important thing is to begin the process.

Then stand by those reasons–you don’t have to defend or explain your reasons for wanting and setting healthy boundaries.

Women in particular are expected to explain and apologize for what they do or don’t feel comfortable doing at any given time. This is something modern ladies must not do. #sorrynotsorry

Never apologize for setting boundaries that keep you happy and healthy.

I don’t share my life story with people I have just met. I don’t divulge my every favorite color, band, food, flower, tea, etc. with everyone I meet. People often do this now as a shortcut to connecting with others, but it’s not the only way to show yourself friendly. (I promise!)

This is why it is important to recognize a true “friend,” “best/forever friend,” and “acquaintance.” What I share with acquaintances is quite different than what I share with friends, and my “dear friends/besties.”

Also keep in mind, what you would share with friends, best friends, and acquaintances should vary based on the situation. What you would share at work, church, school, the grocery store, the hospital waiting room, subway, car, etc. is not going to be the same, given your differing purposes for being there–even with your BFF.

If all your conversations are similar or cover the same topics ANYWHERE and EVERYWHERE at ANYTIME, please see point I.

Strangers/Aquaintances/Friends/Besties

Not everyone will be or should be your “friend” or “best friend.” Knowing the difference is key to setting healthy boundaries.

Hopefully, this is just common sense to you; but, I’ve sat with friends and acquaintances–time and time again–bitterly choking out stories of what a “friend” did with personal information that should never have been shared with what was actually an “acquaintance.”

More than one has actually asked me: “How do you live with everyone not being your friend?” upon realizing how drama-free my life was compared to their own.

More than one has wondered how I maintain a happy, healthy circle of friends and acquaintances and still keep some mystery-with-a-capital-M. If you have difficulty navigating life without everyone you know fitting neatly into the “friend” category there is some soul-searching that needs to begin immediately.

(For my dear friends reading this, feel free to laugh hysterically about the things we know about one another and will never share upon penalty of being turned into a human-sized Grumpy Cat.)

It’s a good thing to have a long list of acquaintances—whom you care about and enjoy very much. And it’s great to have a short list of actual “friends”—people who would be concerned if they did not hear from you after a couple days or so.

It’s glorious to have an even shorter list “best/dear/true/forever friends” that would come tear down your door after about 24 hours of total silence from you. (Because you are probably off slaying the undead and will need a hand.)

It’s okay to only have a couple of true friends and hundreds of awesome acquaintances. In the era of the “network economy” or “social economy,” having a few close friends and many acquaintances–that you share mutually beneficial, healthy interests and boundaries with is a necessity!

It’s not just okay, it’s actually–wait for it–preferable.

In Part III I’ll share what helped me build boundaries with those who do not possess any, and how I stayed encouraged during the process!

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Building Healthy Social Boundaries Part I

In a world where over-sharing is the norm, personal boundaries are not merely a helpful suggestion.

They are an absolute necessity.

As a part of the “I create, therefore I am generation,” cough–Millennial–cough, I understand how difficult setting them can be–painful, even.

You may think my writing on this topic is quite odd, as I produce content, some of which about my life, over multiple platforms. This hobby requires careful–almost maniacal–thought about boundaries and privacy; so, in an odd way I’m qualified to speak on this topic–kind of like a germaphobe phlebotomist.

 Boundaries

Why bother? Among the novemdecillion reasons that exist, they can provide:

  • Clarity (Who is truly worth the depths of your love, friendship, time, energy, money, and patience?)
  • Insight into what you really want out of various relationships in your life.
  • Space to emotionally and mentally breathe! (It’s priceless. I promise.)
  • Control over which voices influences your world views.
  • Perspective (you can never have enough of this)

How do boundaries provide this? What do they look like? What say to people who don’t understand? What if people don’t accept your them? How do you establish boundaries?

We’ll cover that and more over Parts II and Part III.

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How to Deal with Zero-Sum People Part III

Beloved readers, we have covered in Part I what a Zero-sum person is and the havoc they can wreak on your life. In Part II we discussed how to identify them. In Part III, the final part, we will discuss how to get rid of them and/or mitigate their toxic influence in your life. (Huzzah!)

I noted, back in Part I that being a feminine woman can often make you a target of Zero Sum people (man or woman). There are several reasons as to why, but they all boil down to one: being feminine can garner social and economic benefits today in new spaces that it didn’t in previous decades.

Why?

It’s no longer strictly and explicitly codified in a way designed to make a particular type of femininity common place (as seen up until the late 50s). It now has an aspect of novelty which lends it a slightly inflated value. It touches people in positive, pleasing, and profoundly substantial ways. The ability to powerfully and positively influence others through the way you move through life is highly enviable.

By the way, please remove the idea of “haters” from your mind, if it popped up. Frenemies do not fit here either. (I explain how to handle Frenemies here.) I’ll explain why in just a moment.

Being feminine will often bring you positive social sanctions of all sorts in varying degrees. People around you (in general) will want to enjoy the social benefits of your femininity to the same degree you are. This is especially true for those with a Zero-sum Mentality–the benefits of being feminine for you are seen as an automatic loss for them (even if she happens to be another feminine woman).

Unfortunately, the most annoying and most dangerous difference between Frenemies and Zero-sum people is that unlike Frenemies, cutting them off from what they are using you to achieve will not cause them to look elsewhere.

Zero-sum people are not concerned with the “path of least resistance.”

On the contrary they revel in the opposite! They don’t mind doing things “the hard way,” or not taking “the easy way out.” She or he will revel in the “fight.” That is how they feel that her or his “win” is justified! They want competition.

The more “competition,” the better they feel about themselves.

Zero-sum people will come back harder than ever when you begin pulling yourself out of a relationship with them.

This is why–and it’s one of the few times I’ll suggest it–if you can: Cut them off like a diseased limb. 

Of course, we cannot always do that. (Sigh.) So, take a glance at–this post–and then try this:

1. Be aware of competition triggers, and try to avoid them. This may require some introspection and life changes on your part, within reason.

2. Ignore their input on your success. As in, simply don’t look for it, don’t take it into account–whether it’s good or bad–to your life experiences. It’s completely worthless to you.

3. DON’T share private or highly sensitive information with them–ever. If you can keep them out of the loop of things going on your life, do so. They’ll be fine learning your of major life changes second hand, if ever.

4. Keep things superficial, polite, and friendly. It protects your peace of mind, reputation, and keeps this valuable skill polished and at the ready.

5. This is terribly important: Steer clear of their antics with others–don’t gossip or add fuel to any of their other fires. Why? War requires allies. Don’t unwittingly become one! You cannot be a true “ally” to someone who thinks this way. They will get around to their one-sided, personal war with you in due time.

6. Do not address instances of their sabotage or belittling in a passive aggressive way. If it comes to it, state your feelings once, directly, at an appropriate time, in an appropriate way, in an appropriate place–calmly. Then move on. Truly, absolutely, positively move on.

Godspeed, beloved readers.

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How to Deal With Zero-Sum People Part II

Beloved readers, I started my series about people with this mentality with this post.

Part II of this series is about how to identify people with this mentality who may have taken up residence in your  life.

Identifying people with this mentality is half the battle. Why?

You cannot effectively engage what you cannot see.

One of the hardest things about identifying Zero-sum people is that it requires–surprise!–taking a good, introspective look at yourself.

This could bring up things you simply do not like about yourself. That’s okay.

This could bring up things abut your self that you know, deep down, you must change. Change can be hard. It can hurt. It can be ugly. It can be scary. It can be costly. That’s okay, too.

Really.

This could bring up things about your family, marriage, religious institution, career, co-workers, social circle, job, and so forth that you don’t like. That too, is okay.

The point here is not to focus on, or to become emotionally paralyzed by what you may find–the point is to be willing to take an objective, hard look at yourself.

Identifying Zero Sum People

The best way to identify Zero-sum people in your life requires being aware of three things:

  • Actions             

  • Speech             

  • Results

Zero-Sum Actions

Zero-sum actions, or “behaviors” can take a variety of forms. Forgive me, beloved readers, but I cannot list every single one you may come across, but I can share with you general trends I have noticed.

There are three “classic” behaviors I’ll focus on:

1. The One Up 

If he or she must constantly join in everything you do–and then surpass you in it, compare something they have done to any and everything you do, or always have the “upper hand,” you may have a Zero-sum individual on your hands.

Note: This could be a sign of insecurity as well. Zero-sum people tend to be very insecure, deep-down (they often have a confident facade); however, not all insecure people have a Zero-sum Mentality.

2. Belittling Behavior

He or she may belittle or trivialize your successes, resources, blessings, talents, etc. This is often done with words, but can happen with actions, too.

For example: Your time is not as valuable as his or her’s, which they demonstrate by not taking your schedule seriously or by not making important events in your life a priority (when realistic and possible for them to do so, of course).

3. Sabotage

This can be passive or overt sabotage. This can be emotional, psychological, financial, even physical. Unfortunately, because of its hurtful and embarrassing implications–you’ve let people who mean to do you harm close to you–this is the easiest one to rationalize away.

Don’t. Ever. (Please!)

Zero-Sum Speech

This can take many forms.

The most important thing to note is that it can be extremely subtle depending on how adept the Zero-sum people in your life are at duping you. (There’s no shame in being duped–it happens to the best of us, more than once in our lives.)

I want to revisit belittling again in this section. Belittling in its verbal form is not always a cruel or snarky remark. Belittling can come in the form of normalizing your accomplishment to make it seem less worthy of validation, or by having what you did twisted into a story about how the Zero-sum person in your life did not get the same opportunities, talents, etc. as you–otherwise they would be in your place, of course. (Insert eye-roll here, beloved readers.)

Belittling can also come in the form of a refusal to enjoy the glow of your success with you. She or he may hear it, acknowledge it as little as possible, and move on as if it happened ten years ago, rather than recently.

My point here is be aware (not overly-sensitive) of patterns of speech that have the overall effect of minimizing the good that occurs in your life.

Zero-Sum Results

Zero-sum results are essentially the combined effect on you: your self-esteem, self-worth, self-image, finances, career, relationships, physical health, and emotional health of having Zero-sum people in your life.

They leave you off-balance, confused, less motivated, hopeless, defeated, weak, feeling helpless, stuck in a rut, lost, and ultimately: DEFEATED.

This isn’t good.

I can promise you this will not get better–it’ll only get worse, because in the Zero-sum world, there MUST be winners and there MUST be losers. Individuals with a Zero-sum Mentality will “win” whatever the cost.

Even if what they “win” is asinine or ultimately worthless they still want to “win.”

You may be thinking: Ugh. Now that I know about this kind of person how do I get rid of them, ASAP? I’m glad you asked!

I explain that in PART III of this series.

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How to Deal With Zero-Sum People Part I

Understanding how to manage people with a Zero-Sum Mentality is going to save you from toxic relationships, lost time, lost money, lost career opportunities, emotional scars, and even physical harm!

You must be able to identify and handle these kind of individuals (male and female) as a feminine woman in particular, because your femininity alone can cause them to target you (even if they are another feminine woman).

Zero-Sum Theory

“Zero-Sum Theory” or “Zero-Sum Game Theory” is a strategy or system often discussed in politics. Don’t worry. I’m not going to lecture. We’ll just cover the absolute basics! The literal definition of Zero-Sum Theory, by way of Merriam-Webster is:

“. . .[O]f, relating to, or being a situation (as a game or relationship) in which a gain for one side entails a corresponding loss for the other side.”

In other words:

A WIN for you is an automatic LOSS for me

A LOSS for you is a WIN for me

(Even when it’s not.)

Having someone in your life who sees every good thing that happens to you as an automatic bad thing for him or her is incredibly dangerous.

Why?

You have something worse than a Frenemy, on your hands! (Read my tutorial for identifying and removing frenemies here.)

You have a true enemy.

An enemy that has gotten close to you in a way that only a friend can; however, unlike a Frenemy someone with this mentality is harder to identify and harder to remove from your life.

Furthermore, in their own minds you are locked in a constant, unending, vicious competition with her or him!

Competitions MUST have a winner and a loser. 

She or he will make sure someone wins and someone loses–every time.

Now that you know what’s at stake, learn how to identify people with the Zero-Sum Mentality in your life in Part II.

How To Be More Influential: The Golden Rule

Treat others the way you would like to be treated. 

The world would be a far more peaceful place, if more Homo Sapiens took this to heart. Unfortunately, we often don’t. This has left me to ponder the following:

IF it’s likely that my good manners and etiquette will not be reciprocated, what is the worth in continuing to extend them?

Adhering to proper etiquette in all situations and being a shining example of good manners does more for us, as individuals, than those that benefit from our graceful actions. Not to mention the emotional and social advantages of exuding grace and proper decorum.

Etiquette & Influence

Etiquette and manners have a very practical function: making life more convenient, efficient, and pleasant. How? They force you to live outside your head and consider other points of view consistently from a practical perspective.

This is a highly valuable skill.

A skill that is becoming rapidly lost in the echo-chamber and microcosms we create via social media. Rare skills are highly sought after and exponentially more powerful when deftly put to use in everyday life.

Knowing how to anticipate the needs, actions, and emotions of others and adapting your behavior to make your interaction with them as advantageous and as pleasant as possible can positively and powerfully change the kind of customer service you receive, professional networks, your marriage, romantic relationships, finances–anything and everything.

This is not a matter of being a “people pleaser” nor a doormat. An confident woman who is able to accurately asses the emotional and logistical needs of others and herself is not one to ever underestimate.

As Maya Angelou stated:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

We live in personal and professional economies arranged by relationships. How you make people feel often dictates how willing they are to work with you, speak on your behalf, support you, partner with you, or oppose you.

How do you affect how people feel?

Etiquette.

Indirect self-reflection

Understanding how you and your actions are viewed, through a variety of world-views, can allow you to gain a broader perspective on your own state-of-being. That perspective is beneficial in its own right: you’ll see your personal strengths and weakness from a variety of viewpoints, which helps you overcome biases you have against yourself.

Being in the habit of thinking outside of yourself and your needs, to accommodate those of other people, actually increases your use of all of your personality traits and and strengths in a way that overly self-focused living does not.

TL;DR

Etiquette allows you to influence people around you for the better, gives your greater insight into the world you live in, and provides a multi-faceted view of your strengths and weaknesses. The Golden Rule isn’t a people-pleasing cliche. It’s a powerful skill. (Use it.)

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Support Systems Part I: The What & Why

Support Systems

It’s so deliciously easy to claim co-workers (happy hour buddies forever, right?),

family (just because you are bound by blood, does not mean you accentuate one another’s lives, though that is ideal),

and “friends” (those who know your favorite clothing brand, but cannot tell when you are upset) as our “support systems” and go on with our fabulous day.

It’s hard to admit we don’t have them.

They’re work–hard work.

They must be carefully built, maintained, and protected.

Facing the reasons for our lack of support systems why can be embarrassing. (Is it me?)

It may force us to face demons we have held at bay by self-medicating, retail-therapy, or those scrumptious, vegan cookies you can’t stop inhaling. We may have to create entirely new friend groups or perhaps a new family. We may even need a complete re-boot, starting over in a new city, new job, new life.

That said, our support systems are worth carefully and objectively evaluating, regardless of how ugly or pleasant the initial results may be. (I promise.)

In Part II we’ll explore how to do just that.

 

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Handle Toxic People You Can’t Escape (How To)

Toxic People

Do you know how to thrive in spite of toxic people you cannot easily “escape” from like close friends, supervisors, associates, and family?

The middle of a heated argument with a toxic coworker, acquaintance, spouse, or family member is not the time to draft a plan. As noted by the title: you cannot (entirely) remove them from your life, so you need a plan in advance.

Why?

With the right approach to their reoccurring negativity you can:

  • Stop and/or mitigate emotional harm
  • Maintain your personal peace
  • Maintain control over your emotions
  • Control interactions with them

But, first…

Let’s identify what I mean by “toxic” in this post (and on AML overall).

I don’t mean: the random cat-caller on the street, or that rude barista who’s work schedule always seems to sync with your commute, or your former high school bestie that complains you never talk anymore on Facebook.

I do mean: people who have a direct impact on your ability to sustain yourself financially (supervisors, bosses, managers, fellow employees with powerful political connections), family, close family friends (toxic people who are a deep part of other family member’s lives that you have healthy relationships with), or communal leaders (faith or identity-related authorities).

Flawless Victory

If you are familiar with the video game Mortal Kombat, you know it is responsible for the introduction of the term “Flawless Victory”  within gamer lexicon over two decades ago. If you don’t–please bear with my former core identity for a moment.

What’s a “Flawless Victory?”

To achieve a “Flawless Victory” in the game, you must “kill” your opponent’s character without letting them land a successful attack upon your character.

If you avoid, redirect, block, and counter their attacks while delivering yours the game’s announcer will call out: “Flawless Victory” at the end of your match. (#Winner)

Avoid   Redirect   Block   Counter

What does a video game have to teach us about dealing with difficult people we cannot completely remove from our lives?

Quite a bit as it turns out.

The toxic people we cannot fully remove from our lives are the most dangerous to our peace of mind because they often come with social ties: familial relationships, religious or  work politics, debts, networking, future events, social politics, etc.

Unlike a rude clerk or crazy-dude-on-the-street, these people have inextricable ties to you and other people you care about that aren’t toxic to you.

Habitually avoiding, redirecting, countering, and blocking their re-ocurring negativity will be necessary to maintain those meaningful relationships while preserving your boundaries and emotional well-being.

#Kumite

We know we need a strategy for dealing with the re-ocurring, toxic characters in our lives. But what does that look like?

AVOIDANCE

In combat, real and fictional, it’s (always) better to simply avoid conflict or situations that invite an attack whenever possible.

I know, the point of this post are the instances we can’t avoid beloved readers; however, if you cannot avoid the issue or person entirely, you can avoid what turns a “disagreement” into WWIII more often than you may realize.

How do you do that?

1. Identify triggers

Because you deal with these people often, you’ll find that when you really sit down to think about it, you know what many of their “tells” are. Perhaps its a certain event that should not be mentioned, a food, an outfit, a holiday, what-have-you.

BE HONEST with yourself.

You may find the answer has to do with you, a part of who you are, or who you are entirely.

That’s okay. (Not in a general sense, but for the purpose of this post, mind you.)

You’re not passing judgment on them, assigning value to them, or justifying their existence. They may be absolutely ridiculous. That’s okay. Again, you just want to identify them.

2. Avoid them.

I know, beloved readers #obvious. (Don’t mind me.) Speaking from experience, if I’m brutally honest with myself, there were times I could have side stepped an issue with a bit of forethought on my part.

Why didn’t I? Pitifully: I simply resented having to put forth the effort; however, it’s always proven to be worth my peace of mind.

The relationships I wanted to maintain always proved to be worth the bit of extra work on my part to mitigate toxicity aimed my way, which has quelled said resentment over time. In other words: It gets easier. It gets better.

I’m not suggesting you walk on eggshells around them forever–that’s unhealthy. I am suggesting that you resist the desire to not take an extra step, that may save you a leap, if and when you can.

REDIRECT

Avoidance is difficult with family, supervisors, etc. So is redirecting; yet it’s the most effective technique of the four. Redirecting the energy, emotion, and “sting” of the triggers you identified is a vital life skill.

When you implement this well, you redirect much of the toxic person’s toxicity away from you–while maintaining control of yourself and more than likely the situation as a whole. I’ve found that this works best when I adhere to the following, during interactions with The Toxic:

1. Identify the goal of the interaction

(Plan a menu, get a phone number, set a date, avoid giving personal information, etc.)

2. Don’t speak to any rudeness or inappropriate remarks.

(Speak only to the goal of the interaction.)

A full break down of how to do this and why it makes you a force to be reckoned with can be read here. The urge to shoot back a witty zinger or defend oneself can be overwhelming. (I get it!) Unfortunately, doing that just prolongs the interaction, ultimately draining you not he or she.

3. Keep it short.

Once you have spoken to the goal of the conversation, keep the rest of the interaction short. You may even need to say outright: “That’s all I have to say on the matter.” (Politely, but firmly.) Remember, he or she thrives by stealing your positivity and/or unloading their negativity onto you. Don’t be his or her emotional charging station!

Exhibit A

The following convo occurred during a family event. At the time for the sake of my health (I was extremely over weight at the time) I was adopting a clean eating lifestyle. Practicing avoidance, I mentioned–a week in advance–I would bring an alternative to eat to remain disciplined. #healthgoals

This caused no issue at the time with the future hostess. Calorie-dense food was prepared for the event as planned. Unfortunately, feelings changed in a rather abrupt way at the table, the day of the event.

Interaction Goal: Return to eating quickly and respectfully.

Difficult Relative: Hey! What’s that there? *Points at my plate.*

Me: *Recognizes trigger.* Just a little something I brought, like I mentioned last week (Block). I didn’t want to be a bother asking for something special to be prepared just for me (Redirect).

DR: (Angrily) Why are you eating that? This isn’t good enough for you? *Gestures to everyone’s plate establishing an Us vs. You narrative.*

Me: (Calmly) It looks wonderful (Block). *Returns to eating, breaking eye-contact.*

DR: (Louder) Everyone else is eating it. They don’t have any problems. Nothing is wrong with what I fix. This is all good food, here. *Everyone suddenly finds their plate fascinating. Side conversation dies off.*

Me: *Nods politely* Mmm-hmm (Block).

DR: (Even louder) You’re just going to eat that then? Is that it? All this is here and you’re just going eat that? You can’t eat what’s just fine for everyone else? You need something special? For your “diet”? Nobody else’s system has a problem but yours!

Me: (Firm, calm tone.) Yes, I am. (Block) *Returns to eating.*

This relative mumbled various comments about me after wards, but continued eating after realizing I was not going to trade blows with her. Conversation quickly resumed.

This conversation took place in front of my entire maternal family, during a meal, with said relative standing over me, while I sat. Also consider: I was a teenager. As this relative was older than myself–there were unwritten, cultural rules of familial hierarchy I had to obey as well–fair or not.

Is it hard and annoying to redirect? Yes.

And yes, sometimes it hurts. It cut me to the bone to be dressed in front of family again for my desire to lose weight, eat healthfully, and better myself. Is it worth it? Always.

BLOCK

In the above conversation I denoted where I employed a “block technique.”

This is when you say something that does not inflame or prolong the interaction you are in.

In the above conversation, I could have said far more in my defense or made an issue of her approach towards me. I chose not to. I stated what I was going to do and nothing more. Through bitter trial and error I learned this was the way forward through these re-ocurring situations.

Defending myself was often labeled as “disrespect,” and left me subject to negative social sanctions. I could feel helpless and unprotected or I control the one thing I could in the situation: myself. In doing so I gained more than just control over my feelings, but the situation at large.

Unsurprisingly, I discovered this technique worked with bullies, condescending professors, negative classmates, and later toxic coworkers and supervisors.

A word of caution: This technique is deceptively easy.

Why?

If your “block” is rudely executed, the rudeness of the “block” itself will continue the interaction! #mindyourmanners

COUNTER

Counters are the quickest way to a make a situation better or worse. For this reason, they should not be employed alone (see my conversation above). Counters should be employed after blocks, in my observations, beloved readers.

You must first block the oncoming negativity, and if it cannot be redirected, counter it with something that still shortens the interaction. Countering a toxic person, without blocking, is like throwing a gasoline tank into a bonfire! Always:

1. Identify the goal of the interaction.

2. Make a short statement that brings the interaction back to the goal of the interaction (without necessarily stopping it as a block would).

Exhibit B

Toxic Person: Why can’t you just do XYZ this way? You’re always doing things in some stupid way. Just do XYZ like everyone else, for once!

Person A: Doing XYZ this way allows me to get XYZ done as quickly as possible (Block). We both want XYZ done soon (Counter). I’m going to do XYZ this way (Block), so XYZ will be done as soon as possible (Redirect).

TKO

Life isn’t a game of Mortal Kombat (thankfully). But dealing with toxic people that you can’t outright remove from your life can feel like I battle. I understand. I’ve been there. It’s rough.

Their toxicity doesn’t have to steal your peace or cause you to behave in ways that damage your reputation, self-respect, or unique femininity.

Ready? (Fight.)

a-modern-lady-themeed-to-do-lists-how-to-get-things-done-tutorial

Get It Done: Themed To Do Lists (Why & How)

We all have To Do Lists.

And we all have those items on those to do lists that get pushed over into tomorrow (over and over again).

Those

pesky

loose

…ends.

Loose ends are distracting, energy-sucking, and in a rather insidious fashion–distressing. How do you tie-up loose ends?

Instead of totally giving up on (or doubling down on) my To Do Lists, I give them themes.

Themed To Do Lists

What does a themed list look like and how does it work?

Exhibit A

Sunday is for housekeeping, menu planning, food preparation and shopping (more likely a Sunday or Saturday for me).

Exhibit B

Monday is the day for tying up all of my blogging loose ends: doing research, taking pictures for posts, editing images, drafting a new post, etc.

Exhibit C

Thursday is for touching up my mani-pedi, my usual hair-wash-day routine, washing and ironing clothes, cleaning and polishing shoes–in other words  a “personal upkeep day.”

Exhibit D

Tuesday is for finding new clients or on boarding them. Planning new audits and pulling reports for the site audits I’m currently compiling–a “prospecting day.”

Why It Works

By focusing on several task that are interrelated as I complete one item the others are streamlined or partially completed as well–without extra effort on my part. As I complete one item the others quickly fall in place.

This inertia then becomes its own motivator to complete that day’s list which is going to be much shorter then a mega-list with glaring needs from all facets of your life. Bouncing from self-care, to cooking, to cleaning, to blogging, to hanging out, and everything in between is not just inefficient–it’s exhausting.

Each day becomes more encouraging as your productivity grows.

You can arrange your “themes” to be re-occuring based on the day, week, or month. They can also be one-time events (example: an upcoming surprise party needing preparation or planning).

I hope this technique is as useful for you beloved readers, as it is for me.

Please share your stay-on-task tips! I would love to read them!