She described him as an asshole and a bully, and that everyone in the building was afraid of him, including her, but that she was determined to work things through.
When I asked more questions in order to help support her, I found out what it was like for her to have a conversation with him.
She described him as being both aggressive and intimidating and that when engaged in a conversation he gets really close and continually pokes his finger at her shoulder as he is making a point. (She demonstrated on me, and I was also uncomfortable.)
“I tell him 5 or 6 times to stop, but he keeps doing it. I back up to have more space and he just moves forward again.”
That is when the light bulb went off in me!
This dear woman had set a boundary for him, and let him know that his behavior was not acceptable with her, and then she continued to TELL him, but she didn’t SHOW him.
There is a difference between SETTING BOUNDARIES and UPHOLDING BOUNDARIES, and when we have people in our lives who are not treating us the way we want to be treated, it is because we have unintentionally taught them it was okay.
We can set boundaries with people all day long, but if we never follow through with them, we are in essence saying, “It’s okay, I know I said I didn’t like that, but you can keep doing it.”
When we don’t follow through with our boundaries, they aren’t boundaries at all.
The advice that I gave my friend is the same advice I would give you.
Here are the steps I invited her to take:
- When engaging in a new conversation, start the conversation by asking the other person to agree to certain standards of behavior. (i.e., Keeping our hands to ourselves.)
- If the person engages in the behavior anyway, remind them of the agreement and ask if the conversation can continue.
- If the person still engages in the behavior, end the conversation and respectfully let them know that you will continue again when the agreements can be adhered to.
Are there any people in your life who are not treating you the way you want to be treated? How can you use these steps with them?