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We try to be good people. We try to help others, sometimes even when we’re too busy and really shouldn’t. We try to be friendly and agreeable. Maybe we shouldn’t do those things.
Let’s say you have way too much to do (and you probably do). Things like housework, driving the kids to/from school and afterschool activities, etc.--and then Kathy calls and asks for a favor: “Could you please take me to the airport tomorrow?” You want to be nice and you agree, even though it will play havoc with your schedule and even though Kathy often asks for favors like this and rarely helps you in return.
Guess what you just did. You encouraged her to ask for more favors! It’s almost counter-intuitive to think that we encourage bad behavior when we are being nice, but the reality is that we are. If you simply turned her down once or twice she wouldn’t ask you so often.
Then there's your friend Laura. Laura tends to be dramatic and often calls for your advice about things that are troubling her. You want to help her, but she never takes your advice and continues to ask the same questions over and over. Worse, she talks and talks and won’t let you off the phone. You don’t have time for this, but you don’t want to be rude by ending the call abruptly.
Guess what you are doing. You are enabling her bad behavior and she will continue to call and talk and talk and talk.
The point is that we “train” people how to treat us by what we allow them to do to us. Let them do something and they will, subconsciously, get the signal that it was okay and then do it again. The result: stress.
It’s time to get tough with these time-suckers. “Tough” doesn’t mean “mean” here, it just means that you are going to say no to behavior that you don’t like.
Tell Kathy that you just don’t have time to take her to the airport. Don’t explain; if you do, she can poke holes in your explanation. If you think you don’t have time then you don’t, and it doesn’t matter if Kathy agrees with you or not. Eventually she will stop asking.
It doesn’t matter if the other person thinks you’re being rude: if Laura thinks you’re being rude, so what?