In life we often try and put ourselves in others’ shoes – it demonstrates our level of empathy. As we understand the other person’s behaviors we start to make excuses for what they do. We often think, “This person is going through something very difficult so it’s ok that he is rude to me.” Or, “My boss has a lot of demands from upper management that’s why he is yelling at me.”
We all have a form of emotional intelligence. This intelligence allows us to understand the nuances of a person, how they talk, the inflections in their voice and what they are communicating – it’s our ability to link together many clues to create a plausible picture of what is going on. When something “makes sense to us” we often discount our own feelings. For example, I shouldn’t be frustrated that this person won’t treat me fairly because he is having a difficult day.” Yes, it is unfortunate that this person is struggling, but just because it makes sense in how they are feeling doesn’t excuse their behaviors.
Many people who are in the helping profession or even the service or hospitality industry may often struggle with this. They are taught to excuse others’ behaviors because it is part of their job. When you allow this in your personal life your relationships will be unbalanced. You excuse the other person and don’t set healthy boundaries for them or even internally for yourself. The longer you do this the more you discount your own feelings and tell yourself, or maybe even tell others, that it’s ok the person treats you poorly because you understand their struggle. Regardless if you understand it or not, it’s not healthy and that person should be held accountable.
If after you hold them accountable for their actions and they still don’t change, what are you going to do to enforce your boundary? Remember, a boundary is only as strong as the consistency in which you continually reinforce it. If you tell someone once not to do something and then you let it slide every other time, your boundary, unfortunately, will not last. You will then return to your unhealthy dynamic.
Internal boundaries are something that we often don’t enforce in our own mind. For example, if I continually make excuses for someone, my internal dialogue is going to minimize what I’m feeling and tell me I shouldn’t feel a certain way. Remember, if that the person won’t change his behavior then you change your own behavior. Your internal boundary validates your feelings and holds you accountable to be consistent with what is healthy for you. If you don’t like how you are being treated then you need to remove yourself from the situation until the person has made significant consistent changes.
In my field, we have what’s called a dialectic. A fancy term that basically means you can have two conflicting beliefs at the same time and they both are one hundred percent true. For example, you can one hundred percent understand why the person is acting the way he is. Conversely you can validate yourself one hundred percent and hold a person responsible for their actions. However, if you think it can only be one or the other then you aren’t doing yourself or your relationship any good.
Stop making excuses for those around you. You are only hurting yourself and, unfortunately, enabling them to continue to treat you poorly. You deserve better than that. Set those external and internal boundaries and hold you and them accountable for their actions. You will be surprised at how freeing you will feel.
James Miller is the executive producer and host of the iHeart and national radio show: James MIller | Lifeology. He is a licensed psychotherapist who has been in the mental health field for over 20 years. Visit: JamesMillerLifeology.com to sign up for his free newsletter, subscribe to the 30 minute radio show, YouTube channel as well as enroll in the Lifeology | Academy where you can take self-directed courses which will help you simplify and transform your spirit, mind, and body.