Lesson 4 – Case Study of a typical giver vs a typical taker
Many years ago my friend Jane (names have been changed) decided to go to University as a mature student to gain a degree, something she hadn’t done when we left school. On her course she met a girl whom she had a natural rapport with and they became study buddies and friends.
Jane’s house was on the way to work for this new friend, Claire, and she started popping in every now and then on her way home for a coffee and a chat. At first, this wasn’t a problem; Jane enjoyed Claire’s company and so made time for her. However, before long the unannounced visits increased and she started calling in for breakfast on her way to work which soon became a daily event!
Now, Jane is a lovely person, you cannot not like her, she’s easy going, always happy and friendly and makes time for people; she is just one of life’s naturally likeable people, but she also didn’t like saying ‘no’ to people and the thought of any sort of conflict or confrontation caused her anxiety. Jane would rather put herself out than risk offending or upsetting someone.
Unbeknown to Claire, turning up for breakfast ever day was becoming a source of stress and anxiety for Jane. At the time she had a young family and breakfast time was as hectic as in any household trying to get one child to school with a three year old running around; you can image the scene. The last thing she needed was an added distraction from getting the children organised and herself ready for work. Having to divide her attention and also entertain someone she didn’t know very well added unnecessary stress into the morning routine.
But Claire had no idea of the anxiety she was causing; when she arrived she was always met with a cheery smile and an offer of a cup of tea.
The anxiety started for Jane the night before, she would think about Claire arriving yet again in the morning and worry about what to do. As a result she couldn’t get to sleep, trying to solve the problem without upsetting Claire would go round and round in her mind, she just wanted Claire to realise it wasn’t convenient on her own, but that wasn’t happening, so she started getting up half an hour earlier just to accommodate Claire’s early morning visit and the extra time needed for the disruption it created.
The whole situation also began to caused tension with her husband who noticed Jane not sleeping and getting up earlier, she was less patient with the children in the morning and he was also having to sit through breakfast with someone who was virtually a stranger and he wasn’t at his best in the morning! He would say ‘just tell her to not come’ and didn’t understand why Jane couldn’t tell her Claire not to come. He said he would tell her, but Jane knew how direct he could be and was worried that Claire would think she didn’t like her. The kids picked up on the stress and acted up; the morning routing quickly deteriorated in an attempt to accommodate Claire’s daily visit for breakfast.
You could say Claire – it could be considered a little socially unacceptable to arrive for breakfast at someone’s house.
You could also say Jane, she shouldn’t have kept inviting Claire in and encouraging her.
Your answer will be based on your upbringing and beliefs.
Not everyone will have the same understanding of sociably acceptable behaviour as you do. What might appear to be inconsiderate to one person will be perfectly natural and acceptable for others.
We also need to take personality archetypes in to account as well as upbringing, so things might not be as straightforward as they first appear.
There is no right and wrong, there is just personal beliefs and this is why we can get into difficulties, we don’t necessarily know someone else’s values and beliefs
Everyone has a different upbringing, different life experiences, belief systems and different rules by which they live. The point being that we cannot second guess someone else’s belief systems, we cannot pontificate that they ‘should know its not right to turn up for breakfast’ and judge someone as wrong because they don’t conform with our own belief systems.
Claire was brought up on a farm in a large family. For her growing up breakfast time was busy and sociable with people coming and going, popping in for the fresh milk of the day, stopping for a chat, and there was always a pot of tea on the go. Her dad and eldest brother got up at 4.30am to milk the cows, so it was well into their day already and breakfast could stretch out for several informal hours. In the world Claire grew up in there was nothing unusual or antisocial about popping in for breakfast with a friend even if that was 7am.
There is no right or wrong answer to whose fault it was and analysing the past doesn’t change the future.
However, the situation was clearly causingJane and her family stress and anxiety so something needed to change.
If it is something that is upsetting you, then you need to make a change, either to the way you are thinking about it, or to the situation itself. What you cannot do is keep going around in the same circles resenting the other person for not knowing or not making a change – they may have no idea it’s a problem.
In that situation with Jane, Claire wasn’t going to make the changes necessary, she was oblivious to any problem, on the contrary it reminded her of happy days growing up at home. But it did affect Jane and her family, it was causing her stress and anxiety, not just at breakfast time anymore, it was like a cloud hanging over her and she felt stuck in the middle trying to keep the peace without upsetting anyone or making Claire feel bad.
It was Jane’s responsibility to set the boundaries with Claire and stop the breakfast visits.
Jane put herself in Claire’s shoes and imagined how she would feel if someone asked her not to visit and she realised that she would be devastated to discover that she had been putting someone out in the first place. She knew Claire well enough to know that she wasn’t selfish and arrogant, so she came to the conclusion that Claire just didn’t realise there was a problem and would rather know that it wasn’t a good time to visit than continue causing Jane this stress. She was a friend after all.
This scenario is very common (not people turning up for breakfast!) one person feeling taken advantage of or feeling as if someone else is out of order or overstepping boundaries – but how does that person know?
People rarely deliberately take advantage of someone else knowing that their behaviour causes stress, upset or anxiety.
If you have been in this situation, by giving in or not saying anything, you are inadvertently reinforcing to that person their behaviour is OK, that it is acceptable and you encourage them.
‘No’ doesn’t have to be a negative work, it can be said nicely and put in a tactful way, but do you know what? –
Jane did eventually find a way of saying ‘no’. She said to this new mate “I’ve had a thought, why don’t we go out of coffee and shopping on Saturday morning or we could go into town after college on Thursday, mornings aren’t good in my house, it’s chaos and I never get time to chat”
Claire happily went off with plans for the weekend and everyone lived happily ever after.
Setting acceptable boundaries extends into every area of your life, your personal relationships and work – especially work which we look at tomorrow.
Don’t forget to play the Boundaries track again tonight. The cumulative effective of self hypnosis tracks is very powerful. You can liken self hypnosis to learning any new skill. If you go for one lesson you may come away happy and excited about the possibilities, but if you don’t practice, you’re not going to learn or get better. Practice regularly and your brain will subconsciously learn what you need it to.