With school starting, many of us will be interacting with people who will be looking for help, namely PTA organizations and school personnel. They have needs to be met, whether it's filling a less-coveted leadership position, buying school supplies, fundraising, recruiting committee members, or helping out in some other way. Sure, their motives may be altruistic (they're helping out at the school, after all), but the pressure they put on us can be relentless. I've dealt with folks who have outright tried to bully me into doing more at school because, “You're a stay-at-home mom. You have nothing to do all day.” Yeah, right.
So how can those of us who don't want to make enemies and be “nice” avoid being taken advantage of? Here are some tips:
- Understand the truly negative consequences of being a chronic people-pleaser. It's stressful and frustrating. It leads to resentment. You may find yourself blowing up at family and friends over minor matters that have nothing to do with those people at all. It also models negative behavior for our children, especially our daughters. Do you really want to do that?
- Pick your battles. It's one thing to be asked to bring in store-made cupcakes to an event and quite another to be asked to chair a year-long committee. Some things are intrusive; others are not.
- Use “I” statements to minimize confrontation and keep the other person from getting defensive. When someone is defensive, confrontations get ugly. “I” statements tell the person that you care about the matter at hand. At the same time, you can set your limits. For example, “I know you'd like me to be at that meeting (you're being empathetic), but I can't (asserting yourself).”
- Learn to say “no.” This is something many women have trouble with because we want to avoid conflicts. However, a firm, polite “no” that you stand behind is the best way to avoid being taken advantage of. Decline simply and without embellishment. No long explanation of why you can't do something is needed.
- If you feel put on the spot but don't want to give an outright “no,” it's perfectly okay to say, “let me think about it.” You can always get back to them later and politely decline.
No one likes being a patsy, but unfortunately, there are people who will disregard your feelings in order to get their needs met. Sure, we all want to help, especially when it comes to school matters, but often we can't assist as much as organizations or their representatives would like us to. Setting limits, drawing that line in the sand, allows us to help out as much as we want and permits more people to volunteer as well.
Thanks for reading!