Cloud and Townsend on freeing your "no"

From My Bookshelf Nov 17, 2009

I just finished reading “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend, the following excerpt really caught my attention:

“I love you, Peter,” Said Sylvia to her boyfriend as they sat over dinner. It was an important moment. Peter had just proposed marriage to Sylvia. And she was attracted to him; they seemed to be compatible in so many ways. There was only one problem: they had only been dating a few weeks. Peter’s impulsive proposal was pushing it a little for Sylvia’s tastes.

“And though I love you,” she continued, “I need more time for us to be together before we get engaged. So, because I can’t say yes to you, I’m saying no.”

Sylvia shows the fruit of maturing boundaries. She wasn’t sure, so she said no. People with underdeveloped limit-setting abilities do the opposite. They say yes when they are unsure. Then, when they have committed themselves to someone else’s schedule, they realize that they don’t want to be in that particular situation anymore. But, by then it’s to late.

I worked as a house parent in a children’s home for a time. In our training for the job of living in the same cottage with several active adolescents, one experienced professional told us, “There are two ways you can start off with kids: first, you can say yes to everything. Then, when you start putting limits on them,they’ll resent you and rebel. Or you can begin with clear and strict limits. After they get used to your style, you can loosen up a little. They’ll love you forever.”

Obviously, the second method worked better. Not only did it clarify my boundaries for the kids, it taught me to free up my own no. This principle is at the heart of this yardstick: our no becomes as free as our yes. In other words, when you are as free to say no to a request as you are to say yes, you are well on your way to boundary maturity. There’s no conflict, no second thoughts, no hesitation in using either word.”

Cloud and Townsend, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. PP. 282-83

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