October 2014

A PowerPhrase to Set Boundaries for Business Friendships

PowerPhrase 300It’s tricky to mix business and pleasure – but it can be done. Joe developed a friendship with his clients Carl and Deb and was delighted when they called to sing “Happy Birthday.”

It did take a little away when they followed the song by asking for some free advice.

Joe felt the genuineness in the birthday greeting and didn’t mind too much, but he decided to set a boundary. He’s going to their home Sunday to watch football, and intends to notify them:

  • If you have any clinical questions for me, please ask them now, because once the game starts, Joe the Clinician is leaving the building so Joe the Guy can enjoy the game.

Good call, don’t you think?


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Shifting a Negative Dynamic at a Paint Counter

Stained-Deck300“Maybe next time I stop by, you won’t be painting the deck,” Donna joked. 

“Don’t count on it,” I replied. Deck staining has been quite the drama. I might post the whole tale sometime. It had gone on so long that it seemed endless to me. That said, with cold weather coming in, I anticipated that I would only have through the weekend to call it complete, whether it actually was complete or not. 

I was out of paint. I ran to the store to get some more so I could continue to work in the glorious weather. I was behind a woman who agonized over the color of her paint. Her husband teased and joked about her inability to decide. His words had some levity to them, yet to my ear, they were on the edge of belittling. He used words like “anal retentive” and “crazy.” I looked for an opening to shift the dynamic, and found one.

I forget what he said that I responded to, but whatever it was, I put my hands on my hips in mock affront and said, “I resemble that remark, even though it wasn’t directed at me. Be nice, will you?” 

Everyone laughed, including the woman in distress. I continued.

“Every night I find myself in despair over my painting ordeal. Then I wake up the next morning ready to try again.” 

“So she’s not the only one?” the husband asked. 

I turned to the woman at the counter and said, “Alice, what do you think. Is she the only one who stresses over paint?”

“I could tell you some stories!” Alice exclaimed. The tone changed completely.

When we parted ways, I said, “I wish you luck! Wish me luck, too!” Alice and all the customers sent me off with a plethora of well-wishes.

Not that the well wishes helped. When I got home, I discovered that Alice had given me oil stain, and I’m using latex. By the time I exchanged it, the glorious sunshine would be gone and the deck would be too cold to work on. 

So I made myself a cup of chicory tea and curled up with my book. I would get paint after dinner. Then, I would wake up the next morning ready to hit the deck again.

And I did. It’s complete now, and it’s gorgeous. Good thing – a cold front came in this morning, as predicted. 

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Codependents Don’t Have Relationships, They…

ball and chain 300There’s a saying in the twelve steps programs: “Codependents don’t have relationships, they take hostages.” 

When someone I care about acts like a victim or a hostage when they can simply say no to a controlling dynamic or walk out the door, it makes me a little crazy. When they talk as if they need permission to be themselves, take care of themselves and so on, I want to shake them awake into positive action.  I want to scream – “It’s YOUR life, not theirs!”

That’s when I remember the other saying from the 12 steps program: “Codependents don’t have relationships, they have caseloads.” I check my rescuer impulse. 

There are times to say what you mean and mean what you say without being mean when you say it. I do that. Then I let people use my observations as they choose. After all, when I want to scream, “It’s your life, not theirs,” I need to remember… It’s their life, not mine. 

Of course there are times to intervene, and there are times when helping isn’t codependent. That said, don’t let yourself be taken hostage by trying to change someone who just isn’t ready to set themselves free, and find a controlling other to be a convenient excuse. Also, don’t turn your friendships into caseloads. There are professionals for that. 

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