Monday, June 23, 2008

Setting boundaries....

If you could entirely remove one personal characteristic, what would it be?

For me, it would be anger. For all these years of living, boundary-setting is still really hard and I allow myself to reach critical mass before saying anything. Today I had an incident which is not worth recounting here but I finally had to take a stand about something, about reciprocity, and it seems I couldn't do it without getting really mad first.

The thing is that anger rarely reaches anyone. It alienates them. When I spoke words of anger to the person I was talking to, I'm sure from her end it became like the old Gary Larson cartoon of the owner talking to his dog. He was telling the dog what he expected and all the dog could hear was "blah blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah."

I suspect that is what people hear when we get angry with them.

On some level, asking for reciprocity is hard for me. Gawd... martyr complex. (Just came to my mind.) I hope it's not that - but can't swear to it. Anyway, asking for reciprocity has always felt very strange, kind of like having to ask for something as basic as common courtesy.

I would like to hear from some of you on this. How do you ask for reciprocity? Meaning basically this: when we talk, we both talk, we talk about things that are of interest to both of us, the whole conversation isn't about you, the whole conversation isn't about me, the conversation doesn't occur only when I have something you want and the conversation doesn't only occur when you have something I want. We are kind to each other. We remember each other's birthdays and significant events. If one of us is sick, we ask about each other's health. If one of us needs to vent, the other listens without judging and without trying to "fix" it. In other words, we respect each other - as real people.

Okay. Lay it on me, oh wise ones.

Speaking of birthdays, Tuesday is this blogger's birthday. Go on over and wish her a good one. :)



RKK said...

I absolutely agree with you; what you describe are the basics of communication.

Becoming angry is understandable when you feel like you have not been heard. Worse even is when you can clearly see that the other person has effectively tuned you out.

I wonder if some of the increase to the emotion of anger doesn't also come the knowledge that, even in the midst of a very heated conversation, we hold onto the belief that a person who cares about us will never hear the "blah, blah, blah, Ginger, etc..."

For me, I've come to realize that such a belief is actually mistaken. Everyone has their different basic personality style, upon which is overlayed the millions of different experiences and perceptions they've assigned emotions to as they live their lives. This, in turn, will dictate their response to any given situation.

I think patience and a willingness to hear others even in the midst of whatever our own mind is habitually pushing us to dwell in during interactions with others are very much learned abilities. In a perfect world, everyone would be striving for this constantly. I try to do that as my part in contributing...and not altruistically, I admit.

Perhaps I'm off the mark, but those are just my thoughts.

Angela said...

I struggle with this A LOT, Chani. Because I am a listener, not 100% perfect, but a good listener and I want people to feel heard and I want to feel heard as well. Recently a member of my writer's group sent out a flurry of e-mails saying how we should all support each other's efforts, visit blogs (only 3 of us have one) read articles, comment, etc. (which I had been doing anyway) And she never once commented on my blog. It was hurtful. I saw her several times and couldn't decide whether to say anything or not. I finally did but I managed to wait until what seemed like the right opportunity and by then much of the emotionality of it was gone for me. She apologized but offered no explanation and I didn't ask for one. It felt like she apologized because it seemed like the thing to do - not because it mattered one way or another.

I don't have an answer except to continually seek out people who are able to reciprocate and then realize that none of us can do it 100%. And then I'm always brought back to "being the change I want to see in the world."

Thanks for always making me think. And thank you, Chani, for being such a kind and responsive blogger buddy.

Christine said...

this is hard for me to do. i have have a relationships that is totally one sided. i am called when need, but they are never there when i need them. they never remember birthdays, etc. i often feel taken advantage of. my response is to shut down, hold the anger inside until it burst.

um, ok, so this isn't a good strategy! sorry--no good advice here.

Defiantmuse said...

first, anger. Yes. I have a very nasty temper although the only people who see it are those closest to me. My mother, my partner and my daughter. Anyone else? I'd be fuming inside but never let on to it. So of course I completely unload all of it on the people I trust to always be there, no matter how awful I act.

as far as asking for reciprocity....I often go the same route as Christine....although after too long I just stop calling the other person back or responding to their attempts at communication....and then I send a nice long email expressing myself. I'm not too good with words in person. I shut down. The written or typed word though? I'm all over it.

Julie Pippert said...

I don't think of anger as a personal characteristic. To me, it's an emotion. I don't think I have control over emotions and reactions. What I do have is some ability to create a life, emotional well-being, and mindset that decreases the chance of a bad or out of proportion reaction and I also have the power to control how I manage my emotions and reactions.

(BTW, I am doing a terrible job of that right now. I am a wicked bad Fulfiller type personality, and the sad thing about that is that my relationships dynamics are of me as Fulfiller, so when I need filling, it upsets the dynamic and creates two problems: me feeling abandoned and also frustration on other sides that I'm asking for something.)

If I gave up a characteristic...I think it would the thing that lays under these syndromes like fulfilling, or getting angry out of proportion, or acting out of anger or fear, or getting anxious, or losing perspective of what I can control and so forth.

SUEB0B said...

It is terribly difficult to try and get people to act differently than they do. I struggle with this, too. Some people learn when you present them with your case and others just deny your feelings. Some people are so narcissistic that they can't ever have a real relationship with someone else, and I think those people just have to be left behind, if possible, or dealt with in as limited a way as you can depending on the circumstances.

Narcissists will suck you dry and not ever think twice about it. Because, to them, no one else really exists. Getting through that wall is terribly, terribly difficult because no matter what you say, they make it all about them.

I wish I had more comforting or active advice, but I am bad at this myself.

crazymumma said...

I would rid myself of my impatience.

Because my impatience leads to frustration and ultimately anger.

Reciprocity? I have been lucky in my marraige. And in most of my friendships. Truly blessed i would say.

niobe said...

I'd suppose I'd like to give up my sadness. On the other hand, if I weren't sad, I'm not sure I'd recognize myself.

On reciprocity: I've never really given it much thought, probably because one-sided relationships really don't bother me all that much. Though maybe they should.

jen said...

it's funny but i've spent so much of my life in one sided relationships...people needing something from me (work related) that when it's reciprocal i find it hard to look into the glare without squinting.

QT said...

I just discussed this with my sister today! I think an important part of the equation in reciprocity is to find a balance inbetween caring for others and caring for yourself. So many of us go "above and beyond" and stretch ourselves thin for others we forget to nurture ourselves in the process.

meno said...

Only one thing huh?

Temper? Sadness? Impatience?

How to choose?

Anonymous said...

This is a tough one for me. Reciprocity is so important. I have had friendships/relationships out of balance in both directions and not been satisfied with them. The person who was happy to listen but never reveal anything substantial and the erson who talks incessantly and never gives you an opening. All you can really do is ask for a change. Sometimes it will work, sometimes not. And sometimes Ive not been able to ask.

Brandi said...

I'd get rid of anger too-or rather how I express anger.

as for reciprocity-hell, I dunno!!! In non violent communication we learned a four 'step' method of sharing: observation, feeling, need, request.

in other words: when we are in conversation, I feel frustrated because I have a need to be heard and to share equally. Would you be willing to let me share something of interest in my life and listen?

now-the practicing of?? that's something else entirely ;-)

Olivia said...


I would get rid of taking things personally. I hate that I do this. I fight it all the time. I wish that I could get rid of it, too, but so far no success.

Reciprocity. Well, I think that I require this in friendships. I don't think I'm attracted to people that can't offer this in the first place. If I am, and they can't reciprocate, I tend to lose interest right away and move on. I am very self-serving in my friendships, in that I need to GET from each one. Get something.

This is because the relationships that I'm stuck with are so demanding. Family, long-term friends at times, and so-called "permanent relationships" are not ones I've been blessed with in the reciprocity areas. I consider these relationships ones in which I GIVE. I get to "show love" in these.

Which is why I really, really, really need to GET from my friendships.

In my permanent relationships, I ask from time to time, just for the sake of putting it out there. Just in case the person has maybe forgotten. However, it seems that I apparently make poor choices or just am blessed with opportunities to show unconditional love. I don't get much back.

I have been married three times; so far I'm just resigned to the fact that marriage is---for me---an opportunity to learn to love. I hope for reciprocity and am grateful when I get anything. I do believe that if I were a stronger person, I might divorce a third time and look for a man who knew how to give but I don't hold out any hope for this. It's probably my own fault; perhaps I just attract the takers. Perhaps my childhood is to blame.

At any rate, I just frame it as an opportunity to exercise my spirituality. This is, though, a coping device.

It's my idealistic view that a balanced, healthy person would have reciprocity from those in her life. I have no idea how to accomplish this, though, for myself.

Peace and reciprocity, O


flutter said...

don't think I am being an ass, here but I literally say:

" I need (insert thing) from you."

sometimes it works, sometimes not so much.

Susanne said...

Reciprocity as a concept for human relations has only been important for me since I met my husband. For him it's totally important that there is equal give and take from both. I, on the other hand, just assume that sometimes one gives more, and then the other, that it will probably even out.

Reciprocity to me sounds like keeping tabs on each other instead of giving freely.

On the other hand I have to be very careful to do things like my share of housework. If I want somebody to do something or to stop doing something I mostly just tell them, "I don't like it when you ... because." or "Would you please..."

When a relationship is too unequal for my taste I usual end it.

Of course, all of this only works when I'm calm and centered which I rarely am. Right now I'm seriously working on seeing everybody as a lovable person, and on not acting on my anger even though I feel it. Also I practice telling people when I'm angry and if that has anything to do with them or not.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

The characteristic I would lose is using food to substitute for emotions.

I have trouble with asking for reciprocity. If there's not enough give and take after a while, I may just put distance between myself and the other person. I did that a couple of years ago with three friends who seemed to need the upper hand at all times, and I now don't feel that way about anyone in my life, so maybe I'm getting better about this.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I recently had to deal with the reciprocity issue when I realized that a relative was sucking me dry. Her letters and phone calls were always about HER stuff while mine was never even asked about. In fact, now that I think of it, most of my relationships have been like that, with men as well as with family members and friends.

In the case I mentioned, I finally told her how I felt, calmly and reasonably instead of expressing it as anger. She actually apologized and agreed that my perceptions were accurate, and promised to try harder. And she has. She makes an obvious effort to inquire about my life about half the time, which makes me feel, finally, that we have an equal relationship and not a one-sided service organization with my name.

This doesn't work with everyone, of course. When it doesn't work, I have to re-evaluate my commitment to the other person and if it is not very strong indeed, I back away from further contact.

Thank you so much for the birthday wishes, Chani. It means so much.

womaninawindow said...

I'm with Crazzymumma on direct line to anger.
I'm not nearly gratious enough with my husband. You know how children take out all their stuff at home 'cause they know they can get away with it? Well, I'm pretty good out there with others but not nearly as giving where it counts. OK, I'm going to start right here 'cause I've been unfair tonight. Thanks for the wake-up!

Janet said...

I will join the impatience brigade. I really wish I could eliminate that particular trait.

I don't think I have ever had to ask for reciprocity. Mostly if I'm engaged with someone who does all the talking etc., I put up with it and then avoid them in the future. Not terribly grown up of me, is it? :)

Gypsy Guru said...

Procrastination. I'd dump it like a hot pancake if it were only as easy as naming it to be rid of it. I've proven to myself on myriad occasions that things work out very well when I don't procrastinate... and then I've had plenty of last minute blitzs that have turned out better than anything I spent long, hard hours on.

Reciprocity for me is predicated on ebb and flow. Sometimes you're not in a position to give or receive but if you watch the tides of any long-term relationship, you see the subtle currents of provide and take. Shorter relationships that held little meaning often didn't grow expressly because this undercurrent wasn't there to give the relationship the foundation upon which to grow.

And I, too, admit that I often hold in my discomfort and annoyance, trying to find a pretty spin for it, until it all but bursts forth, not always to the best effect.

Here's to us all learning to grow and to find our own current!