Givers have to set limits, because takers don’t have any. I’m going to be the bad guy and say it. Being a ‘”Yes man” can get you in all kinds of trouble and wreak havoc in your life. All relationships do require a certain level of agreeableness to exist, but where do you draw the line? When is it okay to stop giving and be selfish to work in one’s own best interest? Can there be too much of a good thing?
Every interaction appears to be a series of negotiations, because every relationship requires some form of give and take. It does not matter if it is the relationship you have with your employer, neighbor, or friendships. You are making an exchange with every connection, which requires you expose a certain amount of vulnerability in order to maintain a positive connection that allows you to negotiate in the future. The word negotiation means to find a way over or around an obstacle or path, but it also means you make something intangible into reality through a discussion with someone else. We are social animals, and we rely on each other for many things vital to our survival and general wellbeing. As a result, there is a demand that you negotiate, but how do you negotiate if you can’t say no?
Many own the sentiment, “Giving good. Selfish bad.” Selfish means you are only concerned with your own self-interest, but that is an extreme. What if you operate in your self-interest half of the time while giving the other half of the time? I was taught there were two extremes, but could there be a middle ground? There terms negotiation speaks to the fact that there has to be, as one has to be able to say no in order not to give to the point of his or her own detriment. You can’t negotiate unless you are ready to be disagreeable, but a lot of people hold the belief being disagreeable is a negative personality trait when it is a chief form of interaction.
You do have to give at times, or other people will stop negotiating with you, so giving is just as vital to what it means to be human. I’m not debating grace or generosity or even love. I’m postulating you can give so much you are not only harming yourself but also inadvertently harming others. It’s ironic that something that only seems to be described as positive can actually become negative in terms of the self, so maybe we need to redefine our terms for measurement and treat our personal ideas of selfishness differently.
I see it all the time in my line of work. Family members believe they are helping someone in their family currently suffering from addiction by pacifying a laundry list of self-destructive behaviors. Many families find themselves extorted through manipulation by family members using love and attachment as currency. Families lose retirement funds, savings, homes, vehicles, sanity etc. in the name of “helping” their other family members in need even when other said family members are not helping themselves in any sense of the word. There is actually no reason to be upset with the person suffering from addiction, as you have agreed to support them and hinder their catalyst for recovery from addiction.
Maybe you are realizing you need to better negotiate with your employer, because it turns out you are selling your life at a price you no longer find satisfactory. How do you negotiate if you cannot say no, and when is it appropriate to say no to avoid being known as disagreeable to allow more negotiating in the future? You must have shared goals; a common ground to make sure a deal works to the benefit of both parties involved. You have to be able to negotiate, and you cannot negotiate if you only say yes. You can say no when your denial of a request meets both your self-interest whether the other party is aware or not. It is self-preservation, but it can also be an exchange of respect and grace.
Every relationship, connection, and interaction has the potential for tension and conflict. It is actually a certainty once you develop a bond. You will come to disagree, but some people struggle with conflict and view it negatively. Conflict is simply a means to overcome an obstacle, because something in the situation is incompatible. People shy away from this conflict, but it is this conflict that can actually strengthen your bond as opposed to leading into an abyss of resentment and contempt, which results from being entirely too obliging. You can reach an indignant mindset when you actually agreed to the mistreatment you perceive. This can manifest in any number of ways, but it is much more detrimental to pair bonding and negotiations than mere disagreement.
Disagreement always has the potential to end negotiations sooner than desired, so that in and of itself might make you vulnerable. I would argue disagreement is a positive thing. It is stressful and uncomfortable, but you cannot have true intimacy or trust without it. The reason being is people pleasing is dishonest, because you give of yourself to the point you begin asking yourself why there is not reciprocity. It is better to be a martyr than to admit your subjective perception of your generosity was actually an insincere farce to avoid rocking the boat eventually leading to your calamity. It can also be a form of manipulation, as you unscrupulously use your ‘kindness’ in an effort to control the people and situations around you. “I did this for you, so why aren’t you doing that for me?”
If you have read this far, I’m willing to bet this is resonating with you, because you have reached a deprecating impasse. You’ve reached a point where you have to acknowledge the proverbial elephant in the room and bring everything to light. If you have gone on in this manner long enough that might mean a thermonuclear explosion in terms of your relationship, but it has to be done. You have to deal honestly if you want more connections, negotiating opportunities, authenticity etc. You have to strike a balance between generosity and selfishness by being more honest with yourself and others, and you might find your circumstances improving, as it levels the playing field when you realize you have something to offer…or deny if it means altruism at all costs to no one more than yourself.
Look within, and consider the positions and outcomes. You rarely have to make decisions instantly, so it is okay to stop and consider. Have you reached a point where someone is taking advantage of you? Have you been giving to such a degree you resent the person or situation you have been giving to? Maybe it is time to say, “No,” and that is okay. Sometimes the answer is no.