In life, we often try and put ourselves in others’ shoes – it demonstrates our level of empathy. As we understand the other person’s behaviors, we start to make excuses for what they do. We often think, “This person is going through something challenging, so it’s ok that he is rude to me.” Or, “My boss has a lot of demands from upper management; that’s why she is yelling at me.”
We all have a form of emotional intelligence. This intelligence allows us to understand the nuances of a person, how they talk, the inflections in their voice, and what they are communicating. It’s the ability to link many clues to create a plausible picture of what is happening. When something “makes sense to us,” we often discount our feelings. For example, I shouldn’t be frustrated that this person won’t treat me fair because he is having a stressful day.” Yes, it is unfortunate that this person is struggling, but just because it makes sense in how they are feeling doesn’t excuse their behaviors.
Many people who are in the helping profession or even the service or hospitality industry may often struggle with this. They are taught to excuse others’ behaviors because it is part of their job. When you allow this in your personal life, your relationships will be unbalanced. You forgive the other person and don’t set healthy boundaries for them or even internally for yourself. The longer you do this, the more you discount your feelings and tell yourself, or maybe also tell others, that it’s ok the person treats you poorly because you understand their struggle. Regardless if it makes sense to you, it’s not healthy, and that person should be held accountable.
If after you hold them accountable and they still don’t change, what are you going to do to enforce your boundary? Remember, a boundary is only as strong as the consistency in which you continually reinforce it. If you tell someone once not to do something and then you let it slide every other time, your boundary, unfortunately, will not last. You will then return to your unhealthy dynamic.
Internal boundaries are something that we often don’t enforce in our mind. For example, if I continually make excuses for someone, my inner dialogue is going to minimize what I’m feeling and tell me I shouldn’t feel a certain way. Remember, if that the person won’t change her behavior, then you change your behavior. Your internal boundary validates your feelings and holds you accountable to be consistent with what is healthy for you. If you don’t like how you are being treated, then you need to remove yourself from the situation until the person has made significant, consistent changes.
In my field, we have what’s called a dialectic. A fancy term that means you can have two conflicting beliefs at the same time, and they both are one hundred percent true. You can validate yourself one hundred percent and hold a person responsible for their actions. However, if you think it can only be one or the other, then you aren’t doing yourself or your relationship any good.
Stop making excuses for those around you. You are only hurting yourself and, unfortunately, enabling them to continue to treat you poorly. You deserve better than that. Set those external and internal boundaries and hold yourself and them accountable for their actions. You will be surprised at how liberated you feel.
James Miller is the executive producer and host of the nationally broadcasted and syndicated radio show: James Miller | Lifeology. He is a licensed psychotherapist who has been in the mental health field for over 20 years. Visit JamesMillerLifeology.com to simplify and transform your spirit, mind, and body.
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