Very few vehicles pull into my driveway these days, so when a man stepped out of large truck last week and stood by my front door, I felt perplexed. He looked a little familiar and introduced himself as the electrical inspector. As he stood in front of me without wearing a mask, I found myself stepping back into my house. I asked him if he had a mask, and he said, “yes, would you like me to wear it?” As I responded, “yes, please” I felt a compulsion to explain that I wanted to keep my seventy-seven-year old mother safe. Why did I not think it enough to just want to keep myself safe?
I come from a long line of women who do not ask for what they need. I watched my mom and grandma giving of themselves to care for others while ignoring their own needs for rest, comfort and sometimes even personal well-being to do so. (Of course, many men do not ask for what they really need either.)
I wonder if many folks do not ask because of the uncertainty about how the other person will respond. People always have a right to say “no,” which then leads to a decision about what to do next. As far as the electrical inspector, I could have refused him entry if he chose not to wear a mask. Would I feel comfortable doing so? Quite frankly, I am not 100% certain. It is not always easy to enforce our own boundaries, and it proves even harder to enforce a boundary when I feel uncertain about it. It helps to back up and ask what need the boundary meets. Not allowing strangers to enter my home without a mask meets a need for safety.
Are you aware of your own boundaries and dealbreakers? What do you do if someone says “no” to a request? During conflict, people sometimes set hard and fast boundaries only to change them without explanation. Knowing your own “why“ helps keeps the dialogue open and focused. More than one means for meeting a need often exists. Knowing what you really need helps better determine if the alternative is acceptable during conflict resolution.