I have been studying about how to be a more assertive person for years, so anything that has to do with setting boundaries and self-advocating is always fascinating to me. It’s such a blessing to chat with someone on the phone, have someone over for a party, or visit someone at their house. But sometimes, it can be awkward – especially when it comes to knowing when to stop and/or leave. No one teaches you how to handle these situations, and in my research there isn’t a whole lot out there about this subject, but I’m going to share what I’ve found.
Side note: For some of you, these might be no-brainers and good for you. But for those of you who are very empathetic, or have people-pleasing tendencies, these tips may benefit you immensely and help you protect your time and your needs.
When Boundaries Aren’t Set
You may pride yourself on being affirming, a good listener, generous, loving, and accepting. There is nothing wrong with those things, in fact it’s amazing to be that way to other people. But, when you don’t set boundaries and speak up for your needs, desires, and preferences, you know what happens? You burn out. You become angry. You resent interacting with these people, and you may even start to avoid them. Setting boundaries allows you to still stay in loving relationship.
With all the different ways to connect and communicate, we can find ourselves in all kinds of unique situations that call for different etiquette skills. Let me describe a few scenarios:
- You are hosting your kid’s birthday party. Everyone is enjoying themselves. And everyone has been there for 3 1/2 hours. It’s almost time to start dinner and you are exhausted. You are so happy they came but it’s time to end the party. What do you do?
- You are having a great chat with your friend on the phone but you are short on time. She’s keeps talking and talking so you don’t want to interrupt her and tell her you have to go. How do you end the conversation in a polite way?
- You are visiting someone’s house. You been there for a few hours and you don’t want to overstay your welcome, but you are really enjoying yourself. How do you know when to leave?
- You are in a group of friends and two of your friends are chatting it up but you are there thinking oh man i have to go
- You are with a client who talks your ear off. You don’t want to be rude, so you keep listening.
What You Can Do
Even though the aforementioned situations can be awkward and uncomfortable, there are actions you can take that will still respect the other person , develop rapport, and make sure your needs are being met.
You can end the party in a few different ways. First you could ask a close friend to announce they are leaving, and this gives other people permission to leave. It would seem that most people gauge how long they should stay by how long everyone else is staying. The second thing you can do is offer to get the guests something before they go, water for the road, a snack for the road, etc.
I love this video about how to end a phone conversation and set boundaries with well-meaning time bandits. (I think we all can be chatter boxes at times and that’s okay! I know I can be.) Basically, you repeat “I better get going, it was so great talking to you!” With a lot of people, they will keep talking so you simply repeat your message. Eventually they will get the idea.
And here are some other great ways to end a conversation, in other settings:
You can set a time limit before hand and say “I hate to leave, but I better go.” You could look at your phone or your watch and say, “Oh wow, look at the time, I better get going!” You can pay attention to cues from your host, like they have started cleaning up, or they mention the time.
You can say “Well, I hate to break this up but I have a long drive ahead of me.”
The only trouble is, you have other things you have to do. Instead of becoming resentful of this person later for talking so much, you have to set boundaries. After the main purpose of the conversation has been covered, it’s totally fine to say “Well, I better get going but it was so good talking to you!” Say it enthusiastically and everything will turn out fine.
You can also announce your needs beforehand:
- I can’t stay long but I’m so happy to be here!
- I can’t talk long but I just wanted to say hi.
- I’m going to have to leave by 8:30 P.M [insert reason here]
- It’s so good to see you! I have an appointment at 12 pm but at least we can spend some time before that!
Remember, you aren’t a victim to other people’s wants, needs, and desires. Your wants, needs, and desires deserve to be a part of the equation too, and the only way that will happen is if you make them known.