I was born with a Default No.
I do say yes to lots of things, of course. But if I’m tired, or overwhelmed, or don’t feel I have enough information to make a good decision, then if you need an answer RIGHT NOW, I can pretty much guarantee my answer will be ‘No.’
Doesn’t matter if it’s helping you move bodies, or spending a week at your Hawaiian beach house: when the pressure’s on, my default is NO.
I didn’t think much about this until I started meeting people with a Default Yes. These folks, when pushed, will almost without fail say ‘Yes’ to whatever it is you’re trying to rope them into.
Either default has its benefits and liabilities, of course, but I’ve come to think that I got the better deal on this one.
Because my Default Yes friends and colleagues find themselves perpetually drowning in activities and obligations. And in resentment.
Which brings me to one of my favourite books – Boundaries.
Written by two brilliant Christian psychologists, Henry Cloud and John Townsend, whom I have come to adore, Boundaries’ subtitle is When to say YES, When to say NO to take control of your life, and that pretty well sums it up.
Drs. Cloud and Townsend do a great job of explaining why we need boundaries in our lives, [note] Hint: Boundaries define our responsibilities vs other peoples’ responsibilities, help us to keep our legitimate commitments as well as our sanity, make relationships work better, reduce stress, and allow us to stop running the world and everything in it so we can get a decent night’s sleep. (Among other things).[/note] and include helpful examples from their years of counselling and coaching. They have a fun and accessible writing style that makes the book enjoyable to read.
For those who struggle with a Default Yes, Boundaries demonstrates why saying yes to everything isn’t actually the best way to live life, and (more importantly for a lot of folks) why it isn’t required to be a good, or loving, or worthwhile human being.
For Christians – in particular those who have been taught that being a ‘good Christian’ means doing everything anyone asks of you all the time – Boundaries makes the important case that this is not a correct view of God’s design for us, nor will it allow us to live godly lives.
Boundaries are critical to an authentic life, and to an abundant one.
Drs. Cloud and Townsend define the topics of being real, being honest, speaking truth in love, from the perspective of our responsibilities as followers of Christ. For many of my Default Yes friends, this has been quite the revelation.
Boundaries clarified things that had always kind of peripherally confused me. I finally ‘got it’ that saying ‘No’ is as completely abnormal to some folks as running naked through the mall would be to me.
And, since I come by strong boundaries naturally and had never realised that not everyone does, I was prone to bulldoze right over people.
While bulldozing is efficient, it is probably not the best way to be. Boundaries didn’t immediately transform me into a model friend, but it has definitely smoothed off some rough edges, and Drs. Cloud and Townsend continue to shape my perspective.
Now, if you’re not a Christian, the clear Christian perspective of this book might be distracting, or even disturbing.
But for now it’s the best I’ve got, by far, so if you find your life hampered by saying yes to too much, or to things you really want to say ‘no’ to, or basically anything related to people pleasing, give Boundaries a shot. Get it from the library to start, then if the Christian thing is too much you’re not out anything but a little time!
Drs. Cloud and Townsend, both together and separately, have written quite a few books, some more of which I’ll profile when I get a chance. You really can’t go wrong with any of their books! They also have pod casts, videos, and a host of helpful material on their website: http://www.cloudtownsend.com/resources/