Do you have any difficult people in your life? Haha! Who doesn’t!??? We have a neighbor who we kind of look out for and help when we can. He lives alone, did not graduate from high school, and likes to insist that we help him when he wants the help and in the manner that works best for him. This has included, in the past, dropping off raw meat and saying, “cook this for me and I’ll be back in a couple hours” (to another neighbor, not me- thank goodness). This has also included him stopping by unannounced early in the morning before people are ready for the day, let alone ready for company (again, to another neighbor). With me, he had a tendency to come over whenever and then try to stay as long as he could. The first few times this happened I just let him and then suffered the consequences of a messed up day, routine, etc. Then I read the book “Boundaries” by Townsend and Cloud and realized that I had permission, real permission from God, to not allow this to happen.
It is good to help people in need. It is good to be kind. It is hurtful to one’s own psyche to let someone walk on them like a doormat.
So, when he stops by unannounced and it is not convenient for me, I tell him it’s not a good time. If he persists with conversation, I have gone so far as to say that we have to run an errand and I get in my car. When he pulls out of the drive, I pull out of the drive and go around the block and come back. This simple tactic has decreased his unannounced visits tremendously. He now, usually, calls me first and I schedule a time for him. I seldom schedule the time on the same day that he calls- if I did that would put him back in control and I want to be in control of my own time. His work is such that he has to be at home at very specific times to do his job so I try my best to schedule a visit with him about an hour before he needs to be back home or if I visit on the phone for a minute and hear that he is going somewhere the next day, I ask him to stop by on his way through before he gets to the next destination.
This may sound rude and I have to remind myself that it is not. It is merely a means to maintain my boundaries for my time. My time is precious. I am willing to help my neighbor but not at the expense of my own family or self.
You have heard that on airplanes the flight attendants instruct parents that in the event that oxygen masks are required, you must put on your own mask before putting on your children’s masks. You can not help your family if you are passed out from a lack of oxygen.
Dealing with difficult people is much the same. Hang in there! You can do it!