I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve gotten myself signed up for something or committed to something that I had no business being involved in. Whether it was just not the right fit for me or it involved money I didn’t have, too many times I wound up getting myself screwed, and not in the good way.
Yes, a lot of that evolves from not being able to say No which I talked about before and will certainly continue to do so. Saying No can be a hard thing for so many of us and it’s something I’m still practicing. But what if there was something we could do before we even get to that No? Something we could do before we even commit to that thing we shouldn’t be committing to?
I was on Facebook and a friend of mine posted that her friend just did a TEDx talk. This totally caught my eye because I was only a week away from auditioning myself. I took the opportunity to introduce myself to this woman and we exchanged some Facebook comments with each other. That exchange led to “friending” each other and that led to a couple of emails and then a phone call.
We spent a half hour on the phone and she gave me some wonderful advice on how to prepare for the TEDx audition I had. While that was extremely generous and sweet of her it wasn’t completely unusual for me. In other words, just a day later I spoke to another person on the phone for 2 hours (whom I just met on Facebook) and she also gave equally amazing advice. In fact, meeting people online isn’t that unusual for me and many of them have helped me as much as I’ve helped them! A nice exchange of loving energy, all supporting each other with similar goals!
Only this communication with the woman who gave the TEDx Talk was a little different. Her emails were extremely formal, much more so than anyone else I had been talking to. When she sent me another email stating, “As a coach, I make a habit of inviting people who are up to inspiring things to sit with me…and you fit the bill.”. It was really hard for me to read whether she wanted to help me out because she thinks I’m a great guy in a “pay it forward” kind of way or if this was a passive solicitation to coach me for payment.
Because I respected and valued her opinion I was just going to tell her that I wanted to talk without further questioning. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I could be signing up for something I’m either A. not interested/ready for or B. can’t or don’t want to afford at this time. I knew I didn’t want to put myself in a position of having to say No (if I didn’t have to) or even worse wind up in some sort of ongoing financial obligation and commitment to be “working” with her.
So, what did I do to ensure I knew what I was getting myself into? What did I do to make sure that I could make a decision before the decision was made for me? What did I do to make sure that I wasn’t going to be paying for something I didn’t want, need or could afford?
Drum roll please…I ASKED!!!!!
I actually just decided I needed to be honest with her! I know….be honest…crazy, huh? So I wrote her back letting her know that her emails seemed formal (to me <–note, this in an important distinction as my language showed that it was my perception and not that the rest of the world thinks her emails are formal!) and I was unclear what type of relationship this was. Note: this is also a great way to test how good someone else’s boundaries are. She could have come back very defensive but she didn’t at all. It was clear she had good boundaries, understood that this was “my perception” and that I had a right to ask.
If you’re ever going to work with a coach or even a therapist I highly recommend getting keen on how good their boundaries are. The last thing you need when looking for support from someone else is someone that doesn’t have good boundaries themselves.
Back to the story…she actually let me know that this wasn’t a business proposition and that it was a conversation just to see if she could help and if it made sense to talk about moving that further in a professional way. I really appreciated her response and even more importantly I’m proud of myself for being honest, for being open, and for laying it out there. By doing so, I was able to squash any future awkward moments or put myself in a bad position.
So many of us struggle with commitments. How many times have you heard, “let’s get together soon” or even “let’s get together next Tuesday” or “I’ll email you!” and never hear from that person again for weeks or months? This happens to me all the time and the problem is that the issue just gets perpetually worse. Those people that are non-committal then feel shame for “missing the commitment” and then don’t reach out for even longer periods of time. Ever have someone bail on plans with you only to not hear from them for weeks or months? Yup, hello Shame!! We can’t control what other people do but we can clearly control what we do.
So I invite you to try this out yourself! The next time you’re in a position where there is uncertainty or confusion open up, be honest, and ask! It might feel scary at first but it will save you so much agony down the road! What things do you do to ensure you’re not committing to something inappropriately? I want to hear so let me know in the comments below!