I once met someone from a business meeting. We made an appointment to talk and then he asked me if I could remind him the day before the phone meeting, so he wouldn’t forget. The feminist part of me started fuming. He had just treated me like his secretary.
This is called emotional labor. He didn’t want to stress over remembering our meeting so he was asking me to. That’s not fair. That is implying that my time is less valuable than his. You have every right to feel offended when someone pushes their emotional labor onto you. He could easily have set a reminder in his phone, added it to his calendar. He didn’t need me to add another thing to my to-do list. What do you do when someone treats you this way?
What do you do?
Ignoring the request seems like the easiest way to take on this tough situation. You, obviously, want to keep a professional relationship but that doesn’t mean you have to take this shit. If they care enough they will make the meeting. If they don’t make it then its their fault, not yours. And, frankly at that point it is not worth your time. If they don’t have the capacity to remember the meeting on their own then it didn’t matter as much as it should have.
A nice response would be to say: “Funny, I was about to ask you the same. I suppose we will just have to remind ourselves then.” It is you standing up for yourself, setting boundaries, and showing this person that your time is just as valuable as theirs. You don’t have to be forced into taking on other peoples emotional labor just because you are afraid of offending. You have the right to take care of you.
The other day I came across a blog post on the popular parenting website Scary Mommy. The post titled “Why I no longer tell my child to be inclusive and kind” is written by a mom who taught her child to always be inclusive especially to the child that was disruptive, had problems at home and was the child no one else wanted to include. The mother instructed the child to be “compassionate” because you don’t know what other people might be going through. In the end, the mother got a call from the school counselor who informed her that same child that her daughter was trying to have compassion for was now stalking her. The mother, as any mother would be, was upset by this news and decided to no longer tell her child to be all-inclusive.
As a counselor, this post stopped me in my tracks. It raised some good questions and presented a topic I feel needs to be discussed. Rather than instructing our children to stay away or avoid compassion and empathy for others because of fear that the person might be a danger, or might not be a good person to associate with, we need to practice healthy compassion.
There is a difference between practicing discernment and boundaries with compassion. Being kind and having compassion for another does not mean letting that person do whatever they want. It does not mean condoning the bad or uncomfortable behavior. There is what we call blind compassion, which establishes no boundaries, and healthy compassion with boundaries. It is important that we teach our children to have an open mind about others and practice compassion because as the mom wrote: “we don’t know what other people are going through.” However, we need to make sure our children learn how to establish healthy boundaries with others.
Being kind to others does not give them a free pass to walk all over us, or to treat us in ways that make us feel wrong or bad in some way. We can be kind but also let that person know that they can’t treat us that way. Teach your children it is ok to say “no,” and walk away or to tell an adult if an uncomfortable situation is present. Teach your children rules go both ways, it is not ok for them to hit or push or for them to be hit or pushed. These are important life lessons for all.