Getting others to respect your boundaries/respect you?
December 26, 2012 7:57 PM   Subscribe

Getting others to respect your boundaries/treat you with respect?

My sister called me late last night about something that wasn't urgent but it disrupted my sleep and because I have bipolar, type I, it's really important for me to consistently get good sleep. How can I get her to respect my boundaries? (Turning off the phone seems like a no-brainer, but either the drugs or the illness impact my memory at times.)

This is just one example/symptom of disrespect--she knows perfectly well about my sleep needs. Obviously, I can't change her. I've about come to some kind of ephipany that I must, somehow change, even if it's just my frame of mind. Books, resources, mantras, ideas? Thanks.
posted by Prairie to Human Relations (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
First you could talk to her and ask her not to call you between certain hours.

Then you could turn the phone off, perhaps reminding yourself by leaving a note on your pillow. Go ahead and put one there now, while you're thinking of it.
posted by salishsea at 8:04 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there a reason why you can't just say: "I have bipolar, type I, it's really important for me to consistently get good sleep. Could you please not call me past X o'clock unless it's truly urgent"?

What I am trying to get at is have you been really blatant about your needs? As in, "don't do X ever again please". I ask because though you say that she is well aware of your needs, she obviously isn't respecting them. This means that she either isn't as clear about this as you think she is, or doesn't care; from your post, I'm not sure which it is.
posted by Shouraku at 8:06 PM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

You say to your sister "Please do not call me after 9 o'clock." You might end up having to say this on three seperate occasions as some people have difficulty processing requests. Part of life I'm afraid. On the fourth time, you are entitled to scream and yell at that person.
posted by dydecker at 8:06 PM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

While I can't comment on the boundary issue, the phone issue could be solved by using a profile manager app; a couple minutes of work and you can configure the phone to automatically turn to vibrate or silent at say 10 PM and turn to ring at 6 AM.

If using a smartphone app isn't an option, you will need to constantly remind people not to call after a certain time. After a while, they will either get the hint or you can yell at them or they just deal with being ignored. A note somewhere as part of your routine (such as on a bathroom mirror or your pillow) should help with this.
posted by lpcxa0 at 8:09 PM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't think boundaries in regards to receiving late phone calls are really necessary. Just explain to your sister HOW and WHY late phone calls affect you. Even if she continues to call, do what was recommended above by configuring your phone to avoid dealing with late night calls. That way, you can get the sleep that you need without being disrupted.
posted by livinglearning at 8:15 PM on December 26, 2012

Write a note with a whiteboard marker on your bathroom mirror to "turn phone off". Brushing teeth? Turn phone off. Or at least, on silent.

As to other people - you can't demand someone treats you with respect, unfortunately, you can only do the things YOU can do to prevent them from bothering you.
posted by shazzam! at 8:16 PM on December 26, 2012

It may not be a matter of disrespect, but a matter of her simply not remembering your needs. Being firm, patient, and consistent in telling her what boundaries you need should go a long way.
posted by xingcat at 8:16 PM on December 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Some times you have to be willing to be a bit of a bitch. If you start off with a requested limit, 'not before nine or after nine' and someone ignores it, well, yell at them. I have the 9/9 rule and I don't want to shut my phone off because I like to be available for anything important. After the first few times I just went straight into "why are you calling me after nine for this?" Resist all inclinations to minimize it and under no circumstances respond what ever she wants to talk about.
posted by InkaLomax at 8:21 PM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

My phone ringer is never, ever on for precisely this reason. People can leave a message or gtfo.
posted by elizardbits at 8:23 PM on December 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

It may not be a matter of disrespect, but a matter of her simply not remembering your needs. Being firm, patient, and consistent in telling her what boundaries you need should go a long way.

If she forgets and or ignores the rule, simply say, "You've called at a bad time, I'm sleeping and can't talk to right now." Then hang up the phone. Call her the next day to remind her not to call you after x o'clock.
posted by shoesietart at 8:24 PM on December 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

I assume you've explicitly told her, "Please don't call me after X o'clock," but if you haven't, you should. You should also feel free to send people to voicemail rather than answering late at night.

However, the simplest solution is to make turning off your phone (or just the ringer) a priority for yourself--almost like you're respecting your own boundaries by ensuring you have the best shot at sufficient sleep. A few suggestions: keep your phone on a relatively low ringer volume and plug it in to charge in another room overnight so you won't hear it (may not be an option if you have roommates); put a note on your nightstand reminding yourself to turn your phone off; incorporate turning your phone off into your bedtime routine by doing it, say, while you brush your teeth (a note to self in the bathroom might help).
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:35 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Honestly, people forget sometimes. I mean, you forgot to turn off your phone ringer. Be as generous as you can be and simply tell her that you absolutely need your sleep and that a certain time is the cut-off point for telephone calls. Ask her to text perhaps, before she calls.

Many smart-phones now have a Do Not Disturb feature which can be engaged between certain hours automatically. Look into that.
posted by inturnaround at 8:38 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

My rule with calls that come in after my bedtime is that I return them the next morning. I tell them that I slept through the ringer, but I called them the second I woke up, because I figure it must be an emergency if they needed me in the wee hours. People commit to memory that my sleep schedule is from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. pretty damn quick.
posted by cirocco at 8:42 PM on December 26, 2012 [14 favorites]

I guess a way to reframe it for yourself is that she's either doing these things
(a) maliciously to disturb you or
(b) because she innocently forgets about what time it is when she thinks about calling you to tell you about whatever it is, even though she technically knows the rule.

But you have to figure out which one it is, and address it from that perspective. If it's (a), then probably you don't want her to call at all and this is a bigger, more complicated problem.

If it's (b), I think a better approach is to kindly remind her about your needs while at the same time doing whatever you can to make yourself comfortable in your own life. Like setting an alarm on your phone to go off when it's time to turn the ringer off. Or just hitting "hang up" without even seeing who's calling.
posted by bleep at 8:50 PM on December 26, 2012

I think it is a bit much to claim that this is about disrespect. *You* get a pass for not doing the no-brainer of turning off your phone's ringer because of the occasional "impact" on your memory, but your sister doesn't get to have an occasional memory lapse? (I am giving your sister the benefit of the doubt since you only describe one incident and not an ongoing course of "disrespectful" behavior)

If this is your one big example, you don't have a disrespect problem with your sister. Since the only problem you mention i.e. that your sister called you after-hours not ten times, not thrice, but once, your question is really "how to I avoid late night telephone calls" and the advice will be specific to that problem. You cannot make someone not call you. If you do not wish to receive telephone calls during certain hours, many phones have an automatic feature to turn off the ringer during certain hours. If this is not an option, you will need a whiteboard or post-it or some other reminder to look at before bed. Most people have a bedtime routine that they follow e.g. I check every window and door to ensure they are locked. You should make turning off the ringer a part of your routine.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:54 PM on December 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

I think with your sister and in every instance, the key is two fold. One, making sure they are aware of the boundary you have set and two enforcing it yourself. If my sister called when I was sleeping, I would either not answer the phone or answer it like this, "Hey sis, what's the emergency? No emergency you just want to chat? Call me back tomorrow after 9:00am and before 9:00pm. Good night." Click. Hang up on her if it is not important. People need to be trained that you have boundaries and will be enforcing them.

Turning off your ringer is not going to help and maybe it was an emergency. While I will turn off my cell phone ringer at night, I never turn off my land line because I have teenagers and older parents who seem to have emergencies during the most inconvenient times. Why not just teach your sister that you have boundaries and will be consistently enforcing them than turn off phone for everyone (or even for just her)?
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:07 PM on December 26, 2012

If you're comfortable turning your ringer off at night, then learn that habit. With notes or markers or whatever.
I'm not comfortable like that. I WANT my ringer on at night for emergencies, period. So my late-night caller must learn a new habit. Period.
Plenty of good suggestions above.
posted by LonnieK at 9:09 PM on December 26, 2012

Does she do this regularly, or did she just forget what time it was? Because it seems like you're blowing this up in your head about some big "she doesn't respect me" thing, when maybe...she forgot.

So, if she calls late again, hassle her for calling so late, and then figure out how to set Do Not Disturb on your phone.

If this is a repeated thing, then you can figure out how to address it.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:24 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Changing habits is a slow, slow process. Changing other people's habits is many times slower. It will take you less time and effort to train yourself to turn off your ringer than it will to retrain your sister.

That said: the least ineffective method I've ever found for changing other people's habits around issues of importance to me is the "broken record" technique. Every time a boundary is crossed, respond exactly the same way: with a polite request for the behaviour you'd rather see instead.

It took more than twenty reminders before Young Master Flabdablet was reliably putting his banana peels into the compost bucket instead of the trash bag, each one delivered in the same light and polite asking-for-a-favour tone as the first. But by the time of the fifth or sixth reminder he was all "oh yeah, oops, sorry" and it never became a source of conflict or resentment.

There is no point yelling at people. All that does is make everybody upset and creates hostility. If you've asked politely for something three times and not got it, a loud and rude demand the fourth time is probably not going to work any better; you can't earn respect by failing to display it.
posted by flabdablet at 6:46 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

By the way, the key to avoiding experiencing resentment at needing to play that broken record so, so many times is simply to have confidence that you are doing the most effective thing available and that it will eventually sink in, and to remind yourself that displaying courtesy is a necessary part of receiving respect.

This will work on you, even if the broken record never actually does achieve the desired end result.
posted by flabdablet at 6:51 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't forget the other part about the breaking habits/broken record technique - don't EVER let it be okay for her to call you after 9pm in a non-emergency. If you spend 19 times telling her "please don't call this late" and hanging up, but you spend one time actually talking for an hour, then you have to start over with the 19 times again.
posted by CathyG at 7:29 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't answer the phone between certain hours. Yes your sleep pattern will be disturbed when they ring, but you will eventually train family and friends not to call at those times. Get voice mail so they can leave a message, that will also stop the phone ringing on and on.
posted by wwax at 8:24 AM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are phone forwarding services such as Google Voice that can send incoming calls from specific numbers to voicemail between whatever hours you want. Google Voice is free. There are also smartphone apps that perform similar scheduled call-blocking functions. Also, newer home phones have silent modes that can work at pre-determined times of the day - Panasonic KX-TG155SK, available online or at stores like Costco.
posted by conrad53 at 8:51 AM on December 27, 2012

(Turning off the phone seems like a no-brainer, but either the drugs or the illness impact my memory at times.)

Don't sweat it, just tell people you turn your phone off at 9pm "when you go to sleep." They'll remember for you.
posted by rhizome at 4:27 PM on December 27, 2012

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