A wall bordered with flowers, not thorns
November 25, 2017 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Reacting strongly to people (as I perceive it) pushing on my boundaries is becoming a pattern and I don't like it. Two examples within. Please help me do self-protection and communication appropriately.

You all have been so helpful in pointing out that boundaries are served best with gentleness and grace. I need help doing that right now. Two things happened in the past 48 hours where I saw I could have done better. Sharing detail because in the past when I've shared more context, people have seen something I missed.

1 -- I'm on vacation/staycation from a volunteer leadership gig, after weeks of stress and some conflict with a friend who is on the team I lead. She expressed once that she considers me one of her best friends; I consider her a friend but not one of my closest. At minimum, we've got very different styles with boundaries and we’ve acknowledged it. For example, she took a stated break a few weeks ago but spent it responding to emails and generally still being involved. When I take a break I completely disconnect and prefer to keep a separate spaces.

For this vacation I wasn’t completely consistent about what my vacation timeline was. In my most recent communication, an autoreply, I specified "till Saturday." She emailed during the vacation, copying a third person we both trust, with the subject "... can wait till you're back." So I skimmed that email but mentally left it for until I am back from vacation. It was about getting together to talk through things, maybe with a third person.

Yesterday she came to my door. It was in line with invitations I’ve made in the past (“just drop by, yay!”) but I saw it as out of touch with my stated timeline. I wish I had just not answered the door. She handed me a gift and asked setting up a time when we can resolve this conflict. I said, "I'm on vacation. I'd like to wait till I'm back." As in a couple past experiences, she didn’t take hints and didn’t seem prepared to leave. She said she was confused about when I was officially back. I said something about how, yeah, I could have made it clearer. I said "I feel like you're crossing my boundaries." She stopped talking, turned away, walked away. I texted five minutes later to apologize.

I felt like she was thinking of what she would want and not being a super sensitive friend. In my lizard brain she's committed the bigger relationship sin by showing up when she knows that boundaries are so important to me and the latest she heard was “back on Saturday.” And my lizard brain absolves me because of course I can't be expected to be nice when someone shows up and wants to be in my space.

My better brain recognizes I could have responded in a more gracious way. It’s not black and white. She gave a gift that was intended to help me continue to relax; her intent was bridge-building. I know that gift-giving is something meaningful to her. And I could have been more clear in what the boundaries are. Just... my desire was that she would think about what she knows about me, and consider it in how she interacted. Maybe some of this is just normal human disappointment?

I can only control myself and I'm not happy with how I acted. If I were a good friend and leader and human I think I would have liked to have said something like, "Thank you, let's talk when I get back, I am looking forward to that, this chocolate will help a lot, I'm closing the door now." (Right...? Does that sound good?)

2 -- I met a man while traveling, we had a gorgeous and surprising day together, we agreed we both prefer to get to know a new person... in person. It's a week since we met. I asked for space to process before we had a big conversation about where we saw this going. He sent me a 2-page document with all his thoughts, and cute texts with pictures. I asked again for space to process, he said he wasn't clear what that meant – nothing at all? Nothing big, but cute lil texts are okay? I had said earlier, when we were together, that I needed time and intentionality since I have relatively little experience with romance; that while we agreed we communicated well, I might have shifts in how I feel and I would do my best to communicate those. He was so permissive when we were together in person. I felt that I could state what I needed and he’d either be cool or let me know if he actually needed something else, so we could compromise. Via this text conversation, we agreed that I would initiate the next communication so I'd have space to process. He sent a couple more texts after that and then a document via email ("read this later, after we talk"). I said I was disappointed and it seemed like he wasn't following our agreement. I know I needed space to process and was trying to ask for it. I wish now I had just said, “Let’s talk via Skype” or some specific thing. Instead, I just said something like, “I'm disappointed and this feels weird. I don’t feel like you’re respecting our agreement for me to have time to process. You sending me your processing is not what I think of as giving me space to process. If this is going to go anywhere I need you to do better with this.” I think I could have been clearer earlier about what I would need and when it got to that point where I felt pushed upon, I again wasn’t able to push back gracefully. He wrote back and said it wasn't going to work out. His “don’t read till later” document (which I read after he cut it off) was about how it was hard for him to feel this abrupt shift from lots of contact (over 1-2 days) to very little. I so relate and I feel awful even while I know what I needed and I was trying to communicate it.

So, again, there was probably a third way here that I didn’t find. I wonder how much of this we could have avoided if I'd just said: Let's talk via phone. Let's not do this via text. Or if I'd been less focused on my safety via boundaries. This may be its own separate question, but...

Question 1-- What do you suggest for me, to be more in line with my goals and values of being present, responding mindfully and graciously when I feel stressed out?

Question 2-- Are there lines or phrases or, I don't know, something, that I can say and rely on when this starts to happen? What can I say to imply caring and also just get some space? What, specifically, do I say to my friend in scenario 1? I can imagine a conversation where I get hyped up about protective boundaries and miss the soft, generative path of compromise forward.

Question 3-- Are there things it would be helpful to hear, thinking of the kinds of conversations that are happening here, if you are in the other person's shoes? How do you feel in that case?

I have such strong relationships with people who are in my interior life, my chosen family. We say things like "Hey you're pushing my boundaries" and discuss it, on both sides; it's been a journey and struggle for me to be able to say things like that; and I forget that not everyone sees that as an investment in a relationship. It's just not appropriate at all times. And, even with those close friends, I will be more gentle about it. So it’s just when I feel, for some reason, that my options are being taken from me, and I don’t know why I’m so so so sensitive to that… And, I know this stuff in my brain, but it’s so hard to act it out right now.

It’s only people in this certain zone between stranger and intimate friendship or relationship. And I feel like, okay, if there’s something going on in the vein of avoidance or fear, I just need to at minimum manage it, until I can get to the space where I feel safer and my instincts lead me to things that build up a relationship rather than tear it down.

Please assume I want to and can do better. This has now happened 4 times and it needs to change. I so appreciate the "Hey, gently, I have this idea for you..." feedback from past questions. I do have many friends and people I can date so it's not at the point, at all, where I'm going to be sad and unhappy and alone and drive people away. But I want to feel that I have more control over how I'm behaving.

A friend suggested perhaps I'm not giving myself enough space, and projecting that need onto other people. It's valid. I am going to do internal work as well. Seeing my therapist next week.
posted by ramenopres to Human Relations (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
With the first instance, it seems odd to me that you've classed this person as a friend and told them to drop by any time, but then you're annoyed when they did that. If you actually mean they should only drop by when you're not on vacation, then perhaps it would be best not to offer open invitations at all.
The second case, the guy you like, well, he sounds over-intense and a bit pushy and that would just put me off anyway. However, maybe he doesn't really get what you mean by needing to 'process'. It sounds very serious for what it is - which is what exactly? Thinking about how you feel about someone you just met? Maybe just be more straightforward and set a date for when you next want to see him and say you probably won't be in contact until then.
posted by KateViolet at 1:08 PM on November 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Thing number one, the overarching lesson here, is TRUST YOURSELF about your boundaries. From what you said above, it sounds like you are doing great initially communicating your needs, and that this has come from a lot of worthwhile self-work. Great job! I know that kind of thing is hard-won. I'd advise not second-guessing yourself, like in the instance where you told your friend what you needed, she shut down and walked away, and you apologized five minutes later. She was (clumsily, but not unfairly) taking space to process how she felt about the fact that she had, once again, violated your boundaries. In my experience, apologizing to this kind of person makes things less clear, and they think what they did was just fine.

A friend suggested perhaps I'm not giving myself enough space, and projecting that need onto other people.
Hmm. No, I think what is happening here is that some people in your life are not giving you enough space, and you want to be able to have your space and also not make anyone mad about it. This isn't going to work with people who see your boundaries as porous. They're going to feel negatively because they already feel entitled to come over to your house and talk about work during your vacation, or send you a voluminous articulation of their feelings when you had asked for space, and when you say "no, don't do that," it interferes with their reality. The reality where they are entitled to your attention, but not responsible for listening to you and understanding and respecting what you have clearly said.

tl,dr: You don't need to have more control over how you're behaving. These people need to have more control over how they're behaving. Sadly, you can't control other people's entitled behavior, but you can use it as a signal to distance yourself from them.
posted by All hands bury the dead at 1:09 PM on November 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

I can only control myself and I'm not happy with how I acted. If I were a good friend and leader and human I think I would have liked to have said something like, "Thank you, let's talk when I get back, I am looking forward to that, this chocolate will help a lot, I'm closing the door now."

I think it's really good that you're acknowledging that there is room for more grace in these interactions. My partner is a lovely guy but also sometimes does that "I'm closing the door now" sort of thing because he's feeling sort of self-protective and doesn't really see how it's basically a unilateral "This is over" conversational move. Which, hey, sometimes you have to do that but it needs to be the end of a string of attempts, not the beginning. So I'd start even further back than this: what would this look like if you just let her run that interaction? What if you ran it? How can you land somewhere in the middle?

This is especially true with a friend who is sort of bridging the friend/work line since you said "Stop by any time" but then you give her static about doing that (because she brings up work, and trust me this would make me go APESHIT but that is on me). So, it might be worth trying to find space between your feelings of "This isn't OK" and your actions of how you actually respond. And this is hard, and that's okay. Because in my world, unless you have an unusually close relationship with someone, you don't talk about boundaries, you just set them and enact them. However it may be that for you this sort of intimacy is more normative (which is fine!) but you also probably need to understand that it may be seen as intimate. So depending on how perceptive and/or emotional you are, turning and walking away could have been the RIGHT move for your friend to make.

So to me the responses that thread the needle here are ones that get across some sort of "Hey it's not you, it's me" message. Even if that's not strictly true, the etiquette move is to not make people uncomfortable if at all possible (barring terrible behavior from them). So: say something nice, explain what is up, set a boundary, wrap-up

So with your friend: smile, "hey thanks for the treat, I'll let you know when I'm back around, sorry if that wasn't more clear. I'm gonna get back to my show now, thanks for stopping by!"

With that guy I feel like there were some definitional concerns, it sounded like he didn't understand what you meant by "processing" and honestly you two may have been a bad fit because of your differing desires here. I think i would have done something like "Oh hey, glad to hear from you. I'm going to have to go radio silent for a day or two because of other things I am up to but let's connect for a phone call in two days?"

For me it helps to have an internal narrative that is not my external one "Oh hey this person showed up and wants to talk about work and I SAID I AM NOT READY ARARARARA" and then translate that into something that is likely to have the desired result which is friendliness and politeness and a set boundary. I think what it comes down to is sure, you're totally justified to be a jerk to someone who is being transgressive, but there are probably better ways to do that which are less opponsitional
posted by jessamyn at 1:15 PM on November 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

Re: the guy: It was a super-intense two days after we met online and then spent 30 hours together. We felt a strong connection and decided to talk through as much of the "big conversation" stuff as we could before I traveled home, while also recognizing it might not become more. He had broken out the "L" word (not "limerance") -- wondered whether love was what he was feeling and acknowledging the significance of even asking that question. I liked him a ton but I'm a slow mover. In any case, we both felt it had potential. So, yes, I can imagine how it would have felt abrupt that I just wasn't in touch much. But for me, the speed and intensity meant I definitely especially needed time to sort it out mentally and feel confident in it after the limerance had a minute to fade. I just am a person who benefits from time for my thoughts to rumble around in the background. So giving myself this time is one way I invest in the potential for a relationship. Some of which I conveyed but not all, and... ugh.
posted by ramenopres at 1:22 PM on November 25, 2017

I think you can try to be more clear about what you mean, and MUCH more gracious if there's a misinterpretation that doesn't align with your wishes.

I don't think what the friend did was a terrible over-step, since you did tell her to drop by any time. Your script of "Thank you, let's talk when I get back, I am looking forward to that, this chocolate will help a lot, I'm closing the door now." reads as quite rude to me.

So instead of "I'm back Saturday" --> you could try, "Thanks for letting me know about this issue. I'm out of town and will also be swamped & need a few days to catch up- can we meet to discuss on Tuesday afternoon?"

>"of course I can't be expected to be nice when someone shows up"
I disagree with this. You don't HAVE to be nice, but most people would CHOOSE to be nice to their friends and acquaintances in that situation, even if they wished the person would leave. A really socially skilled person would be nice AND get them to leave.

I'd say, "This is wonderful! I was craving something sweet today. I would love to invite you in but I'm feeling a bit under the weather and was just about to have a nap! I'm really looking forward to seeing you on Tuesday! You're so thoughtful, thank you (hug, bye)"

In my view, the guy was a little bit pushy, but in a sweet way. Framing it as "not respecting my boundaries" seems a bit harsh, especially since that phrasing can also refer to sexual assault. I know that pushing on boundaries can be a precursor to escalating abuse, but it doesn't sound like that's the case here.

"I need space to process" --> "This is a bit overwhelming for me and also very special; sometimes when I talk to a person a lot I find it hard to tune in to my own intuition. I'd like a little space to process this, can we go no-contact for a few days and Skype on Saturday afternoon?"

Maybe you could remember that the new romance is vulnerable to him too, and be a bit more gentle/explanatory in your phrasing.

It all just sounds like awkward people - those two people are puppy-dogging at you awkwardly to express affection, and you are awkwardly not really into them. I think you should be more gracious though. Remember that people are being vulnerable when they are being nice to you. Their feelings matter too. It takes like 15% more emotional energy to be polite when telling someone nice to back off. Spending that energy is how one maintains friends.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:24 PM on November 25, 2017 [38 favorites]

you were still on vacation from work, but since you're friends, she may not have understood that interaction with her counted as work for you and may have been hurt by that. It sounds like she asked to set a time in the future to talk out the work problems, not to talk them out while standing in your doorway, but even the act of agreeing on a later time was not acceptable to you. this is the point where I would have compromised.

you can also say "thanks so much for the gift, I was in the middle of something so I can't invite you in but I'll see you as soon as I'm back at work." this is gentler than an "I'm closing the door now" but easier than waiting for her to intuit hints that you don't want her around. or if not easier, faster and nicer.

We say things like "Hey you're pushing my boundaries" [...]
It’s only people in this certain zone between stranger and intimate friendship or relationship

specialized therapeutic language ("my boundaries") in a non-therapeutic setting relies on a lot of shared understanding of concepts and values, and I do not advise it in situations where you don't yet know if you share those understandings or the same idiomatic vocabulary. unless you are actively filtering for people who do.

If someone said to me "I really hate it when people come over without calling first, they're just being friendly but I panic if I'm not expecting someone and then resent having to entertain them," I would understand, sympathize, say so, and never do it. If they said, "I have a boundary about uninvited visitors, and I need my friends to respect this because crossing boundaries is unacceptable to me" I would say OK, and think: we do not speak the same language and I am not a devotee of counseling lingo, so I will quietly withdraw. That's if I were a casual acquaintance. If we were friendly and they spoke to me in such a (to me) artificial way, I would be either aggravated or insulted and would withdraw in a huff. a quiet and courteous huff, of course.

not everybody would react this way and I think most people are more tolerant than I am. and talking the way that's natural to you is a good filter for people who are in sync with you. but if your boundaries are reasonable, and they seem to be, but you have trouble with people's reactions to them, it may be something this basic about communication style.
posted by queenofbithynia at 1:43 PM on November 25, 2017 [26 favorites]

I think you need to do less thinking about your boundaries and more about your manners and about being in other people's shoes.

"I'm closing the door now" is EXTREMELY rude. Only appropriate for if someone is being really terrible and all you want is for them to get the hell out of your face and never come back. A friend brings you chocolate and asks when it would be a good time for a chat? and you tell her "I"m closing the door now"? If it were me I would be writing that friendship entirely off. All it would have taken to solve the problem would be to say "oh Sandy, how sweet, I'm right in the middle of something, I'll text you tomorrow ok? Thanks again have a great day love ya bye!"

The guy would have been better served with a simple delay in response until you felt like dealing with it. Sending someone an email is, like, the least intrusive way of engaging with them. He sounds awkward, but not like he was trampling your space.

Slow down, think less about how to keep people away and more about how you WOULD like to engage with them, and speak with an aim towards that goal.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:21 PM on November 25, 2017 [46 favorites]

Use simple, direct words to communicate what you want and don't be so harsh on people who are trying. In neither of your examples are people deliberately trying to disrespect whatever boundaries you are trying to establish, they just don't understand. You escalated to really unfriendly language to let them know and made them feel shitty. That's disrespectful, and you might want to contemplate why you can't give people the benefit of the doubt in ambiguous situations so that everyone can interact gracefully.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:59 PM on November 25, 2017 [10 favorites]

It's usually trotted out for people with a specific diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, but you might find looking up some books on some of the DBT principles generally helpful if what you find, as in these cases, is that you're having an outsized emotional reaction. The problem really isn't that you're annoyed that this person stopped by unexpectedly; it's that you don't seem to be well-equipped to handle those negative feelings when they show up in times of stress. A book I found helpful while in the midst of a breakup and some other very stressful stuff is Calming the Emotional Storm by Sheri Van Dijk.

Basically, even if you're way better at this particular kind of coping than some of the people described in the book, the principles are still useful. Boundaries are important, but it seems like your standard way to deal with strong feelings is to back off until the feelings are less strong, and that's useful in some circumstances but it isn't a coping mechanism that does well with, say, people on your doorstep, or romantic encounters. Even if that particular book doesn't resonate with you, a different one might. Again, feeling like you need a little space, feeling a bit irked that someone showed up unexpectedly--those things are totally normal. You just need to get to the point where you can feel annoyed or overwhelmed and still be polite and kind to people at the same time, which is totally a thing.
posted by Sequence at 3:11 PM on November 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

On the other hand, I guess it bears saying that if a person is deliberately disrespecting your boundaries (like, say, stalking you, or using unambiguously charged language like racial or gendered slurs to refer to you, or damaging your stuff, etc) then sure, you can be harshly direct. So on the bright side, you probably do ok in those situations- which are difficult for many people.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:08 PM on November 25, 2017

Maybe print this post out to bring to therapy next week? I feel like you have done an excellent job laying out the situations and your reactions to them very clearly. Perhaps your therapist can help you figure out different ways that you can engage with people in a way that feels true to your needs AND respects the other person in the interaction more than you are feeling able to do on your own.

I wonder if the underlying emotion that is making your react so strongly in these situations is anger, fear, or something else? I know people IRL who can overreact to people stepping on their boundaries (which, TBH, can be kind of scary to witness), and most of the time, they do it NOT because of the current situation, but because of some pretty traumatic interaction in their past. So it looks like they are reacting in the present, but they are instead hitting back against something that happened 30 years ago. Would it be worth exploring with your therapist the underpinnings of this strong defensive reaction, and maybe get some help resolving it so that you don't have to play it out when friends knock on your door to bring you a gift?
posted by instamatic at 4:09 PM on November 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Taking care of your boundaries is a good thing, and I definitely think you should celebrate that. It may be a question of fine tuning and displaying more empathy more than anything else.

I find that expressing my needs for space in a way which acknowledges the needs of others as very different can be very effective.

So in situation 1, something like: "You must be very stressed out about the conflict! I realise you want resolution, and I promise we will make a plan to move forward when I'm back to the office next week. I'm conscious I wasn't clear enough when I was back from my leave, and I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong idea. I'm using this vacation time to work on my own stuff, so I don't think I can talk about it now in a way which makes you happy. Would you like a cup of coffee? I have an appointment at 3, but I certainly have time to say hello."

Or, in situation 2: "I realise it must be very hard to have so much conversation, and then silence. I promise you I am thinking about you. Can we set a date for a call on xx day? Until then, can you give me some cave time? How long would feel okay for you?" (if he doesn't accept that, then he's a grade A jerk anyhow.)

The ingredients here are listening to and caring about and acknowledging the other person's priority in the situation and acknowledging it while being politely firm about your own space. What I hear from the dialogue you have written is very focused on your boundaries, and you aren't showing the care you now obviously feel for these people in how you describe them. I think too, as noted above, there's a risk you may be using language from therapy with people who are not partners to you in that therapy.

Language like "I'm closing the door now" is language you use in an escalating and potentially abusive situation, and it feels inappropriate to me for a slightly intrusive drop-in visitor. I have used "I'm hanging up the phone if you don't stop doing xxx" or something similar. But that was during my divorce when my then STBX was drunk and abusive. I would perceive someone who said this to me as extremely rude if I had not done something correspondingly extreme.
posted by frumiousb at 4:34 PM on November 25, 2017 [10 favorites]

>"of course I can't be expected to be nice when someone shows up"

If that's how you feel, then why on earth are you telling her to stop by whenever?? Do you feel like that's what you're supposed to do? Or do you like the idea of being the kind of person who is open to friends popping by, but in reality you don't actually like it? It's totally fine to prefer that people don't come by unannounced. But then don't extend the invitation. And if they do, still be reasonably gracious about it if you can because it's a friend.

It sounds like you have done a lot of thinking about the boundaries you want in your life, which is great. But it sounds like you are simultaneously expecting people to intuit what they are AND to trample all over them, which can be dangerous. Because if your first impulse is to bar the gates immediately, then that will make it hard to forge close relationships. And when you do get close to someone, you won't know how to do the intermediate boundary-defining that's really important for healthy relationships.

In case #1, I would have thanked the friend for the gift, chatted for a few minutes if I could, and then said I had to get back to something. Actually, just today a friend invited me over to catch up and then, after about a half hour, said "I'm so sorry, I really need to get back to [THING]" and that was ok, because I knew ahead of time that she was really stressed about THING so I didn't take it personally.

With the dude, well, I would be annoyed about his pushiness too, but at this point I think it probably makes sense to just ignore future texts until you talk again. And when you do talk, be really clear about what you need. I do think a bit of this can be excused by new relationship excitement. But it's a red flag of he escalates his communications or tries to minimize or dismiss your needs.
posted by lunasol at 7:32 PM on November 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think it would be helpful to prepare and practice some gentle statements that you can use when you feel that someone is overstepping. I think that it’s way harder to think of a gracious statement when you already feel stressed out, so it would be handy to have some in your back pocket that you can rely on in times of need.
posted by delight at 10:21 PM on November 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Realize that a boundary is a perimetered wall; they can serve protect you but they can also shut people out.
A relationship of any variety is a connection between two people, so boundaries by purpose and function are a barrier to yourself and others unless you serve clear instructions of when and why they are to be lowered or opened and when and how one is to get in when a connection is requested or required on behalf of eiher party.
It sounds to me like boundaries aren't exactly the issue here, do you perhaps have unresolved trust or intmacy issues?
In addition, the more "rules" or expectations you hold in relation(s)to/with others, the more communication about those things you have to be willing to do yourself in respect to that, to yourself and to the other. The work involved takes the effort and the understandings of not just one but by two.
posted by OnefortheLast at 1:23 AM on November 26, 2017

Tl:dr Clearly post the rules, requirements, terms of services, user agreements and consequences of violations and infractions on your "wall" in a well lit area, first. (Reading minds is a far more difficult skill to acquire)
posted by OnefortheLast at 1:38 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

For friend #1, it looks like she thinks of you as a friend, not just a coworker, and a visit as a welcome distraction, and was perhaps trying to increase the intimacy of the friendship. That's not a bad thing when both parties want to be closer friends, but you've now made it very clear that you don't by using very anti-intimacy language like "crossing my boundaries". (I think it's interesting that you say you use that language with your closest friends; for me it's barely something I'd say to a stranger who was harassing me. This may be the source of some this.) A gentler way of keeping the relationship work-only might have been to express mild surprise at seeing her and asking if there was some sort of work emergency that had her coming all the way out to see you without calling first, thanking her for the treat, and then coming up with a plausible excuse to end the visit promptly--meeting a relative for lunch, taking an important phone call, feeling a little under the weather.

For friend 2, it sounds like he *was* backing off by sending more emotionally-charged stuff in a format you could engage with on your own time, and maintaining a connection via low-intimacy silliness. I don't think I would realize that "I need time to process" meant "do not communicate with me at all." I wouldn't feel too badly about it just because it's clear that your needs are pretty different. Again, phrasing like "not following our agreement" is extremely formal language that, to me, precludes any intimacy. If I was one day into a relationship with someone who spoke to me like that, I'd probably assume I'd massively misread the situation and move on.

I guess I feel like there are two aspects to clear communication; the actual content of the words and the desired level of intimacy they contain/imply. If your words here are accurate, you're missing on both, especially when stressed. "I'm really looking forward to completely disconnecting from work this week so that I can be fresh when I come back on Sunday" conveys all the info and also lets your colleague in by telling them a little about your emotions. "I'm sorry, even welcome unexpected visitors get my lizard brain all anxious, could you call first next time?" states your preferences without cutting off the intimacy of friendship. "I'm really stressed right now" will buy you a lot of leeway. (I'm struggling to come up with similar language for your second situation, because unilaterally refusing contact would be such a non-starter for me that I don't think any language would make me a compatible in that relationship.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:12 AM on November 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

It’s good that you recognize and acknowledge that your communication style can sometimes be abrupt and hurtful. The next step is to train yourself to rephrase what you are feeling into words that sound less harsh. Most people, especially your friends, are not out to disrespect your boundaries. Perhaps a life coach who specializes in interpersonal relationships could be of help if your therapist isn’t assisting you in this area of your life.
posted by Aha moment at 9:29 AM on November 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

The thing is, your boundaries (as I understand them) are somewhat outside of the norm. There is *nothing* wrong with that, but it means you are going to have to anticipate that people may be confused, hurt, or misunderstand. It's just not usual to require complete no-contact with a friend. So if that is what you want, you'll have to express it very clearly (as in "please don't text or email or call or stop by!"). And you will also have to explain very clearly what this means (ie that you aren't mad at them). You'll have to also explain that you realize this is unusual, because that helps your friends understand you aren't angry with them, that this is just your idiosyncratic way.
posted by yarly at 1:35 PM on November 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

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