When to say no to people and prove your worth

It's important at the beginning of any relationship that you set solid boundaries and make clear that if you’re going to give something, you expect something in return

By Shilpa Bhasin Mehra

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Published: Mon 14 Nov 2022, 10:54 PM

We hear it in homes and in offices when friends, family, and colleagues say they are being taken advantage of or taken for a ride. It makes me wonder what happened to mutually beneficial relationships. I remember an incident from many years ago when I was in a corporate role. A lot of work was being sent my way. The fault was mine I discovered later because I didn’t say no. I smiled a lot and found it hard to be rude to anyone. Cooperation seemed to be overflowing in my system.

These days, I often see this pattern from associates, friends and family. My message to them is: don’t push your luck. Do I have to be rude and stern to make you understand, that I am not willing to be taken advantage of? Remember, all relationships have boundaries, but people often test them to see if they can get more from the other person. It is not just bad people who do this, all of us in some ways are guilty of this transgression. It is simply human nature as we all want the best deal we can get.

People want the most from their peers, yet offer little in return. Some do it intentionally, others unintentionally. But the outcome is always the same, and the fault is not only of the 'perpetrator' but also of the 'victim' who accepts this behaviour. We set values based on how we allow people to treat us. If we allow them to treat us badly and take things from us — for very little in return — we are conveying to them how less worthy we are.

We all deserve to be treated better and thanked for the deeds we do for our friends, families and colleagues. One of the best ways to stop people from taking advantage of is by learning to say no. Also remember that it’s okay to ask for things, even if it is just a thank you or a little bit of appreciation. Most people will by default give these things, but it’s okay to remind those who don’t that nothing in this world is free, and you are worth more than the value they are assigning to you.

This is why it’s so important at the beginning of any relationship that you set solid boundaries and make clear that if you’re going to give something, you expect something in return. Time is the most precious resource. I ask my sisters and friends if they are free to talk and then call them. They are busy professionals and I respect that.

But when others feel they can call you anytime and talk for an hour, both parties are at fault, especially when you aren’t enjoying the conversation. Don’t blame the person who called you, blame yourself too for being stuck in the situation and not willing to speak up and say I am busy or tired. Express your true worth from the beginning of any relationship. Be firm and you will be doing them a favour because it benefits nobody being given a free ride.

Tagging is addictive. We do it on Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook and via emails. When I am posting articles, I am so tempted to tag people, but good sense and manners prevail. Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them. You have to figure out who’s worth your kindness and who’s just taking advantage of you. People don’t notice the things we do for them until we stop doing them. You need to stop doing things for someone when you find out it’s expected rather than appreciated. The ball is in your court.

- Shilpa Bhasin Mehra is an independent legal consultant based in Dubai

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