Precedents aren’t permanent.

JoAnna Bennett

JoAnna Bennett, O’Brien Communications Group

17 October 2019

Do you have a client who likes to raise her voice to get what she wants? Do you usually cower to her needs to stop the verbal assault? Maybe next time you should politely say, “This disrespect is putting a wedge in our relationship and before its tainted forever, can we try to communicate more civilly to one another?”

Do you have a friend who has a mental illness? Do you cater to his mental issues at any cost – even if it hurts you physically, financially, or emotionally? Maybe next time you can make a healthy boundary. Perhaps saying something along the lines of, “I want to be your friend but not your therapist. You need to work towards helping yourself with a professional if you want this friendship to be successful.”

If you have issue with people-pleasing and being submissive, it’s easy to get caught in a precedent that seems permanent. But the only way to get out of the situation is to embrace change.

Precedent – (noun) an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be considered in subsequent similar circumstances.

Most negative precedents start innocently enough. When the client in the first example first yells, your instinct may be to get her to stop. No matter what. Give in! But after a while, you’ll notice it as a pattern of her behavior. Maybe it wasn’t about your mistake but merely about her communication skills. When the friend in the second example first calls in a crisis, it may tug at your heart strings. He needs help and he trusts you! But when he calls at 4 a.m., intoxicated and begging for compassion (or money), you may begin to feel taken advantage of.

“When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” Tuli Kupferberg

Humans are creatures of habit. It’s easier to keep with the familiar precedent – even if it’s torturous – than it is to commit to making a change. But with change and broken habits, we can uncover new and more healthy ways to experience conflict. And despite thinking our counterparts will be mad at us, it may be a blessing in disguise for them. They may begin to realize their own patterns of behavior and move forward in more positive directions. Or they may take their bad behaviors elsewhere. In either case, your sanity is saved.

Habits? Precedents? Transformations? Changes?

Your life and your livelihood lie in your hands. You can’t blame others for their terrible behaviors if you allow them to happen. While you may know how to set precedents, the real lesson is learning how to set boundaries, as well.