I remember the conversation to this day. I was enjoying some time with a young lady who happens to have some mental challenges. I’ve always been inspired by her as I watch her work and volunteer. This day in particular I learned something valuable from her that I cherish to this day. As we spoke about her daily life, she very strongly replied to one of my questions with, “I don’t want to talk about that.” I remember very clearly how I felt at that moment. It was not that I felt shamed or even reprimanded. It was just a matter-of-fact moment. She had clearly drawn a line in the sand that said this topic was off limits. We changed the subject and simply went on to the next.
I used this same phrase on a friend of mine the other day. A short while later we talked about it and chuckled at its effectiveness. I wish I had learned to use these words years ago when I felt like I had to give an explanation to every question or comment I received about my daughter’s medical status. In the past if a conversation began to wander into territory I really did not want to talk about, I would feel my stress level increase and it would continue to grow as my brain raced, trying to choose appropriate words that would satisfy the other person’s inquisitiveness, yet still keep the conversation within appropriate boundaries where I felt safe. All too often, I would leave feeling like I had shared information that I really did not want to share in the first place.
That is the beauty of this little phrase! I don’t have to worry about all that anymore! I simply pull out these little words and the conversation moves to another (more comfortable) topic for both of us. I’m sure there will be those who think this is not a healthy way to interact and that in some way, it is a type of avoidance behavior. I say, “Phooey!” to these people. In fact, I would much rather respond with a pleasant, simple, non-aggressive phrase than to continue down a destructive path of people pleasing. Next time you are feeling conflicted, try utilizing these simple words. It requires no thinking whatsoever! Your stress level just might thank you.