The discussion is going to go to a really interesting observation about setting boundaries but it begins with giving generously. Jordan* has been pushing the notion of always be giving generously". What he means by that is that when you're networking you should simply give without establishing a covert contract whereby you expect a return for what you give. I'm pretty sure he gets this from Robert Glover's No More Mr. Nice Guy although he has done some development. Bret agrees with this but wonders about setting boundaries. He raises the issue of what he calls give-a-mouse-a-cookie syndrome.
"If you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to ask for glass of milk. If you give him a glass a milk, he's going to ask for a napkin."Jordan takes that and uses it to zero in on something really important: the challenge of saying "no". He says it's about setting boundaries and not about saying no. We feel guilty about setting a boundary because we worry that other people are going to have a temper tantrum when they don't get what they want. Again, we're back to a principle originally set by Robert Glover: don't seek approval.
Think of what Jordan has said here. I've set a boundary. Is it a fair boundary? The honest answer to that is, "I think so but I also know I've set boundaries before that I realized were unworkable or unfair but seemed fair to me at the time." Certainty, in this context, is an emotion and not an epistemological statement. I need to be open to other people's arguments that my boundaries are unjust. What I don't need to be open to is other people's feelings about my boundaries.
This is even more complicated because we typically don't lay out our boundaries to people at the start of a relationship. Some people do but it ain't good reckoning. For example, a woman I knew in university used to break the flow of conversation with men as soon as it started to get flirtatious to run down a list of what she wouldn't do sexually. The effect of this was that normal men, the ones who would have treated her in the respectful way she thought, would quietly back away and the type of creeps she was hoping to avoid were the only ones who stuck around. Normal, healthy people rely on existing social conventions to get us by. At the same time, we should have boundaries that we don't normally tell others about but should spell out to ourselves. So what happens when it's time to enforce one of these boundaries and someone responds by having a temper tantrum?
If I am all about getting approval from others what is going to happen is that I'm going to cave completely. And I won't cave because they have advanced a convincing argument that my boundary is unwarranted but because I need their approval.
This is also important when people seek apologies or when you seek forgiveness. If I think that the measure of whether I've responded adequately is the other person's emotional state I'm not seeking to apologize and make redress so much as I am seeking their approval. And that (another insight of Robert Glover's) that is to give away my power. What I should be doing is deciding what is right and doing it. What I am actually doing is giving another person the power to decide what is enough.
* I listen to these guys so often I feel like I'm on a first-name basis even though I don't know them.