When I first started realising that things had to change, someone lent me a book about boundaries. It discussed at length the importance of being able to say no. I remember thinking at the time that there was no way that I could ever do this, even imagining myself saying no to people other than my husband made me feel anxious. I could see that this was the way to go, I just didn't think that I'd ever be able to do it. However I realise now that saying no is like every other skill: it becomes easier with practice. So practise with people you feel safe with (or with people you who might never see ever again: salesmen, waiters, etc). It's also a good idea to practice asking for things as well. I'm one of these people that I would never ask for anything: I have no sugar in my tea because when I was younger I was too shy to tell the host that I'd like sugar in my tea. (You can see what a long way this has been for me if I couldn't even say: Could I have some sugar, please?)
Something else I learned is to buy myself time before I agreed to anything. I learned to say things like:
- Can I get back to you on that?
- I need to check my diary.
- Not sure what I'm doing yet.
- I'll let you know.
These replies buy you a bit of time so you can think about whether you really want to do what is asked. Be prepared for people who will ask you what you're doing on a particular day first so that when they tell you what they want you to do you have no excuse. Well I suppose you could just say: "Sorry, I don't fancy doing that." I'm not that far ahead, not saying that I will not be one day, I'm just not there yet. So my defence line for people like that is to say: "Why are you asking?"
Being able to return questions with another question is an invaluable skill to have. We are not obliged to give an answer just because someone is asking it. Besides I have found that there are a lot of nosy people who are always "fishing" for information but never volunteer any about themselves. "Those who fetch, carry", best not to give them anything to "carry". There is another trick that nosy people have up their sleeve: they keep silent until it becomes so uncomfortable that before you know it you've told them everything they wanted to know. I'm training myself to be silent with those people, see who can hold out the longest. It is really hard at first, because we are so programmed to fill in the silence, but I promise you: it does get easier with practice.