Being kind doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover.
In fact some of the most effective boundary setters I know are very empathetic and considerate individuals.
But they also know how to stand up for themselves and they won’t let anybody take advantage of them or bully them in any way.
This is something I myself am still improving in my own life, and I know many people who are either overly kind and agreeable and say yes to everything, or overly strict and self-focused, turning down any requests or entreaties.
The key is to find that middle ground of being able to stick up for yourself while still being kind and considerate about it.
This is a look at the rare and powerful qualities of kind but firm people who stand up for themselves in the most graceful way.
1) Friendly but firm
This individual is kind but clear.
They respect everyone around them, but they don’t confuse respect for automatic obedience.
They are able to respect themselves at a high enough level that social pressure or even pressure at work doesn’t make them fold like origami. They trust their judgment.
They have their own boundaries and limits of what they will agree to and do, and they don’t let anybody else hijack their life.
They are kind, but they aren’t soft. Not by a long shot.
2) Good listener
They are able to practice active listening and really hear what others are saying.
This makes their “no” all the more powerful, because this strong and kind individual doesn’t dismiss or downplay the needs of others.
They actively hear what people are saying and do their best to grasp the needs being expressed and what they mean.
By understanding what’s being asked and truly caring, they make it clear that they do care. But caring doesn’t always mean agreeing.
Trait: emotionally intelligent.
3) Empathetic but not naive
This individual is empathetic and can put themselves in somebody else’s shoes.
They are able to understand the desires and needs of those around them, but they’re also not naive.
They can see that their boss is under pressure and needs somebody to pick up more work, and they empathize with their boss’ needs.
But they also know that if they take the extra work they’ll be overworked for months and sacrifice their social life. So they say no.
4) Aware of their own faults
Those who are kind but able to say no, are keenly aware of their own faults.
They don’t beat themselves up by any means, but they are self-aware at an above average level.
In such a way they are better able to know their own motivations and have their own goals. This allows them not to be manipulated by others and to have proactive reasons for their boundaries rather than just reactive ones.
5) Aligned with their core values
The key thing of somebody who’s kind but has strong boundaries is that they are able to say yes to their own dreams more than they are focused on saying no to somebody else.
Their core values guide them in a proactive way that moves them forward, and they say no when somebody or something intrudes or directly goes against what they’re trying to accomplish and what they stand for.
It’s nothing personal, but this person’s core values aren’t up for debate. They have a rock solid code of conduct and ethics, and they stick with it.
6) Imbued with a long-term vision
Those who can say no but not be a jerk about it are people with a long-term vision.
They are focused on what they want to accomplish and a positive and empowering vision for their own future and the future of others.
If this sometimes means saying no to one person, it also means saying yes to other people or certain other priorities.
They are able to say yes to themselves and to whatever is going on in their life, and to set priorities that sometimes require saying no.
7) Able to say no and mean it
Declining and saying no don’t really mean much if they’re negotiable.
The kind of person who can be compassionate while still saying no is able to say no and stand by it.
They’re nice, but they’re not fuzzy wuzzy. They mean what they say, and they stick by it.
If they turn somebody or something down, they don’t just shift their boundaries because of pressure or somebody skilled trying to convince them.
Unless new information or context comes to light that would make them say yes, they politely and kindly stick by their original decision.
8) Willing to be disliked or misunderstood
Being kind doesn’t always mean being popular.
Nobody likes being told no, and the empathetic individual understands that sometimes saying no is going to lead to being disliked by a person or even misunderstood.
They know that this is not always in their control and they accept that this is just the reality of interpersonal relations.
They are secure in their own values and priorities enough to be willing to say no when it’s the right thing to do.
Trait: secure in themself.
Saying no the right way
All of these points give us many valuable tips about how to say no in a respectful yet firm way.
Ultimately, everybody ends up respecting those who are able to set boundaries and stick by them.
Better yet, by having a long-term vision and core values that don’t shift, the kind but principled individual eventually attracts more respect from everybody. Those they say no to might not like it, but eventually they come to respect it.
In business and in their personal life, the kind but firm individual shows that they know what they want and that they are willing to stand up for themselves.
This is a powerful approach to life which we can all learn from and continue to improve on in our own lives.
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