Recognizing the Creep when you see one…

You know what I’m talking about. You agree to serve on a committee and the next thing you know, you’re in charge of the whole darn organization. It’s the Creep! You offer to bake a dozen cupcakes for the swim meet and WHAM! Before the starting gun, you’re Team Mom. CREEP! Or, you meet with a client, agree on a specific project and the next thing you know, they’ve added on, extended the deadline, changed the goal, and voila! THE CREEP AGAIN!

How does this KEEP happening to ME, you ask? Well, maybe the more appropriate question is WHY? When you find the Creep popping up in your life over and over again, it may be time to take a long, hard look at how you set boundaries.

What? You don’t set them? Of course, you do. But you may not be sticking to them. So why not? Maybe it’s because those conversations are uncomfortable for you. Really? What’s makes you feel worse… having to remind someone of the limits of what you originally agreed to, or having the Creep overtake, overcome, and overall overwhelm you? In my experience, it’s NOT speaking up that leads to sleepless nights, simmering resentment and big time frustration.

So how do we change? It just takes a little bit of practice, and your willingness to stick to your plan. Try this:

1.)   Know what you’re agreeing to in the first place. Exactly what are you being asked to do? Signing on for? What time/energy/effort will it require? Have the conversation. Ask the questions. Get the details you need. In business, it’s critical that this be captured in writing (another post on this later) but even in your personal life, when someone says ‘Let’s put on a show!’ before jumping in with both feet it’s wise to find out whether you’ll be the promoter, the stage sweeper or the Star!

2.)   Before saying ‘yes’, ask yourself: Is this something I really want, need, or have to do? Any or all of those can be valid reasons for saying ‘yes’, but please… take a breath, stop, and think before you speak. So many times we agree just because someone asks, or even because we think it’s expected of us. Remember, in the long run, it’s better to say ‘no’ up front than to spend your energy regretting the ‘yes.’  Or as a friend of mine puts it: ‘Just because someone throws you the ball, doesn’t mean you have to catch it1’

* A caveat to those who just can’t bring themselves to say the word ‘no’. Take some time, in advance, to practice a few ways of getting the same point across. The simplest can be saying ‘yes, but…’  Or try one of these:

‘I’d love to BUT I’m already committed…’

‘I’m flattered you asked, BUT I just can’t say yes

Or my personal favorite:

“I really hate to say ‘no’ but if I can’t give it the full attention it deserves, I rather say ‘no’ now than disappoint later…’

3.)  But let’s say your answer is YES… to the project, the committee, the volunteer board. Once you’ve agreed, it’s your job to watch out for your own best interests. When you spot the Creep advancing, notice it and do a quick check-in. If something new gets thrown into the mix, situations change, or when things start to pile on. STOP. CHECK IN with yourself. And LISTEN to how you respond. Are you keeping a clear limit? Holding your boundaries?  Gently (or using force when needed) reminding others of your original commitment? It not, it’s time, as I used to tell my three year old, to ‘Use your words.’

Knowing your limits will help stop the Creep it its tracks, and it’s really not hard to do once you set your mind to it. Believe me, in the overall scheme of things, it’s one of the most valuable skills you can have. Because after all, who enjoys hanging around a Creep anyway?

When have you encountered the Creep? How did you handle it? What worked for you? Or what do you wish you’d done differently? Inquiring minds want to know…and share!