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How to communicate personal boundaries to a female friend (the first time)-- with Dr. Carole Robin





You've been sitting on it for a while now.


There's this thing that a close friend of yours does, and she does it every time you all get together. But you don't want to look like you're being dramatic or overly sensitive by bringing it up, so instead you stuff it down. You dilute it. You deny it. But at this point, you feel like you're ready to say something because the irritation, the anxiety, and sometimes the dread of hanging out has become too much to bear.


So what do you say, and how do you know if you are being too sensitive?


Here you'll find a transcript of our Friend Forward Podcast interview with Dr. Carole Robin, co-author of the book "Connect: Building Exceptional Relationships with Family, Friends, and Colleagues". In this conversation, Dr. Robin explains her concept "pinches and crunches" to help you differentiate between small and large conflicts and how to communicate them to your friends clearly, directly, and bravely.



NOTE: This is an excerpt from the Friend Forward Podcast interview (which is an excerpt from the FULL interview Danielle conducted with Dr. Robin for her upcoming book titled Fighting for our Friendships, which will be in bookstores in early 2024).


 


Danielle Bayard Jackson:

Dr. Robin is so wise, and today she's going to share about a concept she calls pinches and crunches. She illuminates us further in her book. I actually reached out to her to interview her for my book, Fighting for Our Friendships, which will be on bookstores near you in 2024. With her permission, I asked if I could share a clip of our interview with you today, because I know, I know it's going to add so much value to your life, and by extension transform your relationships.


In this concept, pinches and crunches, she outlines how to differentiate between big and small conflicts and how to determine when and how to speak up about each type appropriately so that you can maintain your friendship when healthy conflicts inevitably arise. If you've had a growing complaint lodged in your throat that you've been fighting to speak on, this episode is for you. Because not only will you learn how to address concerns with your friends in a loving way, but you'll finally understand why even doing it is worth the risk.


Dr. Carole Robin:

A pinch are those moments in a relationship, inevitable moments, they happen no matter how great your relationship is, where somebody does something that just... It just kind of annoys you a little bit, or disappoints you a little bit, or hurts a little bit, or... It's like one of those eh moments. They happen all the time.


Now, when somebody does something that... It can be very small. In the moment, because it's so small, we tend to not say anything. "I'm not going to make a big deal out of that. It's a little nothing." Sometimes that's the right thing to do. However, if you've done something that's annoying, mildly annoying, and I don't say anything, you're going to have no idea that I find that mildly annoying, so you're going to keep doing it. The more you do it, the bigger the pinch gets. Eventually, it gets so big that it's a crunch. Now it's no longer a question of just, "When you do this, sometimes it hurts my feelings," or, "When you do this, sometimes it makes me a little irritated." Now it's big. Now it's a crunch.



Now, in the book we talk about how we're equipped with two antennas. One antenna picks up what's going on for me, my internal signals. The other one is picking up what's going on for you. I'm trying to figure out... Those signals need to talk to each other if we're going to have reasonably good relationships. Your internal antenna is the one that tells you you have just felt a pinch. Ugh. Now, what you then have to decide is is it something I want to say something about.


You don't have to raise it the very first time it happens. But if by the third time the person's doing it you're still feeling it, and you're probably feeling a little bit more, it's time to raise it.


Dr. Carole Robin:

A lot of people say, "It's not worth it." This is in the book. Try substituting the pronoun it for I, you, or we. I'm not worth raising it. You're not worth raising it. We, our relationship is not worth raising it. Then, ask yourself again whether you want to raise it in service of the relationship.


Danielle Bayard Jackson:

I love that. You're having us reframe just the concept of conflict itself, so as opposed to keeping it to ourselves because we don't want to make it a big deal as something that can be seen as data, giving them data to let them know.


Dr. Carole Robin:

Exactly.


Danielle Bayard Jackson:

Here's the information. This is how I process that. I need to communicate that to you. The idea, especially if we're speaking here in the context of friendship, that ideally this person is hungry for that information so they know how to love you better.


Dr. Carole Robin:

Exactly. In fact, one of the mental models, these beliefs and assumptions that we hold, is that conflict damages relationships. As long as we're talking about reframing, sometimes conflict strengthens and deepens relationships. Because if I care enough about you and about our relationship to tell you that you're doing something that's problematic, that means I have to really care. Because I'm not going to be comfortable, so I'm invested in our relationship or I wouldn't bother, which is a way to receive when somebody tells you something that you're doing that's problematic for them.



Danielle Bayard Jackson:

That's such a powerful reframe, is to see the function of conflict. Healthy conflict in a relationship is really helpful. What do you say to the person who for them they're verbalizing every pinch? I know that for women, I'm generalizing here, but we tend to, for all those reasons you just listed, "I don't want to seem like I'm being difficult or that I'm sensitive." Or especially in a friendship, perhaps you feel like it's fragile and you don't want to test her by bringing it up. But for the woman who verbalizes every pinch, everything's a crunch, what are some insights for her?


Dr. Carole Robin:

Well, if I'm on the receiving end of a relationship like that, then I've got feedback for that friend. "Jane, I'm really happy that you feel free to share how you're feeling about just about anything on an ongoing basis. When you do that a lot, after a while, it becomes harder for me to hear and want to be there for you rather than easier. I start to feel..."



That's a problem with not addressing pinches when they're still at the pinch level. Once they become crunches... What you just said about people not thinking about it, holding it as too like... Same thing with the word feedback. When somebody says, "Can I give you some feedback?" What's the first thing you think? Here it comes. When you've got feedback for somebody else, it's like, "Oh, God. Do I really have to? How can I avoid it?" Well, that's because we hold this mental model that feedback's somehow, I'm talking about constructive feedback now, is going to somehow damage the relationship. Well, what if our mental model of feedback is it's data, and therefore it's a gift? I'm going to tell you something that you might not even realize. Then, we're going to talk about what to do about it.



Danielle Bayard Jackson:

So good. I mean, even all this conversation, you've used the word relationship several times, and that's what it's about. I think it's important to note here that this is... As we're having the conversation initially about pinches, and crunches, and feedback how important relationship is to provide context for addressing pinches and crunches and that emotional safety to do so and things like that.


Dr. Carole Robin:

I'm so glad you mentioned emotional safety, because one of the... If I'm too afraid to test how robust our relationship is, it's because I don't feel emotionally safe. But how do I ever find out whether I am if I never test it? That's why another really important concept in the book is this idea of 15%, the 15% rule. There's the comfort zone. You don't think twice about what you're going to say. There's the danger zone. In a million years you'd never say that. But there's this zone in the middle, which is the learning zone, that you have to step outside of your safety zone in order to learn anything, in order to grow in a relationship.


Dr. Carole Robin:

My students used to say, "But Carole, the minute I'm outside 15%, the minute I'm outside my comfort zone, how do I know I'm not in my danger zone? How do I know I'm only in the learning zone?" That's when we came up with think 15%, a little bit outside your comfort zone. It's like three circles. Little bit. Then, that safety zone circle becomes a little bigger, and then you can step 15% beyond that. You do it incrementally. You don't just blah.


Danielle Bayard Jackson:

That's so good. I mean, this is good stuff. Like I said, I read the book and it's so... I always say I work as a friendship coach and try to help women better relate to another, but I'm always surprised by how much I learn, and then it immediately helps me in my marriage. I'm seeing that it's because friendship really is at the heart of your romantic relationships as well. I know that this maybe was intended as a business book, but, yes, I see why you're getting emails from students praising you for giving them this information that is saving their personal relationships as well.


Dr. Carole Robin:

Now it's really cool. I'm getting LinkedIn invites saying, "I was walking through Barnes & Noble. I saw your book. It caught my eye. I bought it. And God, I wish I'd read it because I might still be with my girlfriend if I had."



Danielle Bayard Jackson:

Oh, man.





 

Danielle Bayard Jackson:

All right, ladies. As your new official friendship coach, here's your homework. Listen closely. I want you to identify a friend with whom you've had a recent pinch, but you've been too reluctant to say anything. I want you to outline the pros and cons of speaking up on this pinch. Then, I want you to really examine if the temporary discomfort might be worth the risk. No, we cannot guarantee the outcome. We can only control how we deliver it, how we package what we say, and the timing of what we say. But if you determine that the friendship is something you value and that the pinch is something that can totally be reconciled with a simple conversation, I encourage you to take that risk and hopefully see the benefits and the rewards on the other side.


If this is something that you need a little support with or you'd like to talk through your very personal situation, we would love to hear what's going on with you and talk to you through a personal one-on-one friendship coaching session.


You can book that at betterfemalefriendships.com/services. In the meantime, you know that we'll be right here rooting for you always on your ongoing journey toward better female friendships.


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