Tuning Out Unwanted Messages (Episode 83)

With so many messages coming at us every day, how do we tune out the ones that aren’t helpful? And how do we sort through it all to figure out what’s useful and what’s not? Join host Kay Coughlin as she encourages all of us to consider this so we can live in a way that’s freeing.

As always, you can expect real talk with no judgment, no guilt and no pressure!

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Transcript of episode is below.

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Transcript: Tuning Out Unwanted Messages (Episode 83) 

Hi there. I’m your host, Kay Coughlin, and you are listening to From One Caregiver to Another. I am a life coach for family caregivers and sandwich family caregivers like me, who want to get some rest and feel less alone. I taught myself how to navigate all of my responsibilities and get into the mindset I need so that I can set boundaries, have self-compassion and prioritize myself. So that my needs get met, too. And that’s what I help my clients do. And if we can do it, I know it’s possible for you too.

This is episode 83.

This episode of the podcast was actually inspired by a string of email messages that I’ve been getting lately from this spammy sales person. Over the weekend, this guy, and yes, it is a guy, sent me the last, in I’m assuming it was a canned set of messages, but the last one said something like, “this is your last chance to get my help and and if not, well, good luck to you.” You know, that’s not just rude and disrespectful selling, but it’s also not helpful. That’s not helpful to me at all. The attitude is not helpful. Well, it’s sort of helpful. I know that I don’t want to work with that salesman or that company, but in general terms, that’s not, there’s nothing I can use in that.

That’s not a message that I need to hear or want to hear. Plus it’s a nasty message.

So I do have a boundary about messages like that and it’s that, I’m just, I’m not going to read them and I delete them without reading them. I only respond to people who are respectful to me. That’s my boundary. You can have that boundary too, if you want.

This is at core, it’s a boundary about the messages that you are willing to listen to and about which messages take up space in your head. And it’s not just email. This is anything that you listen to or read or conversations that you have with people. You can have this boundary about anything.

So, I had this episode outlined and yesterday I was telling my 15-year-old son about what I was going to be talking about today on the podcast. And by the way, I was telling him because he asked, I never just talk to my kids about what I’m doing in my business. Ok, sometimes I talk to them, but never in detail unless they ask. So, I do realize how amazing that is that my 15-year-old son really is interested and I’m telling you, he wasn’t just being polite. He really is interested. So, I appreciate that about him and about our relationship.

Anyway, he asked me about his episode and I told him that the title of this was going to be “Tuning out messages you don’t want.” And he said, “well, what about people who refuse to listen to things that could help them or people who block out messages and then people who do harm to other people because they blocked out those messages?”

Well, my immediate response to him yesterday was, “oh, that’s not what I mean at all.” But I had some time to think about it. I’m really glad that he gave me that feedback about what he thought about this topic, because I realized it’s not up to me to decide that for you. Maybe for you, it does mean that you don’t want to listen to things that other people think are reasonable.

I mean, that’s up to you. That is what respecting boundaries means. The things that are right for you might not be the things that are right for me. We are different people. We have different lives and I’m here to tell you that the more I work with boundaries in my life and with my clients, I think that’s a beautiful thing, that we are different and we can live our lives in different ways.

This makes me think of, little bit more of a more ambiguous example of, again, it was another sales situation. Look, I own my own business. So I get a lot of people reaching out to me to sell different things.

Anyway, about a year ago, I finally agreed to take a sales call from a marketing company whose work I admired very much. I had even purchased some of their low-cost trainings and different programs like that. This company pursued me with a bunch of email requests for a call. And so I thought to myself, “why not? What could it hurt?” So, when we got on the phone, I could tell right away that this salesman had not bothered to learn anything about my business. That was bad enough. That’s not okay with me, but it does happen.

And so, we talked for a little bit and then this guy got tough with me. I don’t know where he learned this. Well, no, I’m pretty sure he was reading from a script. But this guy asked me to tell him what my annual revenues are. And I said to him, “my business is privately held. That’s not information that’s publicly available and I don’t want to give you that information.” And he got really angry with me. He actually scolded me about how I, as a businessperson, was never going to get ahead unless I was willing to bring in partners and pay for advice and share things like my revenues publicly. You know, and that was when I ended the call.

I didn’t get angry with him. I was angry. But I didn’t get angry with him. I didn’t think he was worth the trouble, actually. I told him that if he was ever willing to approach me again with thoughtful behavior and respect for my business decisions, that he would be more than welcome to contact me sometime in the future.

He had crossed a boundary. I said it before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t listen to disrespectful messages. I can listen to a lot, but I don’t listen to things that are disrespectful. Now this sales call, while it’s a really good example for the purpose of this podcast episode, it actually wasn’t that big of a deal for me.

I’ve kind of been keeping this story, you know, tucked in a pocket somewhere so that I can pull it out when I need to. I remember the story because it was pretty dramatic while it was going on. I mean, this guy was pretty shocking, some of the things that he said to me. But because I have this boundary about not listening to messages that are disrespectful, I have never once given myself any guilt over not engaging with this salesman in the way that he was demanding to me.

Looking back on it now, I think, “wow, that was an interesting encounter.” And I I’ve been able to use the story a couple of times in my business for different things. I’ve been able to use it as data. I didn’t let it affect me. I didn’t pour any emotional energy into trying to change that company or fix that company or, or even to yell at that guy.

I just have kind of tucked it away, tucked away the story for, for times when I can use it.  And that is what I hope for you. Instead of hoping for you that, like my son said, that I can convince you that you have to listen to reasonable things and that you aren’t allowed to do harm with with whatever messages you hear. I can’t do that for you.

So, here’s what I hope for you instead. I hope that when family members, doctors or colleagues or advertisers, or people on social media, whoever you run into, that, when they offer you any message at all, that you too can have the skill to be interested without being dragged into a discussion or some kind of emotional encounter that you don’t want.

So that you can hear these messages without giving them space in your mind or in your heart, if you don’t want to. And if it won’t serve your life in any positive way to have that stuff take up space in your head.

Here are some of the ways that I hope you will approach these unwanted messages. Messages that seem unhelpful to you, and maybe the ways that you can approach the messengers who send you these messages.

I hope for you that you’ll be able to have curiosity, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, quiet listening, quiet hearing. Maybe some gentleness and maybe some unconditional love. I hope that you can notice these messages coming into your life and just sort of let them go by you in ways that don’t affect you in a negative or a painful way.

That’s what I have taught myself to do. I haven’t always been like this. I used to get very drawn into dramatic, or big or manipulative messages, and I’ve just taught myself not to do that.

And I’ve got some cues that I pay attention to now, so that I can tell the difference between a message that maybe I can use in a helpful way, and something that just isn’t going to be helpful to me at all.

Now, a lot of this is about how I pay attention to that. I pay attention to how I feel when I hear a message or read a message, or see a message, whatever, if I feel any kind of hesitation or doubt, or if I feel alarmed. Or if I feel like somebody is not listening to me and I feel totally dismissed, those are pretty good cues for me.

So a lot of this for me really is about a gut reaction. I pay attention to that. Some other things that I pay attention to is, if I feel like I’m being manipulated. If I feel like someone is trying to get me to feel shame or blame or hate. If someone is saying something that questions my value as a human or my self-worth or another person’s value or self-worth, it’s probably not something I’m going to pay attention to.

If someone is trying to convince me that a group of people, any people are better than another group of people, like because of their gender or skin color or what have you. That’s a big red flag for me that it’s probably not a message that’s going to help. I also pay close attention to messages that are very judgmental. Or really things that seem to me, like they’re meant to keep me down or keep me in my place.

If somebody says to me, that’s just how things are. I know that’s not going to work for me. That’s one of my least favorite sayings in the world. If I feel like anything has a lack of integrity. Or maybe if something seems to me like it’s probably illegal or I think it should be illegal. Well, those are good signs for me.

Those are probably messages that aren’t going to be terribly helpful for me. And they’re probably not going to be useful for me.

If you have ways that you notice messages coming in, that you don’t want or don’t need. Please leave me a comment or go over to my Boundaries Community and leave a comment for me there, because I would love to hear how you notice messages coming in that aren’t helping you.

One of the things I want you to notice that I did not say is that I refuse to listen to things that I disagree with. I spend a lot of time interacting with messages that I disagree with. I learn a lot from that. I hope you can do that too. That you will still be willing to thoughtfully consume messages that you disagree with.

Now I do this on purpose because I want to continue to be more open-minded instead of rigid in my thinking. As I get older, I just don’t want to become more rigid. I very intentionally want to be able to understand more than one side of an issue, any issue, even the ones that I believe in strongly. I want to see more than one side of the story.

And I also want to be able to communicate well in ways that people who disagree with me might be able to hear from me. And I get that from studying and listening to and paying attention to messages that I actually don’t agree with.

I truly believe that when I treat these things I disagree with in a curious way, so in a way that a researcher might, that makes me wiser and more mature. Now that might not be true. I might not be becoming any wiser and more mature than I was yesterday or a year ago. So maybe it’s not actually happening, I don’t know, but it’s certainly a goal for myself. It’s important to me. And that’s the reason that I do continue to engage with things that I disagree with.

Sometimes I’ll even engage with things that are disrespectful, but I’m only going to do that if I can look at it from this curious kind of researcher perspective.

Before I go, let me just say to you that you, too, can set a boundary that you are just not going to spend any time believing messages that aren’t helpful to you. I actually think this is a little bit of a superpower kind of boundary, to be able to notice all of the messages coming from around you and be able to sort through them, to choose the ones that are right for your life.

Now I do hope that you won’t use this superpower boundary to cut people off or hurt people or spread lies and harmful information, but I can’t control what you do. That’s not the way life works. It’s always going to be up to you to listen to the messages that you want, and to decide not to interact with the messages that you don’t want. And then live your life in the way that feels right for you.

If you liked this episode, you have to go check out my monthly membership for family caregivers who want to get some rest and feel less alone. It’s the place for emotionally-safe community, brave self-development and always self-compassion. You can find a link to it in the show notes and on my website at Facilitator On Fire dot net. And that is Facilitator On Fire dot net. If you are looking to connect with me, the best place to find me is in my free Boundaries Community. And I would love to hear from you. I can’t wait to be with you again in the next episode, From One Caregiver to Another. 

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your guide

Kay Coughlin, CEO of Facilitator On Fire, is a business coach for the non-profit sector and social justice businesses. She is also well-known for being an advocate for family caregivers.

In every forum she can find, she shouts that it's OK for every human to earn a living, set and enforce boundaries around their bodies, thoughts, feelings and actions. You can join Kay's free, private online community to talk about boundaries here.

Kay also teaches about emotional labor, how to rest, and Human Giver Syndrome, and is the host of the "From One Caregiver to Another" podcast and author of "From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind."

Kay is well-known for her public speaking on boundaries and self-care. 

Facilitator on Fire is a subsidiary of Donor Relations Mindset LLC, which Kay founded in 2015. She lives with her husband and children in central Ohio, and is the primary caregiver for her own mother, who lives right next door. Kay can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Copyright 2024. All rights reserved, Julia Kay Coughlin and Facilitator On Fire.

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