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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has coached tens of thousands of people from over 87 countries to achieve happiness and success in their dating and love lives.
Once a nerdy, skinny professor of philosophical psychology who couldn’t hold a conversation to save his life, David is now director of Aura Transformation Corp., and a world renowned dating and life coach using therapeutic methods. Dr. Tian has been featured in international media, including AXN, Cosmopolitan, Psychology Today, as well as co-hosting a radio show on national radio and a weekly dating advice column in a national newspaper in Singapore. Formerly a professor at the National University of Singapore, Dr. Tian is actively researching, speaking, and publishing in the areas of philosophy and psychology.
The show, “Man Up: Masculinity for the Intelligent Man,” is David’s way of helping as many people as possible enjoy empowering and fulfilling lives, while contributing to the global understanding of masculinity in modern times. In the show, he takes your questions posed in The Man Up private Facebook group and answers based on his experience Coaching tens of thousands of students around the world for over a decade.
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How To Deal With People Who Overstep Your Boundaries
David Tian: Boom! In episode 63, I deal with the question of, how do you deal with people who overstep your boundaries?
Masculinity for the Intelligent Man. I am David Tian, Ph.D., and this is: Man Up!
Hey, it’s David Tian, Ph.D. and this is episode 63 of Man Up! I’m in beautiful Singapore and you can see it in the reflection. The sun is setting. Oh hey! You can see it! Check it out! Wait, you can’t see it now that I’m doing it like this. Aww… you can see it, just a little sliver of it. And, coming back… and I think you can see the sun just peeking out there in the clouds in the window behind me… reflection. Anyway, there you go.
Welcome to episode 63, question from Thomas in the private Facebook group which you should join to ask me your questions. This show is completely driven by your questions. So I love every question that’s asked. Okay, so Thomas’ question. “How does a masculine man address behavior that he disapproves of. For example, when someone is constantly late. I get that you give them approval when they aren’t late – okay good, ala Dale Carnegie – but if they are always late, you can’t give approval obviously. I can’t break up relationships just because of something so trivial but I can’t just let it go because it is dishonestletting them believe that it’s okay. Thanks in advance!”
Okay great! This is a good question. Now, it’s not just a question about lateness or tardiness. It’s a question about how do you communicate with people whose behavior you disapprove of but where the behavior isn’t so egregious that it’s just worth discontinuing the relationship completely. So how do you allow, how do you tell people this.
So Thomas is Asian. Although this is a problem all around the world… assertiveness. This is especially prevalent in certain cultures in Asia that are more – I would say – overly respectful of authority. And over respect of authority usually means that when you’re being raised. You’re raised to not speak up for yourself. And you’re raised not to speak back even if what you have to say is good and reasonable and rational and more… makes more sense.
This is one of the reasons why many universities, even up until now like let’s say, I can point out Mainland China as an example, have stunted academic development because there isn’t a culture of debate between the junior and senior faculty or graduate students and faculty where they don’t know how to politely disagree.
And this is a major problem. Just to give that a context, I’m in Singapore right now and it’s still a big problem here, though less so than in other places like Japan or places where there is a strict hierarchy. And I think that really stunts development and innovation. It served its purpose in feudal times. So if you want to keep the man down that’s one of the best ways to do it. Just train him from a young age not to speak back.
So here’s Thomas’ dilemma. He wants to voice his disapproval of certain behavior but he only knows two ways to go. Either he just accepts it and shuts his mouth OR he says “enough is enough and it’s over”. Alright, so you can see that this is… this dynamic of extremes, either say nothing or completely go berserk and cut it off is the main way that Asian men deal with conflict.
So when I first moved to Singapore – a great example – in 2008, I saw this in the nightclubs where there’s behavior that the guys in the club don’t like, I saw this also in China, Japan and Korea on the part of locals against expats especially white men. And they just held it in because they didn’t have a discord, they weren’t trained. They didn’t have a vocabulary… communication style to voice that out effectively.
So they just hold it in, hold it in for hours, like 2, 3 or 4 hours until they’re drunk enough that they lose their inhibitions and they just go berserk and start throwing beer bottles at the guys. And it just gets physical. I know both sides, so the Westerners they’re like taking it back “whoa, what’s going on man!” and then later they would ask me, “What was that all about?” I’m like, man, you didn’t see the signs that were basically really subtle, of like the guys like you know but they didn’t say anything.
Because of that, the Westerners didn’t pick it up because they expect that if you have a problem, you will speak up. And this is true in business it’s true in a lot of things. You can’t expect other people to read your mind and if you do, you’re fucked. Welcome to the twenty-first century. You have to be able to communicate your thoughts and to go out and get what you want, to assert yourself. Or if you wait for the world to give it to you, it won’t.
So that being the broad spectrum or the bigger picture, let’s get into the specific example of tardiness. I am always late. I think, I mean this is a…psychological speaking, I think it’s in a humorous way you could say that that I’m over-optimistic about time. Another thing is it’s about priorities, that’s partly true. And another thing is being over-optimistic about time is I schedule too many things in. Hence these videos are always getting made really late in the day and often gets pushed, pushed, pushed back until I absolutely have to do them.
So I get it, man. Here’s the deal, you say it’s trivial which is interesting because it doesn’t seem to be trivial to you given your language and that question. But that’s good. That’s a good start. So you’ve decided that based on your set of values, which is the first step, you have to know what you’re willing to stand for.
This for you is not a complete deal breaker but it’s just something you don’t want to have in your life. Now, if you continue to get, if this person continues to be late for years, the question then is will you still want to have a relationship with them. So let me work through the process with Thomas here. So if that’s the case, if you’re willing to put up with it for years, then you have to accept it and just not struggle with it.
So you’ll find this in relationships with women like if in you’re a girlfriend-boyfriend relationship, there are always going to be some things that you would prefer she didn’t do. Same with the girls. Women, there are some things you’d prefer your boyfriend didn’t do. But you can’t be the person who’s trying to change them. You can’t be “I’ll stay in this relationship as long as you change this”. That’s horrible.
The same for the guys, right? You need to be in a relationship with somebody whose flaws you can accept. Probably at the beginning of the relationship, those flaws will seem endearing to you.
Because when you get into the relationship, the honeymoon stage, everything is just awesome for you. But eventually those things that attracted you the most, the most idiosyncratic things about her will become the most annoying things about her that you wish she wouldn’t be so extreme on. And it will start to gnaw away you and bug you and then you have to choose.
Like are you going to be the more evolved mature person and commit to this relationship or are you going to be the immature person who is always going to be looking for that perfect ice cream flavor – which does not exist. Perfection does not exist. So you have to accept that.
Thomas, how much do you like this person or your friend – I don’t think it’s a girlfriend – are you willing to put up with the fact that this friend of yours is going to be chronically late for the rest of his life. Despite his good intentions. And if the answer to that is yes you are willing to put up with that, then fucking put up with it and that’s part of the cost of having this person in your life. If you’re not willing to put up with it, you have to set parameters. Maybe three warnings. Five warnings at the most something like that but at a certain point you say I really can’t accept this. But you must give warnings.
So now we’re into the communication. Those are the rules, here’s the communication. So for everyone… and this is going to seem weird because all of my current peer group now, we don’t need to talk about this, so they’re going to think this is really funny but I have to remind you and everyone else, most people in the world – not just Asia – don’t know how to assert themselves in a calm controlled polite manner.
So look, your friend shows up, you just have to say, so that they can see in your eyes and through your voice that you mean business. And you just say it. Just be honest. Honesty is the cornerstone of attraction, sincerity is everything. If you don’t have sincerity or honesty or authenticity, nobody will respond well to you. So just get used to being authentic.
So, he shows up late… again. And say, “dude, this is the third time you’ve been late. It’s a personal thing for me. Explain your reasons. It’s not for me so whatever your reasons are for why it’s unacceptable.” Don’t get too detailed. Just say, “You know it’s because for me when you’re late, it makes me feel ‘xyz’. Because I think ‘abc’. And just so you know, every time you do this you make me feel this way.” And let that sit, okay? And that person would probably come back and say “Those ‘abc’ things you’re thinking, they are not true! I don’t disrespect your time. I’m not de-prioritizing”. I’m not…Expect that to come back.
The fact that you had this discussion is the only point. Don’t get into an argument about it. It’s about your feelings. About how you feel and you’ve come to this…you’ve decided on your own values. And you have to, as a mature intelligent adult, get used to interacting with people whose views you disagree with. That’s just a mark of an intelligent person… an educated person.
That you will have disagreements with people. In fact, as a professional philosopher or professional philosophers, we disagree with each other for a living. In fact, if you didn’t have a disagreement with other philosophers, you didn’t have a living. There’s no point of you being there. The whole point of you is having a job is to argue a point of view. That’s something that’s really great! I’m happy to… I mean debate is awesome. I love debating. It’s fun. Probably why I became a professor of Philosophy. So get used to that. Just get used to civilly – is that a word? –politely disagreeing with people.
Damn it! Went to 10 minutes again!
So Thomas, there you go. The next time that person is late, you say, “This is the second time… strike two! Three strikes man. I’m serious. Dude – do you believe me – I am serious! You’re making me feel this way. I don’t like that”. And then you should even tell stories about how… you know… not like after that. Because it’s going to sound like a threat.
But just pepper them throughout…and this is something that should just be normal for you, you should just pepper… be free to liberally say to people stories of when other people, other friends fucked you over or went against your values or were disrespectful of you and while you still kind of loved them as friends, you can’t have them around in your life so you’ve stopped seeing them. You give a story like that in the course of that 3-hour conversation with your buddy.
He’s going to start to get it. That when you say “I mean business and I can’t stand this anymore”, he’s going to remember that when you say things like that, you follow through.
By the way, this is what you should do with your girlfriends. Umm… or with your boyfriends. If you want them to respect your boundaries, you need to start telling them the stories, real life examples, of when other people overstep your boundaries and you stepped down and you, either you… and you got yours, right?And so they all realize you mean business. And this is something you shouldn’t have to contrive.
It should just be something that you naturally do. So you’re just… you know… explaining something about who you are and yourself, okay? That’s the most natural way to do it. Give him three strikes, show that you mean business. Alright? Just like that! Just like “dude, you realize” okay, in a straight, you’re not like laughing, you’re not smiling, you’re not trying to make it less awkward or uncomfortable. You sit with the discomfort that he is feeling, alright, the other person’s feeling so they know that you mean business, okay? Just like a loving father scolding this child. Okay, same deal.
Okay! I kind of fear for this Asian men who can’t assert themselves what they’re going to be like as dads. Probably like… similar… the stereotype… it’s about like… that would be awful. A whole generation scarred again. But there you go. Be comfortable disagreeing. Be comfortable asserting. Be comfortable meaning business.
Okay? And this will work in business. It will work in professional life, in your personal life, your social life, your family life… all through your life because you’ll always need to assert your boundaries. And then, like I said with the stories, do it naturally. So it’s not just a sudden… he’s suddenly coming out of nowhere you telling him that you don’t want to put up with this, right? So there you go. It should be congruent all through your life.
Thirteen minutes. Way over my time. And this is like a discipline too, I’m late in stopping. Alright, so, Man Up comes to the Facebook group. Join the private Facebook group, just click and join. We receive requests every day, we approve them every day and I will see you inside the private Facebook group. Until then, Man Up!