Not Sure What To Do When Requests Are Pointed Towards You? 3 Ways To Think Of It As A Game Of Basketball.

It has happened to all of us. Someone you know voices what sounds like a request to you. At times, however, the request is not directly said. Here are some examples:

  1. Your middle schooler runs down the stairs in lightning speed pace stating, “My project is due tomorrow and I forgot I needed X, Y, and Z.” Oh, and it is 8:30pm and you feel as if you have already run a marathon starting at 5am!
  2. The coworker that is assigned to work a project with you comes to your office “vent vomiting” how overwhelmed they are, their dog needs to go to the vet for the 32nnd time, and her in-laws unexpectedly came to stay with her starting tomorrow for two weeks.
  3. Hours and (literally) thousands of dollars were spent on attorneys during your divorce. Your coparent texts you shortly before they are to arrive at your child’s practice stating, “I do not know where Joey’s cleats are.”

Each Of These Can Be Uncomfortable Situations For A Multitude Of Reasons


The thing to note though is that each request was not explicitly stated to you. Often, we take on what is “thrown our way.” The challenge with this, although helpful, it can cause resentment as well as you are enabling the requester to not take ownership of their choices and needs. Taking on what is thrown to you may help you in some ways. I encourage you though, to think before catching, as it may not always be healthy.

Taking on others stress or problems frees them of their challenge but now it is absorbed into you. This may result in things such as increased stress, anxiety, sleep problems, irritability. If you are someone who has been working on your own boundaries and then something is unexpectedly thrown your way, it may shake you up. The thing to know is that this feeling is normal. Most of us do not like unexpected surprises (except of course perhaps you score a winning scratch off lottery ticket, or you go through a Starbucks and the car in front of you gifted you your order.) Before responding take a deep breathe. The power of that pause gifts you the time to get reconnected to yourself so you can offer a response that aligns with your needs.

Will that moment of you taking a deep breath for yourself be uncomfortable? It may be. Here is the thing I urge you to consider. Often when I explain this in session people agree taking the moment is uncomfortable. Another thing that is often said is, “that is hard to do.” No one has ever said to me “it is impossible.” Grant yourself to be uncomfortable for a moment versus potentially inviting hours, days, or months of feeling uncomfortable by allowing others to push your boundaries and you abandoning your self-commitments.

You may be asking yourself so how does the game of basketball fit into this concept of others stating a “possible”request?



Take a moment to think back to a time when someone stated an indirect request or vent your way. Once you have that experience recalled read the following options of things that can be done. Cannot think of one-off hand? No worries at all. Consider the work-related scenario explained above then.

    1.  The request was thrown out there towards You catch it and hold on to it. In other words, you take ownership of the problem. Consider the example with the coworker above. You hear the stress and overwhelm in her voice. Lots of thoughts may go through your mind. Thoughts such as: “I will help, I know the value of being a team player.” “Things in the office have felt off since the pandemic. I do not want to feel isolated.” “Yup, been there. I know that feeling remembering that your own company just left after a 2-weeek visit.”

You “catching” the indirect request takes the burden off them, avoids an uncomfortable situation for you, heck, it may even bring you a slew of verbal praise of thanks! The downside goes back to the possibility of increasing stress for yourself as you willing owned and took on the work. In addition, it teaches your co-worker you are potentially available in the future for the scenario to keep occurring, remember take the breath pause.

It provides time to think before you speak. Being a team player is a tremendous value but not when the cost is over burdening yourself.

    1. The indirect request/vent is thrown you way and you allow it to simply drop. Often this option triggers a moment of discomfort. Should the scenario play out as mentioned above the coworker has not made a direct ask. I completely understand, when amid an uncomfortable moment it can feel as if it is The powerful thing to remind yourself is that time is constantly moving. That moment will pass.

Allowing it to drop means you do not catch it. This makes sense because it was not a direct ask and even if it was asked of you, it may not be yours to own. This is the case in this work example. In the event the coworker asks you to take on their work the answer hopefully is simple. It is their work. Of course, there are unusual circumstances where it is appropriate to take on other tasks. I am not referring to those situations here.

An empathetic or validating response may be offered in such situations. Examples may include, “I hear how much is on your life plate right now.” or “I understand this project feels as if there is no ending to it.”

Letting it drops does not make you a rude or “bad” person. It does not make you a poor team player. What is does do is acknowledge the other person, normalize, or validates them and allow you to maintain your boundaries and respect for self.

    1. The coworker comes into your office stating the same stress they are experiencing, and you respectfully toss it back to them. Remember it is already theirs. Although potentially another uncomfortable moment you are doing such good emotional work for yourself in doing this. First, you are respecting your boundaries. If you are aware of your stress threshold you are protecting it here. If part of your life work is to stop rescuing others, stating your unavailability to help (or take over for them) is saying a huge yes to you. You owe it to yourself to take diligent care of yourself.

In politely tossing it back to them you are not in the way of them accomplishing and experiencing some goodness about themselves. Simply put, sometimes when you rescue or fix others’ problems, you potentially get in the way of their self-growth, building of their self- confidence, and being able to do their own problem solve. Additionally, you may end up taking on their emotions or doing the emotional work for them.

What does toss it back to them potentially look like? It may look like this, “I have seen you get the job done under pressure before and I have the upmost confidence you will do it again now.” It could also look like this, “What do you think you can do for yourself to make this situation more manageable?”

Choosing between honoring yourself and helping another can he a hard decision. Remember, it does not have to feel impossible. To better know what you need to do for yourself keep in mind things such as your boundaries, are you helping or hurting them, what may this do for our future relationship.

Need help with boundaries and assertiveness? Contact me today to schedule or phone 239-848-2022.