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The 5-Minute Drawing Exercise That Will Improve Your Relationships

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 Learn How to Say “NO” and Still Feel Like a Good Person

Grab a pencil.

Picture this: Someone you love is "counting on you" to do something, but you really don't want to do it.

Do you do it or not? How do you say "no" and still feel like a good person?

It's all about knowing — and setting — healthy boundaries in your relationships, which you can do with the help of the Bullseye excercise.

The Bullseye exercise helps you set healthy boundaries in relationships by making a decision that is based on the degree of value you attribute to a particular relationship. This exercise represents a private description of your relationships and what they mean to you.

Imagine a set of circles, like a target, where the center circle is your most important relationships (spouse, kids, friends) and the outer circles represent ever decreasing levels of importance. Your decisions of how much you do with or for that person align with their place in your Bullseye circles.

The farther away a person is from the center, the less you go out of your way for them. You put less energy into pleasing them and do not work as hard to resolve disagreements.

Conversely, the closer to the Bullseye, the more energy and value you put into the relationship. 

Remember, family does not necessarily get preferential placement. The drawing is meant for your eyes only and therefore allows you to focus more easily on what you truly want regarding each relationship.


RELATED: 7 Signs You Have Unhealthy Boundaries (That Will Kill Even The Best Relationships)


The Bullseye prevents you from exhausting your resources — energy and time — by accepting every request. Without this guide, your decisions may come out of a sense of duty or loyalty rather than a sense of desire. These internal values sometimes result in doing an activity that you don't particularly want to do.

A blanket application of these values to the entire world leaves no time for yourself. We need some kind of decision-making plan for our balance. This results in healthy boundaries.

How do you know where to place someone?

Most people can easily decide who falls in what circle and how close or far that person is from the center. The person doing the exercise places themselves at the very center of the Bullseye.

If they are married and or have children at home, then they most likely place the "family" in the center as well.

My closest friends have demonstrated my value to them and their value to me — time and time again. Therefore, they are in my closest circle to the center, alongside my adult daughter.

The farther out from the center, the less effort or value we attribute to that relationship. People can come in and out of the circles, moving closer or farther away. It is up to the person who owns the Bullseye Exercise.

Here are some examples of using this exercise for setting boundaries with friends:

  • Your social group contains some friends that you are not as close to as others within the group. One of them puts pressure on you to do her a favor. She has not reciprocated in the past in terms of helping you. You might decide not to do that favor.
  • You are getting married and need to decide who will be in your wedding party. This is a great time to see where they are on your Bullseye circles.
  • A "friend” asks you to go drinking with them. You really don't want to because they drink too much and you end up taking care of them. You might be less inclined to join them because they are not one of your closest friends. Or you just don't have fun with that person when they get so drunk. You decline the invite.
  • Your circle of long-standing friends habitually go out drinking and spend the next day not much use to themselves or anyone else. You are getting tired of not feeling well over the weekend, so you start declining their invitations. Your true friends will understand that you no longer enjoy being hungover and that you do not judge their choice. You just don't like spending money on getting sick. However, don't be surprised if they don't like your decision. Often in the 30's the "gang" becomes divided between those who like getting drunk and those who no longer do.

RELATED: 3 Key Steps To Healthy Boundaries — And Healthy Relationships


Here are some examples of using this exercise to set boundaries with family:

  • You have a strained relationship with one of your parents. The parent always asks favors from you but never reciprocates and has a history of often letting you down. You might again decide to decline to do the favor.
  • Your in-laws across the country expect you to visit them for Christmas. You and your spouse had talked about going away for Christmas. Your mate struggles with standing up to them but wants to go on the trip you both planned. You and your spouse are in the center of each other's Bullseye, and this trip is important to you both. The Bullseye shows that the correct decision is to go on the planned trip because your circle is more important than the circle where the parents lie. You still must support your partner. What might help your mate speak to the parents more easily? Or could the two of you do it together?
  • Perhaps your in-laws have a key and come and enter your house as they please. They watch the kids often but will come to "visit" at most any time. This bothers you. In this case, it is very important that you and your spouse stand together. First of all, the in-laws need to give the key back if it bothers you. Your spouse, to support you in the Bullseye, needs to get the key and explain why, without making you the "bad guy".

Despite what you may feel, you are still a good person even though you have said "no" at times because you critically examined each situation, and included any extenuating circumstances.

Making decisions that come out of your more valued relationships is a healthy thing to do. Otherwise, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and you can give too much of yourself away, which is not healthy. Or you can feel that people take advantage of you and feel resentful.

There is a great example of taking care of your needs over someone else's when you fly someplace. One of the first things the flight attendants tell you is in case of an emergency you must use your oxygen mask FIRST before you help your child or someone else.

And it takes time and practice to learn a new skill. Setting boundaries is not an easy thing to learn.

Not all of your situations are going to be as black and white as the examples above. You are learning how to do something new, but also when to apply the new skill. Sometimes, circumstances may influence or even override the strict application of the Bullseye.

For example, with the Christmas trip, perhaps one of the parents is seriously ill and this may be the last time you will see them.

Applying the Bullseye Exercise will be uncomfortable at times, especially in the beginning, but also when people do not accept your boundaries graciously. Remember, the right people around you want you to have a healthy balance in your life. And you deserve it!


RELATED: 5 Healthy Relationship Boundaries That Actually Draw Men Closer To You


Susan Saint-Welch, LMFT is a marriage and family psychotherapist practicing in-person and online in California for over 20 years. She assists her clients in learning the life skills that are necessary for a healthy and fulfilling life. Her passion is teaching skills and concepts about life, relationships, dating and building a healthy self-esteem. You can contact Susan on her website Life and Relationships 101

This article was originally published at Life and Relationships 101. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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