They say TV rots the brain, but Maniac, a Netflix miniseries about magical brain-fixing pills, gave me a powerful self-advocacy statement just when I needed it:
“This doesn’t work for me”
The statement comes in the final episode of the series, when the mind-bending pills have finally transformed everyone into fully realized equisapiens — no wait, that’s a different movie. No spoilers here!
The point is that Annie uses this simple statement — “This doesn’t work for me” — to assert her boundaries clearly and politely.
I was struck at the time by how the statement offers no excuse or explanation. Nor does it leap ahead to pre-emptive compromise. She doesn’t add “Well if this doesn’t work for you then I could do this other thing that I don’t really want to do… but it’s no big deal… “
The statement is almost too simple!
Probably not useful in the real world.
Not long after I watched Maniac, in the midst of changing roles at work, I realized I was in a position that felt increasingly uncomfortable to me, with a timeline moving slower than I’d expected. I’d stated my desire for timeliness initially, but thinking that might be difficult to accomplish, I’d overshadowed this goal with accommodation.
There are times when these kinds of feelings belong in a draft email that you never send. This was not that time.
I sent a note to those in charge explaining the situation from my point of view, with a short bullet list of what didn’t work for me. Then I wrote “This doesn’t work for me. Could we do X on timeline Y?”
So we discussed a different timeline, adjusted the plan, and everything was fine. It was still a big deal. These changes took significant effort to sort out, work largely done by those at a higher level than me … but did I mention that everything was fine? More than fine, in fact, because voicing something important to me, and having others consider it important in return, strengthened our relationship.
One of the people involved told me afterwards that it was that statement “This doesn’t work for me” that got his attention. All that TV is finally paying off!