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Using Pickles to Develop Excellent Boundaries in Life + Business

Using Pickles to Develop Excellent Boundaries in Life + Business

So, we all have to deal with other people in a variety of ways. It is a fact of life and business. We want to be loving and generous, but we also really want people to respect our time and energy. Plenty of people have great boundaries and will be appropriate with you at every turn. But there are plenty more people who will ask you for really inappropriate amounts of your time, energy, money or stuff, leaving you confounded, frustrated and emotional. This is a terrible state of affairs for you business, your health, and the health of your business.

So, what do you do? It’s always uncomfortable to have to school people on how to be respectful. But unless you want to be a mess of seething rage, it’s really important to be super clear about where you end and others begin.

Recently I was talking this through with a client and I came up with a pickle scenario to illustrate this, and I decided that it was just too good (or at least too insane) not to share with you.

Honestly, I don’t ever really know if you will find me as charmingly eccentric as I find me, but either way, here you go.


Say you are eating a pickle. kid20eating20pickle_answer_5_xlarge

It is the last pickle from the pickle jar and it is outstanding. It is the best pickle you have ever eaten and you wish there were ten of them, but there is just this one and it is your favorite.

Your friend comes up to you and says, “Hey. That pickle looks really tasty. Can I have the rest of it?”

I know. It’s weird for someone to want the pickle right out of your mouth, right? But WHAT IF, you guys?


Do you feel obligated to share your pickle?

Aw man, I guess I have to give up the pickle because here I am hogging up the very last one like a selfish beast. Nice people share. I know this because I totally learned it in kindergarten and if I don’t share this pickle even though it is the love of my life, my friend might hate me. So

“I guess. Sure. Here you go.”

You hand over the pickle with a faux smile and feel fairly good about your martyrdom, at least until the seething rage sets in. You watch the pickle juice run down the ecstatic chin of your friend and think that would be a great place to put your fist. Smile.

Or, conversely,

Your friend asks you if they can have the rest of your pickle and you have had just about enough of everybody trying to take food right out of your goddamned mouth and you say, “HELL NO. GET OFF MY PICKLE, YO.”

Ok, so you might not say that exact thing because that would be silly, but so is the idea that someone would want your half eaten pickle. And I don’t get to write about pickles and turn them into innuendos every day so I totally said that.

Anyway, when you do that aggressive pickle defense maneuver your friend is mad and hurt. Maybe they don’t even want to be your friend anymore. At first you don’t even care because who needs a pickle poaching friend? NOT YOU. And you feel very self righteous until the shame sets in and you spend the next six days crying over internet memes and sending apologetic emails.

Pretty much, either scenario makes you feel like a horrible human and spending any time feeling like a horrible human is exhausting and a waste of your precious time. It’s the kind of thing that makes you immediately want to melt some cheese on something and gulp it down with a mason jar full of merlot. Am I right?

So here is a little prompt for what clear and kind boundary setting might look like:

Friend asks for pickle.

You: “No. I don’t want to give it to you. I love this pickle so much I’m going to eat it all myself. They sell them at the bodega down the street. You should go get yourself some. In fact, you should get us both some and we can eat pickles and watch Game of Thrones together.”

You don’t even have to add that last part where you invite more interaction. Unless you really want to. Or unless you need help keeping track of the twisted labyrinth that is Game of Thrones because good grief who doesn’t.

Darling, you are allowed to say no soley because wanting someone’s half eaten food is really weird.

You know what else is weird? Asking you to work for free, or on your day off (when you haven’t expressley invited this), or asking you to do or give anything you have already clearly stated that you don’t have or don’t want to give.

And sometimes saying no (especially to friends and clients) with clarity and efficacy and then carrying on without losing sleep, can be uncomfortable.

But the more you practice, the less awkward and infuriating it will be.


Questions? Need help figuring out how to set your boundaries so you don’t end up drained and compensating with food and other destructive behaviors?

Call me anytime on a Sunday and we can talk about it for hours!

Just kidding.

You should totally schedule an appointment with me and I will absolutely help you get your life and health in order because health coaching with me is awesome and so comprehensive it includes tools to ensure that all areas of your life are feeding rather than starving you. I would love to see you being wildly successful, happy and healthy. It’s what I do.   

See how that works?

It would also be cool if you write comments about pickles, Game of Thrones, or tell stories of how people have tried to trample your good boundaries and what you did about it so other people can learn from YOU.

Ok. So go ahead and carry on being brilliant now.

I adore you.





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23 Responses to Using Pickles to Develop Excellent Boundaries in Life + Business

  1. claire says:

    holy schmoly! The timing of this is perfect. I was in scenario 1 for a while n am starting to feel like scenario 2 will erupt soon – not about pickles but my time n work – and this pickle has highlighted the pickle I am in. I need to digest this pickle story now for a while n test the waters with balanced pickle scenario number 3.
    yipee n thank you

    • mworden says:

      Yay, Claire. I hear you. It’s hard not to want to help everyone, isn’t it? I think it comes down to how much we value ourselves and our time also. Keep me posted, k?

      • claire stone says:

        Thanks Meg – it’s a big old business pickle, and I need to figure out how much of my pickles I want to share – I’m not that clear on it at the moment. The simple fact is, in my pickle sharing, I feel I’ve gone from being the nutritionist to the admin person, which not how I intended to divvy up my pickle time!!

        • claire stone says:

          Meg, I now have pickle clarity; I’ve realised that sharing my pickles in the way that I have done, doesn’t build my business in anyway at all, so I am going to have to tell the other person that the pickle sharing will be stopping. I think I might use slightly different language though – if I start blabbing on about pickles, she might not quite get the point!

          • mworden says:

            This is excellent news, Claire. It always feels so liberating to have your needs met and have clear understandings with people. It also makes you come off as so much more professional! Good for you!

  2. Meg,

    That was AWESOME and totally useful and funny. Home run sister-sauce! Thanks a squillion.

    Adoring you,


    • mworden says:

      Thank you, Maleah! And I love that word “squillion”. So glad you are here. Seriously. Keep saying stuff to me, ok?

  3. Karen says:

    Thanks for this. I struggle all the time. I have friends that call and “need” me, and whether I have it to give or not I feel obligated to run to help them because that is what good friends do, right? When is it okay to say “Im sorry, I cant” when maybe you “could” but you know you would end up even more depleted that you are? Or when your body is just saying no? Do we always have to give selflessly and endlessly? I have a friend that is going through some serious heartbrake right now. I feel so terrible for her, truely. And Ive reached the point where I cringe when I see it is her calling. I would happily hand over my pickles! I am just running out of compassionate support and feel guilty for it.

    • mworden says:

      I am a firm believer that one of the most generous things we can do is to let the people in our lives know where our boundaries are so they know how to best love us.

      I mean, I really really want to know just how to best love my people. And when they are clear with me I feel so relieved.

      So I think we need to redefine “selflessly and endlessly” as something that feeds rather than depletes us.

      Sending big love to you and to your heartbroken friend. I’m so glad you are here. Thank you for reading. xo

  4. Tina says:

    Brill….as usual. xoxo

  5. Ann McMahon says:

    This is the most profound piece about pickles I have ever read. Thi Mithra Tao of pickledom. Cool. Thank you.

  6. Love pickles. Love GoT. Love this post. 🙂

    I’m getting better and better at setting and maintaining boundaries. The maintaining part is key. Too often, we psych ourselves up to set boundaries and they are good for a little while, but then someone discovers a chink which they widen into a gaping hole and pretty soon people are walking freely in and out … taking your pickles.

    When I’m setting boundaries, I imagine that I’m installing a moat around whatever it is I’m protecting – a deep moat … filled with alligators … possibly some of those nasty, little flesh-eating fish … spikes … and a few booby traps including a burning oil slick that I can ignite with a scented candle. (Lavender is nice, but I also have an Amber Saffron blend that gives the flames a lovely hint of autumn.)

    My point is that when you set your boundaries, you’ve got to be ready to defend them with a first line of defense and then other options for people who aren’t bright enough to pick up what you’re puttin’ down. 😉

    Thanks for this post. Really made my day. 🙂

    • mworden says:

      I have deep concerns about anyone in my life that doesn’t respond to fairly gentle straightforward boundary setting and try to move on from relationships that are relentlessly encroaching.

      Of course, there are people we are related to. And then we need all kinds of reinforcements. Ha. But I like to think that I have learned some of my best boundary setting skills from some of these loving “enmeshers”.

      Agree about defending the boundaries. Man, being present is work. But well worth the effort. I love hearing from you, Jamie. Thank you infinity for being here.

  7. Joanna says:

    Well said! Not only for the pickle reference but great tips too.

  8. Cindy says:

    Does this also count with firing your hairdresser because you hate the way she does your hair, but you still give her a 20 percent tip because you feel bad, but you come home every time and say, I hate the way she does my hair? Does this work on the same principle???

  9. Cindy says:

    P. S. I love pickles, and I NEVER share anything, well, almost never. But I never share desserts, and all my friends know it, but I would share with my dogs, but not chocolate . . .

  10. First off, food metaphors rock. Second, we all know the night is dark and full of terrors, so it’s always a good idea to strategize those boundaries ahead of time. Third, thank you for sharing this bit of wisdom with us. You are definitely the priestess of keeping us whole. Okay if I borrow this the next time I need to explain the concept of where/how to draw the line with a client?

    And omg only 3 more episodes left!

    • mworden says:

      Thanks Tea! So glad to hear from you here. And omg Im still on season 2 so NO SPOILERS, ok?

      And absolutely you may borrow this metaphor to splain stuff. Everyone needs to know this stuff.

      Big love to you.

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