Identifying Prickly People In Your Life

by | Jul 16, 2021

We are really good at running fast-paced lives. We fill our calendars with commitments and obligations. We can do it all. Meet all the deadlines, show up for all the people in our lives. We are really good at saying “yes”. 

In fact, “yes” is highly celebrated. 

We get promoted at work for saying “yes” to extra projects. We are viewed as loyal, responsible, and dependable when we meet the needs of others. Yet many times that three-letter word can leave us worn out and feeling overwhelmed. 

How is the word “yes” affecting your life? 

This month, we are talking about how to hug a cactus. In other words, how do we love those prickly people in our lives and do it well? One way that we can love them (and ourselves) well is to set boundaries. 

Whoa, wait. What?

You may be thinking, isn’t it selfish to set a boundary with someone you are supposed to love? Let’s ask a different question. What do you need to be the best version of yourself for them?  

I just took a flight from Texas to Arizona. Before take-off, the flight attendant covered the safety procedures and made sure to tell the passengers to “put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others”. Just as in an emergency, we can’t best love the people in our lives unless we take care of ourselves first.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:39 

People can be prickly, much like the needles of a cactus. Their actions, words, and behavior toward us can leave us wounded. Altering how we interact with them and owning our role in the relationship can change the impact they have on our lives. 

Relational Inventory

On the podcast this week, Dr. Mike Hattabaugh suggested that we take a relational inventory to determine which people in our lives take more than they give. 

We have designed a handout so you can take a relational inventory. You can download this chart below.. 

List all of the people in your life that you have relationships with on a regular basis. 

Put them into one of three columns: 

Column # 1. People that only take from me: 

  • The vast majority of the time I am giving to them and very little is given back to me. 

Column # 2.  People that give back to me 70/30: 

  • I give to them 70% of the time and they give to me 30% or around that. It may be 60/40 or even 50/50. The people in this column may include your kids, spouse, etc. 

Column # 3. People in your life that give you more than 70%: 

  • This may be a mentor, a friend that loves you no matter what, etc.. These people sacrifice for you when you can’t give anything in return. 

For most people who feel like they are surrounded by prickly people, their first column will be heavily weighted. We need a balance of people in our lives. 

After doing this relational inventory, if you find that you are out of balance in column #1, begin to stretch that “No” muscle. 

Controlling, prickly people go looking for people who can tolerate this behavior. As Dr. Hattabaugh mentioned in the podcast, it’s ok to love some people from a distance. Especially prickly people. We have to choose healthy relationships. 

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” Proverbs 22:3

If you haven’t already, be sure to listen to the conversation I had with Dr. Mike Hattabaugh on the podcast this week. He gives us some very practical ways that we can love others well while setting healthy boundaries.

Listen to our full podcast with Dr. Mike Hattabaugh on Apple HERE

Or select your favorite podcast platform HERE.

Dr. Mike Hattabaugh is a pastoral counselor who specializes in helping his clients improve their relationships and communication so that they can live joyful and purpose-filled lives. He has been counseling for 30 years as a Youth Pastor, Senior Pastor, and college Professor of Communication Studies. He has a B.A. in Communication, an M.Div. in Biblical Studies, and a Doctorate of Ministry.

He is available for in-person counseling sessions in Tucson, Arizona as well as for online coaching sessions. Connect with Dr. Mike Hattabaugh on Facebook HERE.

Reclaiming Healthy Boundaries Together,


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