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5 Ways GDPR Reminded Me About Our Choices as Chronic Warrior Workers

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On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect. A random topic for inspiration about chronic illness, I know, but as a consumer seeing all these emails about consent flood my inbox and as a business owner with chronic illness going about making my business compliant with the new regulations, I found myself getting quite miffed with the whole thing. I was feeling like “why should I have to do this?”

But then I started to shift my perspective and think about who the people are that I help in my business. They are people like me, like you, they are illness warrior-workers and they deserve choices. That’s all GDPR is really – express consent, real choices. When I thought about this idea I realized that I not only have to be legally compliant but I want to. I want my community to be people who choose to be there and know exactly what to expect.

That got me thinking. We didn’t choose to become illness warriors. We didn’t tick a box and consent to a lot of the stuff we have to deal with and sometimes that really sucks. But we do have other choices and sometimes we forget those choices are there. Sometimes they are difficult or we feel like we can’t, won’t ask for other choices because of obligation, guilt, embarrassment.

Life is difficult enough without being opted-in to a load of stuff you don’t want or need, so here are some reminders of the choices you have in your life and work life as a warrior-worker:

1. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Part of sorting out my email opt-ins was breaking down consent into smaller pieces and allowing people to only sign up for the parts they actually want. No lumping it all in together, no requiring an email if you want this thing. True consent, true choice. Are you getting true choice in your work-life as a warrior worker? Or are you trading off one thing for another like:

  • You get this flexibility or these hours but you have to deal with xyz (crappy thing) as a result.
  • You have a job, you don’t also get to have flexibility.
  • Everyone doesn’t have to know about your illness, but then you won’t get any support from them.
  • You can have flexibility or you can have a promotion, you don’t get both.

Any of those feel familiar? Those aren’t true choice or true consent. If these are happening for you in your work-life this isn’t OK and you don’t have to stand for it.

2. Be careful who you let into your life’s inbox.

It’s easy to let your email inbox get fuller and fuller and suddenly realize 90 percent of it is no longer what you want to see. Life’s like that too. We opt in to things, events, responsibilities. We say yes once and then the assumption becomes yes to that thing or person every time.

What are you opted-in to in your life right now that:

  • was fine at the time but things have changed
  • was something you needed that you don’t anymore
  • has gradually become a much bigger use of time or energy than it was meant to
  • you are saying yes to out of obligation or guilt
  • you are saying yes to because of fear of missing out
  • you don’t actually remember agreeing to at all (or you know you didn’t agree to)
  • if you were honest isn’t serving your best interests at this time

3. Make your unsubscribe clear and unambiguous.

It’s your life. You get to opt out and unsubscribe from the things that no longer serve you. You have choices. If it feels too big to look at all of it just choose one that is happening right now or that is looming on the horizon making you feel exhausted or sick to your stomach and nip it in the bud politely but firmly.

Decide exactly what to say, choose how to deliver it best to ensure it’s understood and not argued with (maybe an email or letter or text if face to face feels too hard) and then do it. Hold your ground, don’t agree to lesser options, just say no. Oh… and you don’t owe any explanations either, “no” is a complete answer all on its own. Thank them for the invite/opportunity/asking but… I can’t commit to this, I have to say no.

It may be hard, but once you rip off the band-aid, it will feel amazing.

4. Check people’s Terms and Conditions.

Well… people don’t come with written terms but they come with agendas and ideas and their own concerns and outlooks. And everything you agree to will come with its own terms, you just might not have thought about it. They may not be legal but they can feel pretty binding once you are stuck in that situation struggling to find a way out.

When deciding whether to opt in to something think about some of these things before committing:

  • What am I getting out of this? If you are struggling to see what you get (apart from goodwill and feel-good factor) maybe you can negotiate. Perhaps you can agree to this and they help you with something else in return? (Life is a balance make sure people aren’t just taking from you without giving something in return – what do you need help with too?)
  • Is this a one-off or time-limited thing? Make it clear this is not something you can commit to longer than first agreed. If it’s time-limited then ask for the date in writing, ask them to make sure they have other plans in place for later, pop a note in your diary to remind them to make other plans a month/few weeks before to make it clear you intend to stick to your plans.
  • What is really involved? Do I really have all the information to make an informed decision? If no, ask for it. Say you want to seriously consider their offer but want to make sure you can definitely commit. Ask for more information and details.
  • Why are they asking? And why are the asking me? This is a really cynical question but if there is a red flag being raised in your gut, it’s worth giving a moment’s thought to (without going down the rabbit hole of paranoia!). Is there a reason/motive they aren’t saying out loud? This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, it may actually be in your favor. Maybe they are giving you more responsibility because they are feeling you out for a promotion or other opportunity, maybe they are asking you because they’ve been impressed with something you did. But is one of the reasons because they think you can be pushed around? Do a little digging, talk to some people who’ve been involved in this before, and listen to your gut. If it feels “off” it probably isn’t a good fit.

5. Give yourself the space to choose.

The thing about some of the above points is, you need time to consider. You can’t think about someone’s motives, or what’s really involved or whether it’s really what you want or can manage in a split-second decision. Most people can’t, and you have more to consider than most, you have your health to think about.

So, do yourself a favor and stop agreeing to things on the spot. I use a little habit to give me breathing space, I use it in my personal life, I use it in work and I used it all the time in my previous career.

It started out as a “holding email” – a way to acknowledge someone’s request, ensure they know it’s been read and give them some expectation of when to expect an answer. It started out as an email straight away same day to that person letting them know I would get back to them by x day. Then into a folder marked respond x date. This kept people happy because although people nowadays expect instant acknowledgement they actually don’t expect an instant answer most of the time. It also kept me organized and made sure I kept my promises.

Feel free to use the email example in your own work but you could also start using a “holding-phrase” in your day to day life. It could be something really light-hearted like: “That sounds interesting/fun/great, but you know I have the memory of a goldfish, let me check my diary and commitments first and I’ll let you know… (insert day). I’ll set myself a reminder now to do that (get phone out pop in a reminder).”

This not only respects the person’s time and shows you have committed to making a decision by a certain day but it also takes the pressure off you to make a choice then and there. You avoid:

  • making an in-the-moment choice you later regret
  • double booking yourself or putting far more than you can cope with on the one day/week
  • letting people down by having to cancel later
  • making choices based on guilt
  • making less than truthful on-the-spot excuses to say no

As warriors we often have things to deal with that we didn’t choose, but as human beings we still have free-will.

We can choose all the other stuff, what we will and don’t accept in our life, so commit today to making some excellent choices that bring you joy.

You can join my free community on Facebook at the link in my profile. Just click on my name.

Stay classy warrior workers!

Getty Image by MangoStar_Studio

Originally published: May 27, 2018
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