EnBooo Podcast

Episode 127 • Threats


Or else...

Give someone an ultimatum

It's my way or the highway

I'll give you to the count of three

You're not the boss of me!


Roger: Oh my go- What- What happened to the floor?
Mary: What I- I don’t know!
Roger: Well, I don’t care. Clean this up!
Mary: No, that’s disgusting. I don’t want to clean it up. Have somebody else clean it up.
Roger: Mary, clean it up or else…
Mary: Or else what? You’re going to tell my parents. I don’t care. Go ahead.
Roger: Mary, I already gave you an ultimatum the other day, remember? You need to listen to me and do what I tell you. It’s my way or the highway, Mary, okay? I’m going to ask you one last time – Clean- this -up. I’ll give you to the count of three… One, two…
Mary: You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not the boss of me!
Roger: Actually, Mary, I am your boss, you’ve been working at this restaurant for two months and I am going to fire you if you keep refusing to clean the floor.
Mary: Ugh, fine. I’ll clean it!


Or else...

'Mary, clean it up or else…'

• If you tell someone “or else”, are you warning them something good will happen to them if they do what they’re told or that something bad will happen to them if they don’t do what they’re told?

If you tell someone "Hey, do this or else...," you're warning them that something bad will happen if they don't listen to you.

• Do you need to complete the sentence after saying “or else…”?

No. I love this expression because it's a threat but you're not really saying what the threat is. It's not like, "Oh. Do this or else I'm going to get angry. Or else I'm not going to allow you to do this." It's just this vague threat of "or else" and you don't want to know what happens if you don't listen to me. No, you don't need to complete the sentence. I know it doesn't sound like a complete sentence, but in a way it is. If a kid hears it they know that they're being threatened. They don't know exactly what is going to happen to them if they don't listen, but they have this feeling that it's probably not going to be good.

• Have you ever threatened someone with the expression “or else…”?

I don't think I have. I mean, I haven't used this expression a lot. I don't have any kids, as you might know already. The few times that I've had to threaten, so to say, obviously it wasn't really a threat, but you know what I'm saying. Someone was when I was maybe babysitting someone. When I do make a threat I like to be very specific and I want it to be sort of a lesson for them to learn. I don't like to keep it vague. I usually tell them what will happen. I'll usually complete the sentence. "Hey, do this or else you don't get to eat." This sounds really bad. It's not like I'm depriving kids of food. I'm just thinking of times when I used to cook with the kids that I used to babysit. If they would start to make a mess on purpose, if they started to misbehave or something, then I would tell them something like, "Hey, don't do that. Be nice, be good, or else you're not going to have anything to eat afterwards." It wasn't really a threat. It was more like a consequence, I guess, of them misbehaving.

Give someone an ultimatum

'Mary, I already gave you an ultimatum the other day, remember?'

• If you give someone an ultimatum, are you giving them the last chance to do something or are you giving them unlimited opportunities to do something?

If you give someone an ultimatum, that means that you're giving them the last chance to do something. You've been asking this person to do something over and over again, they won't listen to you, so you have decided to give them an ultimatum. One last chance. If they don't do that then that's it. Whatever that may mean.

• What happens after an ultimatum has been given?

After you've given someone an ultimatum they have two options basically. They can either do what you've told them to do or what you've asked them to do, or they cannot listen to you. Usually, that entails some sort of negative consequence. I don't know. I'm just thinking like maybe a boyfriend and a girlfriend. I'm just saying that because I recently watched the show-- I think it's called The Ultimatum actually. It's a reality show. There were these couples, and basically one of the two people in the couple had given an ultimatum to the other person. The reason why they had given an ultimatum is because they wanted to get married. The ultimatum was "Either we get married or we break up." That was the negative consequence, but an ultimatum can entail all sorts of bad consequences.

• Have you ever given someone an ultimatum?

I don't like to give people ultimatums. I understand that you get to a point where you're so fed up, you're so frustrated that you want to let them know that this is their last chance to make things right, and so you might give them an ultimatum. I don't necessarily believe in ultimatums because I think if someone wants to make a change they're going to do it regardless of whether it's an ultimatum or not, or a simple request. I'm just thinking, again, if you're in a relationship, you ask someone to do something, they should listen to you if they love you, if your request is reasonable, but it shouldn't be a threat. An ultimatum, what makes them change. I'm not a big fan of ultimatums, and I don't think I've given any. The only one that I could think of actually is when I was with my ex and he had some serious mental issues that he didn't want to deal with. I gave him an ultimatum and I told him, "Listen. Either you start seeing a therapist or we break up," and we ended up breaking up because he didn't want to work on himself.

It's my way or the highway!

'You need to listen to me and do what I tell you. It’s my way or the highway, Mary, okay?'

• Is the expression it’s my way or the highway used to say the other person can do whatever they want or they have to do what you tell them to?

The expression it's my way or the highway is used to say that the person that you're saying this to has to do what you tell them to do. They have to listen to you. There's no other option. There's no compromise. They can't say anything to maybe find another solution. No, that is it. That is the only solution. That is the only possibility. It's just a nice little phrase that-- I'm not saying it's nice because it's not nice to tell someone it's my way or the highway, but it's often used by parents or people in authority, in general.

• How would you respond to someone telling you “It’s my way or the highway”?

In all honesty, not really well. I don't like to be told what to do at all by anyone. Literally anyone, whether it would be my mom, my boyfriend, my boss even. I don't like being told what to do. Having someone say to me "It's my way or the highway" where there's not even the remote possibility of finding a compromise or talking it out, I would not react well to that at all. I'd probably be like, "Well then, it's the highway for me," and, "Goodbye. See ya." It's just not something that I will respond to very well.

I'll give you to the count of three

'Clean- this -up. I’ll give you to the count of three… One, two…'

• If you give someone to the count of three to do something, do you want them to start doing that something as soon as possible or only after you’ve counted to three?

No. If you tell someone, "Hey, I'll give you to the count of three" and then you start counting, you want them to do whatever you're asking them to do as soon as possible; so immediately. Because then if you don't do whatever they're asking you to do before they've finished counting, that means that there's going to be consequences.

• Who uses this expression more often? Parents or their children?

It's obviously parents. It's very common. If you want to threaten the child, you want to tell them that they can't keep doing what they're doing, they got to listen to you, but you want to give them a little bit of time to come to the realization that they have to do what you've asked them to do, I think it's a good strategy. A lot of parents do it where they go, "I'm going to give you to the count of three. One, two, three, and then I'm going to throw away the toy or whatever."

• Why would you tell someone “I’ll give you to the count of three?”

Again, I think it's a matter of allowing your child a second, or three seconds in this case, to accept the fact that they need to stop doing what they're doing or they need to start doing something that you've asked them to do. Yes, I think it's okay to-- You can't just expect every time you tell your child to do something that they will do it. Sometimes it's okay to give them a bit more time to listen. Give them three seconds to be rebellious and then be like, "Okay. Now seriously, you got to listen to me."

You're not the boss of me!

'You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not the boss of me!'

• If you tell someone “You’re not the boss of me!”, are you telling them they can tell you what to do or that they can’t tell you what to do?

If you tell someone, "Hey, you're not the boss of me," you're telling them that they cannot tell you what to do. Uh-uh. No way. Absolutely not acceptable.

• Who is more likely to use this expression? Someone young and rebellious or someone older and mature?

This is definitely a common expression among little kids and people that are not really mature or, I guess, even an adult that says it in a fun way, but yes, it's usually associated with kids that are acting up. That are being told what to do and they don't want to do it. They might tell even their parents, "Hey, you're not the boss of me. You can't tell me what to do." Even though technically your parents are your bosses? I don't know.

• Have you ever said “You’re not the boss of me!” to someone?

Oh, heck yes. [chuckles] Only like every day to my boyfriend. No, not every day because I think he's learned, but as I was telling you earlier, I just hate being told what to do. Even if it's a little thing, I just want to be independent. I want to feel like I'm making my own choices. There have been a few instances where it was almost lunchtime and I would grab a bag of chips which, I know, not a smart thing to do, and my boyfriend would get upset because he maybe had plans to cook, he wanted to eat with me. I get it, all right? I get it. There have been times when half-jokingly, I should say, he would grab the bag of chips from my hand and I would just get so mad. One way or another I would tell him, "Hey, you're not the boss of me. If I want to eat a freaking bag of chips and finish the whole thing before lunchtime, I can do it. You're not the boss of me. I'm in control and I can do what I want." I understand this makes me sound like a terrible girlfriend. I promise you I have some really good qualities as a girlfriend as well. Yes, I just don't like being told what to do.

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