DTD Episode 28 Show Notes
5 Keys to a Life of Healthy Boundaries
Tools to use in Leadership and Life
What do you want, need or desire from your relationships? Do you ever ask yourself this question? Boundaries are rules of engagement for your relationship. If you are doing all of the modifying and all of the sucking it up without speaking up you will build up resentments with the people in your work and life. You will also tend to attract people who don’t like to respect boundaries. You want a say in how your relationships work. People who are more passive in life, in particular, often forget to put themselves into the equation of the relationship. They become so focused on meeting the other person’s needs or fixing their next catastrophe that they forget to consider their own feelings, wants and needs.
1. Create the Boundary: If you had your way, what variables would you like to change in your relationships? Whether it’s work or life it’s time to take an inventory.
Here are some common places to look:
- Respect My Time: be on time or let me know ahead of time that you will be late
- Give Me More Notice: are you tired of putting out fires for a person who is constantly coming to you last minute to help with a project or fill out a form? Whether it’s a child or a co-worker, stop and think what you need in this area.
- Watch Your Tone: whether it’s sarcasm, a condescending attitude or a too loud volume, teach people how you would like to be spoken to.
- Behave Appropriately: is it a co-worker telling off color jokes or a colleague drinking too much at the company picnic? Perhaps it’s a family member during a holiday meal.
2. Consequence is Key: humans need a catalyst to generate change, it’s just the reality of things. So, while in some of your relationships the fact that you’ve taken the time to share your feelings will ignite a positive reaction, in many instances the people in your life will need a bit more motivation to heed your request. If they don’t comply with your request, what will you do? The consequence should be related to the boundary. Let’s go back through our original list:
- Respect My Time: I will wait 5 minutes and then start without you – or leave.
- Give Me More Notice: if you give me less than 2 days notice I will not be able to help you.
- Watch Your Tone of Voice: If you continue with a sarcastic tone I will end the conversation.
- Behave Appropriately: I will ask you to leave, or you will not be invited back, or you will be terminated, or you will be taken off the project.
3. Communicate the Boundary & Consequence: creating a boundary and consequence doesn’t help if you don’t communicate them to the effected party. Give them the opportunity to make the right choices. Too often we sit in silence as we build up resentments. I recommend communicating it as a request. You cannot demand that someone do anything differently from what they normally would. You can only share your feelings and ask. Calling it a request and asking puts you in a relaxed mode. Your non-verbal communication will portray the same. Your friend or colleague will feel more freedom to say yes or no. Ultimately they have final say whether you demand or request so might as well keep it low key and request.
Outline the consequence so that they are making an informed decision. Give them the opportunity to make a different choice. It’s often hard to act on the consequences we’ve outlined. Don’t give yourself an out by failing to communicate it. I see that one often. “Well, I didn’t really tell them that I’d leave if they were more than 15 minutes late. I’d feel bad leaving without telling them.
And you have final say in acting out the consequence. It’s okay if they continue to offend. You have the opportunity to enact the consequence that you’ve forewarned them about. They’ve been given notice and had the chance to comply.
4. Consider: I’m not trying to turn you into a dictator. If they are open to engaging in a healthy conversation, listen to your colleague, friend or family member. Are they willing to acknowledge their behavior and apologize? Are they understanding of your need to set boundaries and consequences? Are they able to hear and appreciate your point of view? Is it possibly a case where they misread the situation and had no idea that they were offending your or taking advantage? If this is the first time you’ve ever spoken up to someone it’s a possibility. Do they have an alternate idea for how to hold them accountable?
I once had a colleague share her story of frustration about her neighbor who constantly asked her to babysit. I asked what she had said to the neighbor. Low and behold she always told the neighbor she loved babysitting. Well, from her perspective, the neighbor had the best situation ever and had no idea that she was frustrating her friend. Don’t be that person! It’s a waste of time to share your thoughts with people not involved. Take the time to share your feelings with the person who can make a difference.
5. Carry Out the Consequence: Follow through on your word. Make the request, share the consequence and if they don’t comply follow through with the consequence. It will probably be hard but you must. So, tell them what you’ll do. Remember, this isn’t about punishment it’s about protecting yourself. It’s rude for someone to keep you waiting when they’ve done it consistently for years. Set the consequence that you’ll wait no more than 10 minutes and then you’re moving on without them. Leave without them once and you may see a sudden and dramatic change. Continue to accommodate the offensive behavior and they’ll have no reason to change.