June 2012 Issue #28
Today’s Topic: Identify and Communicate Your Boundaries Part 2
I’m so excited to share my new website
and blog with you! Please see Shirley’s Update
below for all the details.
The topic of boundaries hit a chord for a few of you! Thanks for letting me know. I too have felt challenged to “walk my talk” on this subject over the past month. It takes courage to stand up for yourself!
Knowing our boundaries is one thing. Asserting them is another. Read on for some pointers on the second part of this equation.
Something to think about
Remember, when setting boundaries you cannot control another’s response or behaviour; you can only deliver the message with grace and love. -Cheryl Richardson
When enough is enough
When we become aware that we have a boundary and it has been crossed, we are faced with a choice. Will I tolerate/put up with the situation? Or will I take the next courageous step of asserting my boundary?
Some years ago I fired the fellow who regularly cleaned the gutters of our home. I was always happy with his work. However he rarely showed up the day he said he would – and he often failed to call before he came, despite my repeated requests and his agreement to do so. After awhile, I simply got tired of his failure to keep his word. So I let him go.
I didn’t enjoy doing this. However it was an empowering moment for me! Instead of putting up with and complaining about his failure to honour my requests – I took action.
Here’s the boundary I identified for myself around acceptable service: People generally show up when they say they will and they call first if I request it.
I soon found a company who always come when they say they will, who call first and who do an equally good job. No more hassles!
Maintaining your boundaries
Boundaries are those “invisible lines” that we draw around ourselves to protect ourselves from harm. They indicate what we will and won’t tolerate.
As this story illustrates, knowing and maintaining our boundaries can make life easier. The better boundaries we have, the more we are treated in a way that feels good and respectful to us.
The two aspects to maintaining your boundaries are: 1) identifying what your boundaries are and 2) communicating your boundaries to others. My last newsletter
addressed the first aspect. Today let’s talk about communicating your boundaries to others.
They won’t know if you don’t tell them
Every person’s boundaries are different. Your boundaries arise out of who you are -- your history, your family, your culture, your gender, etc. If you want others to respect your boundaries, you need to do your part by letting them know what they are.
Four powerful steps
You can take four escalating steps in asserting a boundary with others:
Tell the person about your boundary.
Ask clearly for what you want.
Inform them of the consequences if they continue.
Follow through on those consequences.
How it works
In illustrating each step, I’d like to use the recent example of a female client. When dealing with conflict situations, this client finds it very upsetting to be yelled at. She shared that she feels bullied and powerless when this occurs with her friend. She expressed a desire to assert a new boundary: People may not yell at me in anger.
Here’s how she planned to apply these four escalating steps to maintain her “no yelling” boundary with her friend. Imagine how you would apply these steps to a boundary that you are currently struggling with:
1) Inform: Tell the person about your boundary.
Example: “Something I’d like you to know is that I don’t like to be yelled at.”
The purpose is to give the person a heads-up regarding your boundary. This can be done gracefully and without charged emotion. This is NOT about shaming or punishing them. (You can even do this in advance, as a preventive measure.) For some people, simply informing them will be sufficient to have your boundary honoured. However if it isn’t, you can:
2) Request: Ask clearly for what you want.
Example: “I request that you lower your voice when you speak to me.”
You can soften an inform or a request by acknowledging that the person probably didn’t mean to offend you, they may not have realized the impact of their behaviour, etc. However you request that they stop. If they still don’t stop, you may need to repeat your request. If that isn’t effective, you can:
3) Warn: Let them know the consequences if they continue the behaviour which is violating your boundary.
Example: “If you don’t lower your voice, I will have to leave this conversation.”
You may need to repeat this warning and if it is still not responded to:
4) Act: Follow through on the consequences you’ve warned about.
Leave the conversation. Disengage.
When you follow through on the consequence you’ve laid out, do this without sarcasm or anger, to the best of your ability. Keep it clean and your tone neutral. (In the example, my client can reassure the person that she's happy to continue the conversation when they can do so without yelling at her.) While it may be challenging to keep your cool, it will make the situation easier if you can do so.
My client discovered that informing her friend of her boundary (Step 1) mostly handled the problem. Her friend hadn't realized the impact of her yelling. And when she slipped up, in the heat of the moment, a request from my client to lower her voice (Step 2) worked well. The subsequent steps were never needed. However my client knew that she had a strategy, should that ever be the case. She no longer felt powerless.
Don’t wait until you SNAP
We tend to lose our cool when we fail to stop someone from violating our boundary SOON ENOUGH. Our frustration builds until we SNAP. The more pro-active you can be about stopping a boundary violation in the early stages, the less likely you will be to blow up. If you fail to inform the other person about your boundary or make a request for a change in their behaviour, then blowing up at them is hardly fair.
Every situation and relationship is a little different and may require some individualized tailoring. There is more at stake with navigating boundaries with your spouse (someone you know and love) than with a telemarketer (a stranger). However both can be treated with respect, in the process of drawing a boundary. In fact, I use my conversations with telemarketers as training in holding a boundary respectfully!
Remember: You don’t need to be heavy-handed. A boundary should not be used as a weapon or punishment. The human being on the receiving end of your communication has feelings too --and is simply acting out of THEIR reality, often with no intention to offend or hurt you.
Be patient with yourself
Setting boundaries is a skill and it may take time (and courage!) to learn to do it masterfully. So be patient with yourself – and with others – as you all adjust. Any ground you take around maintaining your boundaries will have a widening impact. For in the process of honouring your own boundaries, you will also gain a new respect for the boundaries of others.
Invitation to action
Are you struggling with a boundary issue with someone? Identify your boundary. Then ask yourself: Have I informed this person about my boundary? If not, that’s the place to start. If they fail to respond positively, you may need to review the remaining 3 steps and formulate your request and possible consequence, to be used as needed. If you feel a lot of emotional charge about the situation, I recommend debriefing it with a trusted friend FIRST, so that you are able to be calm and constructive when you make your request.
I am thrilled to invite you to visit my new website at www.shirleyvollett.com
I now have a blog, which I warmly invite you to follow by visiting my site and clicking on the RSS button on the menu bar. I often read or hear of juicy articles, videos or resources and the blog is the perfect forum for getting those out to you. And it provides a wonderful way for me (and others) to hear from YOU. We all have wisdom to share.
Shirley Vollett BSW PCC is a Life and Relationship Coach, with over 20 years of combined experience in counselling and coaching. She delights in helping pro-active individuals make positive changes in their lives, their work/business and their relationships. Her clients appreciate her ability to listen deeply, her compassionate wisdom and her support in staying focused. Contact Shirley for a complimentary intro phone session. If you are experiencing a challenge or are eager to make some changes, explore how coaching works and how she can help. Click on a link below or visit her website at http://shirleyvollett.com