I wanted to talk about boundaries this week.  I’ve talked about this topic before on some videos, but it came up again a lot in the last week.  I’ve had a few clients who are dealing with it.

And frankly, I’m dealing with it too.

It’s hard to set boundaries.  

Or at least that’s the story I often tell myself.  And a lot of people feel the same way. But it’s probably because of the way that a lot of people approach setting boundaries that makes it difficult.

A lot of people are either afraid to set boundaries because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings or risk annoying people.  And that happens because they’re setting boundaries in a way that comes from frustration, which may not get you the result you’re looking for.  

Or sometimes people set boundaries in a way that tries to control other people, whether they know it or not.

So today, I want to talk a bit about what boundaries actually are, and then share some ways to effectively set boundaries at work that work

Let’s start with what boundaries actually are.  And you might be surprised because they might not be what you think they are.

Many people think that boundaries are about what YOU ask OTHER PEOPLE to do or not do.  Right? It’s about controlling other people’s behaviour.

Which is impossible first of all.  Controlling other people’s behaviour may work temporarily, but that’s the kind of thing that eventually causes backlash.

Wars start because people don’t want to be controlled. 

So it’s safe to say that people don’t love it when you try to control them.

But that doesn’t always stop us.  Particularly when it comes to boundaries.  And the main reason is when someone does something to us that is unpleasant or unacceptable, we think the best way to avoid this unpleasantness is for THEM to stop.

Please stop telling those types of jokes, they offend me

Please stop giving me this work last minute, it stresses me out

Please stop telling me what to do, it’s annoying.

Now, this might work for a bit, but ultimately people feel resentful and frustrated that they can’t do what they want to do.

So the best way to set boundaries is this… 

A BOUNDARY IS ABOUT BEING CLEAR ABOUT WHAT ACTION YOU WILL TAKE. Period.

You can be clear with yourself.  Or you can be clear with others. But it’s about knowing how you will act, or feel or think when a situation arises.

The only thing you can control when a situation arises is what YOU DO.  So be clear and do it.

Sometimes that means chatting with someone directly about what you will do if they behave a certain way.  And sometimes it means just taking action.

So let’s say you want to chat with someone about setting new boundaries. How do you do it?  Well in the podcast, I’ll share lots of examples. But the main framework is…

If you BLANK, I’m going to BLANK. 

The main thing to understand with this is you’re not trying to stop the other person from doing their thing.  You’re just telling them how you intend to react when they do that thing.  

You’re not blaming them for how you feel or how you show up. You’re taking accountability for yourself and simply giving them a head’s up on what you’re going to do, if or when they do the thing that’s crossing your line.

Now, as I said, that’s the essence of what you’ll communicate.  But if you walk around the office saying WELL IF YOU DO THIS I’M GOING TO DO THIS, it might sound like whining or even a threat.

It’s important to be selective on the boundaries that you’re setting, and to deliver the boundary in a way that can be heard.

I’ve got five things for you to think about that cover both of those things.  Make sure you listen to the podcast for lots of examples of how you can bring these ideas to life;

  1. TAKE THE EMOTION OUT OF IT
  2. ASSESS IF THIS IS A RANDOM ACT OR A REGULAR ONE
  3. GIVE PEOPLE THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT
  4. DON’T GOSSIP ABOUT IT
  5. DON’T BLUFF

Setting boundaries is an important element of creating a work environment that aligns with who you are and how you like to work.  If you’re not being treated is a way that is acceptable to you, first ask yourself what actions you have taken to create an ideal environment for yourself?

Or are you depending on others to do that for you?

Make sure you listen to the podcast for lots of great examples (and language) on how to set boundaries at work that work.  And leave me any questions or ideas in the comments below! 

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