This week I’ve been aware of how often people have weak boundaries, or really no boundaries at all.
Do you say “yes” to requests others make of you when you would really rather decline? (Are you “shoulding” on yourself?)
Do you make decisions based on how others will feel, neglecting your own feelings?
Do you give the feelings/schedules/desires of others priority over your own?
Make the decision to take responsibility for your boundaries.
When our boundaries are weak, we often are tempted to blame others for the things we are tolerating. The things we tolerate drain our energy and create general unhappiness.
Here are 8 tips that will help you with setting strong boundaries.
1. No amount of saying “yes” will gain you more respect than saying “no”.
People pleasers often say “yes” because they want to be thought of as ‘nice’ and they do not want to experience conflict.
The truth is you can have strong boundaries, learn to say “no”, and still be a nice person!
The bonus is that in addition to being nice you will also be respected.
2. Start with just one thing.
I once had a client that was a youth counselor who absolutely loved his job and the kids he counseled. They loved him too, and proved it by calling him at all hours of the day and night. He always took their calls because he felt he should “be there” for them. He complained that this was destroying his relationship with his wife. He had not eaten dinner without at least two phone call interruptions for years.
I asked him if he would be willing to set “office hours” and record a voice-mail saying that he would be back in the office the following day, and then let all calls after 5pm go to voice-mail.
He reluctantly agreed to try it for one week.
This might sound a bit dramatic, but he exclaimed that his life had completely changed. He began having lovely dinners and meaningful conversation with his family. He experienced more energy and less stress, and none of his “kids” complained, they just called back during office hours.
3. Learn to buy yourself some time.
You don’t always have to be ready with a quick answer. “I’ll think about this and get back to you tomorrow afternoon.”, or “I’ll be able to give you an answer next Monday.”
4. Be specific.
“I don’t take business calls after 5:00 pm, would you be willing to call me back tomorrow morning at 10:00am?”
5. You don’t need to defend your position or come up with a “valid” excuse.
“No, I won’t be able to attend.”
“No, I can’t help with that this time.”
6. When you set a boundary, it will be tested.
If you build a fence around the playground many of the children will go play right next to it, some of them will jump over it. When your boundary is tested it is your opportunity to be sure it is strong. Don’t back down, weak boundaries are useless. This is all part of the process.
7. Know what you will do when the boundary is tested.
If you decide not to take business calls after 5pm, how you will deal with it when that client calls after 5pm?
Will you just ignore the call? Let it go to voicemail? Answer the call and remind your client not to call you after 5pm? (Pro tip: You have technology on your side – Voicemail for the win here)
Decide on your response and then stick to it. You will also need to decide how to respond if the boundary gets tested repeatedly. (You may decide to not renew your contract with the client, etc.)
8. The world will not fall apart if you say “no”.
Seriously, whoever is requesting your help will more than likely just call the next person on their list. Life will go on.
People with strong boundaries have less stress and more space and emotional energy for the things that give them happiness.
Decide today that you will stop tolerating one thing that has been draining you of your energy. Set a boundary and stick to it, you may be surprised at how easy it can be.
Love & Magic,