Why are boundaries so important and why are they such a struggle?
First of all, having boundaries opens you up to the possibility of having to say no to someone. For some that can be a big deal. Secondly, if you have a boundary and someone oversteps it that means potentially having to have a difficult conversation with somebody. Again nobody’s favourite thing to do.
Boundaries are essential. Having boundaries leads to better relationships, both personal and professional.
- Boundaries promote respect
- Boundaries promote your wellbeing and protect your self esteem
- Boundaries give you a greater chance of success in your business as you will spend more time on profitable activities and less on people and things that drain your energy.
There are several area where people struggle with boundaries:
Putting themselves first
There’s an idea that in business the customer is king. Some people feel like their customers have them over a barrel because without customers they wouldn’t have a business.
All businesses have terms and conditions and processes by which they run and organise themselves. You wouldn’t walk into PC World and say “I’m going to take this 50” flat screen TV to watch the pay per view boxing match tonight and I’ll return it without the receipt in the morning” because it just wouldn’t wash.
Customers are important and how you treat them will determine whether they become long term or repeat clients, but most haven’t even thought about what they want. Putting yourself first can feel selfish and it’s often a habit to start with what others want / need / expect of you and try to make the best of that rather than start with what you truly want.
This can be to clients, suppliers, family and friends, you name it. No one wants to be the meanie pants or the rude person. Business owners certainly don’t want to turn away customers. It can be a habit to say “Yes” when what you really want to say is “No”. Not saying “No” can be counter productive. Ending up being overcommitted and over stretched to stuff that you don’t really want to do or that doesn’t get you closer to where you need to be can leave you financially poorer. Not being able to say “No” can mean you accept the less than favourable payment terms or even discounting because you’re worried about losing the custom altogether. Some money is better than no money, right?
Assuming boundaries exist to begin with
And forgetting to make them explicit! I had a conversation with a client recently who was feeling uncomfortable about how a client relationship had developed in an unexpected direction. In their words they realised that they hadn’t got a mandate for some of the stuff they were trying to work with their client on because they hadn’t had that conversation up front. You can save yourself from dealing with negative reactions, disappointment and frustration by managing expectations at the outset. Having a clear understanding and agreement of what will and won’t happen ensures everybody knows what to expect.
Basing boundaries on emotions
Allowing emotion rather than logic to dictate which boundaries you create and / or enforce can lead to angst. A different client wasn’t sure whether they were being unreasonable in their expectation of someone they were working with. Instead of discussing it, they worried about it and held back from having the conversation with their colleague. It stands to reason other people will have different priorities to you. That’s OK. What matters is having the agreement on how to handle the times when you disagree.
What to do for free vs what to be paid for
There are so many different opinions on this and it can be tricky to navigate. Offering to do things pro bono as part of strategy is one thing, being guilt tripped into it is another. Saying “Yes” to things can feel like the right thing to do but hinders your ability to grow your business. Growing your business isn’t selfish, it’s sensible. When all your bills are paid and you have headspace and energy to spare then if you wish, you can use that to offer your time and services for free. Until then, don’t feel obliged to. It’s not your duty to help others who are struggling. Or it could become you that’s struggling.
Having boundaries creates security
What people don’t always realise when it comes to boundaries is the safety they create. Uncertainty creates stress (errrr, hello global pandemic!). It’s an energy drain.
Lack of boundaries can lead to bad behaviour and bad decision making. Certainty takes that away and makes life lighter and easier. Creating boundaries benefits you and the people around you.
Need support developing or enforcing your boundaries? Why not book a Power Hour with me and we can work on some manageable next steps?