Setting Boundaries

Posted on: 10. März 2010

Setting Boundaries

Has anyone ever spoken to you in an inappropriate manner? Often people are caught off guard and are not prepared to handle these challenging situations. But, as a leader, whenever you are in a situation that’s uncomfortable, it’s imperative that you speak up; the person needs to know that the behavior is inappropriate and
that you will not tolerate it. Being a leader means that you expect the best of those around you and you hold
them to the higher standard.

When you say nothing, the impact is great – to both you and to everyone else in your company. Saying nothing sends the message that the behavior is acceptable and the person is more likely to repeat it. Others may interpret this to mean that it’s okay to act in that way. Saying nothing can also leave you feeling victimized.

Learning to assert yourself in a way that gets your point across with grace and style is part of becoming a strong leader; it takes some tools, a little practice and a lot of courage. Becoming assertive will build your leadership muscles and foster self-respect as well as decrease your level of stress.

What Are Personal Boundaries?
Personal boundaries are the limits you set for how others may act or speak in your presence. They are lines you draw that define yourself. They are not walls to shut people out, but rather limits that keep the unwanted behaviors of others from entering your space. Boundaries are essential for personal health. They act as filters, permitting what’s acceptable into your life and keeping other elements out. Your boundaries are about what others may do to you or in your presence.

Whatever offenders do, you must remember that it’s not personal; it’s not about you even though it feels personal. Another person’s behavior is always about him or her and what thoughts s/he harbors in his mind. For example, if someone raises her voice, swears or speaks down to you, she may want power; she may need to be heard; she may want attention; whatever the reason, it’s about her.

Identify Your Boundaries
First you’ll need to identify your boundaries. Ask yourself how you want to be spoken to and how you want to be treated. What behaviors are acceptable? What behaviors are marginally acceptable?

Consider how parents do this with their children in order to socialize them and to help them grow. Yet, rarely do people leave childhood feeling they know exactly how to get their needs met and how to stop people from hurting them. Our parents do the best they can; as adults, we must pick up where they left off. We are responsible for how we experience life and for how we allow others to treat us.

Take notice of your feelings. Your feelings are your inner messengers, your inner guidance system. When a boundary is crossed, there is a definite physiological response. If someone’s comments or actions make you uncomfortable, notice how you react. Notice what part of your body reacts and acknowledge the feeling. Note what the person is doing or saying that is giving you this reaction and empower yourself by responding appropriately.

Express Your Boundaries
Once you are clear about your boundaries, you must educate people as to how to act in your presence. If you never tell anyone how to treat you, they will treat you in whatever way they choose. When you say nothing, you give your power away. It’s one thing to confide in a co-worker, “I don’t like the way he spoke to me,” and quite another to tell the person directly, “Please don’t speak to me in that tone.” When you assert your boundaries, you are telling others how you expect to be treated and you are respecting yourself.

You may become angry, frustrated or sad when a boundary is crossed. Don’t suppress your feelings; when you suppress your emotions, you only hurt yourself by increasing your stress and expending energy on keeping the feelings pent-up, which eventually can cause physical harm to your body. You also don’t want to react inappropriately to your emotions either.

As a leader, you need to learn to identify the source of the emotion, which is the other person’s actions and your permitting it in your space, and learn how to respond appropriately to get the results you want.

Enforce Your Boundaries
There are several ways to assert yourself and enforce your boundaries. Here are some tools for you to use:
· Inform by pointing out the behavior you find unacceptable. “Did you realize you were speaking very loudly?”
· Make a request. “Please do not raise your voice to me.”
· Give instructions. “I need for you to lower your voice.”
· Warn the person. “You may not speak to me in that tone.”
· Make a demand. “Stop it! I demand you stop yelling at me right now!”
· Leave. “What you are doing is unacceptable to me. I am willing to work it out with you when you are able to be reasonable. I must leave now to protect myself.”

Being a leader means demanding excellence of others – asking for and expecting others to do and to be their best. When they miss the mark, you need to bring it to their attention. When you assert yourself and point out inappropriate behavior, you demonstrate leadership, exhibit self-respect and become a role model for others.


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