Most of us have had our personal boundaries violated. I have been asked in a job interview how much money my husband makes. The obvious answer was “None of your business.” Then there was the manager who patted my behind. Boundaries in relationships help all parties feel emotionally and physically safe. When we establish clear boundaries, we make it easier to know when to say no, yes or remain open and flexible. Boundaries help us be in integrity and align with our values.
Typical workplace values include competition, diversity, discipline, ethics and excellence. Typical family values include care, commitment, faith, feelings and home. As a leader, at work or home, when you maintain behavior appropriate rules (policies) and guidelines, you build trust, safety and a sense of belonging. Family meetings be helpful to discuss and establish family boundaries. After all, because of COVID-19, many more of us are working from home. At work we have meetings to discuss guidelines and doing the same at home can prevent conflict and stress.
Why Make Boundaries
Boundaries help us be in integrity and align with our values. Typical workplace values include competition, diversity, discipline, ethics and excellence. Typical family values include care, commitment, faith, feelings and home. As a leader, at work or home, when you maintain behavior appropriate rules (policies) and guidelines, you build trust, safety and a sense of belonging.
We can have personal boundaries such as choosing who we feel comfortable hugging. We can have coupleship boundaries such as always having a private bedroom, even on holiday with family members. We can have family boundaries such as not answering the phone during meal times. We can have workplace boundaries such as not interrupting the manager during certain meetings. Often times rules and guidelines help us maintain our boundaries.
Rules are established directives with clear consequences of violation. Guidelines are more flexible and are more like recommendations. Here are five ways to help build resilience in others through boundary awareness and maintenance.
During COVID-19 many physical boundaries have been established for gatherings, workplaces, and leisure environments. Fortunately at home we do not need these physical distancing measures. However, we may decide to establish some boundaries to protect private our home-based work space and me-time. Too much closeness can be just that, too much.
Five Ways to Make Clear Boundaries in Relationships
Here are five ways to help create and maintain clear and healthy boundaries:
ONE: Make Rules Clear
Clearly, articulate the rules (organization policies) and guidelines. Often stories best describe the importance of our rules and guidelines.
- At work, a rule might be, “The work day starts at 8:30 am. Tardiness is recorded.” A workplace guideline might be, “We value team work so we encourage asking for help from a co-worker before going to a manager.”
- At home, a family rule might be, “We value politeness so no swearing is allowed. If you swear, you will place a quarter into our Swear Jar.” A family guideline might be, “Rather than walking away when you feel angry, it is better to stay and talk about it. OK?”
TWO: Act Ethically
Keep your behavior appropriate to relationship roles, responsibilities, and power differentials.
- At work managers are wise to demonstrate friendly interest and support of employees without relying on them to be their friends. When leaders want guidance or feedback they are, most often, best to seek it from peers or higher management.
- At home parents need to be there for their children and, sometimes, be their children’s friend when all others have failed. Yet, it is important that parents not rely on their children to be their friends. One day a parent with clear boundaries (which includes following through on consequences to rules) will undoubtedly hear, “I hate you!” That would end must friendships while not the role of Mom or Dad.
THREE: Know What and Who You Value
Know and respect your own values. Look over the below list and decide which are your top 3 to 5 values:
acceptance * achievement * adventure * acknowledgement * animals * appreciation * art * balance * beauty * belonging * caring * challenge * change * children * comfort * compassion * competition * commitment * communication * control * cooperation * creativity * courage * dignity * discipline * diversity * economic security * education * emotional maturity * equality * enthusiasm * ethics * excellence * fame * faith * family * feelings * financial security * freedom * friendship * fun * generosity *gentleness * harmony * health * helping others * home * human rights * humor * humility * idealism * influence * integrity * intuition * joy * justice * kindness* law and order * listening * logic *loyalty * love * manners * modesty * money * music * mystery * native culture * native traditions * nature * nurturing * orderliness * passion * patience * peace * personal development * play * pleasure * power * prayer * prestige * privacy * recognition * reliability * resilience * respect * responsibility * reverence * risk taking * sacredness * seniors * sensitivity * sensuality * sex * sharing * silence * spirituality * sports and fitness * solitude * success * synergy * teamwork * tenderness * thinking * tolerance * touch * travel * truth * trustworthiness * unity * vision * winning * wisdom * Other: _________
FOUR: Support Others’ Values
Encourage others to know and articulate their values. Knowing one another’s values helps us respect one another. It helps us know what jokes might be fun to share and which ones might be offensive, when to back off and when to encourage, and when a behavior or request will cross someone’s boundary. For example, I do not laugh at sexist or racist jokes. I value inclusiveness and diversity.
- At work a meeting agenda might include the topic of organization, team and individual values. It might include a discussion of what to do when employees’ values differ from the organization’s values. Employees often resign when they have not resolved conflict between their values and that of their mangers or organization.
- At home family meetings provide an excellent structure for establishing family rules and guidelines, and discovering individual and family values. Some families explore a different value for a month using The Family Virtues Guide book.
Ask yourself and others deepening and open-ended questions about values. Then help protect them.
- What do you value most about your work?
- How does that value support you in your work?
- What do we agree are the two or three most important values to our team’s success?
- How do we demonstrate them?
- How might we use them more effectively?
- What process will we use if and when we have value conflicts with one another?
- What might we do if our personal values conflict with the organization’s values?
- What do you spend the most time and energy doing? How important are those activities to you? What values do you think they reflect? Whose values are they—just yours, your friends or our family’s?
- What do you see as our family’s most important two or three most values?
- How do we demonstrate them?
- How might we use them more effectively?
- What do you think of the idea of making a sign with a value on it and we commit to acting on it for at least one month?
How might you apply these ideas so that you and those in your circle can set healthy boundaries in relationships?
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.