I have had multiple conversations as of late revolving around boundaries. Seems like everyone in my life is either needing boundaries, setting, boundaries, or lamenting not having boundaries.
When I slowed down, I realized some of the issues I was facing could be made more manageable or even alliterated by boundaries. A solid book for this discussion is Boundaries for Leaders by Dr. Henry Cloud. I will not be utilizing his book here, but wanted to tag a link for those who want to dig deeper.
The book I will utilize is Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen.
When bringing up boundaries, most everyone I talk with agrees they are needed. Nevertheless, many of them do not know WHEN they are needed to be applied?
In their book, Stone and Heen lay out seven questions to ask your self if boundaries may be needed:
ONE – Does the feedback giver attack your character, or your behavior?
There is a line between attacking an issue to resolve for the better, and attacking a person and their character. You should never feel attacked at a personal level, but you cannot be so sensitive that you make a behavioral conversation personal all the time. Both parties must step back and deal with the issue.
TWO – Is their feedback unrelenting?
You know a boundary discussion needs to happen when all you get is feedback and little to none forward progress is being made. Unrelenting feedback has another term in causal vernacular; it’s called nagging. We all know where nagging goes…nowhere!
THREE – When you change, is there always one more demand?
Once you feel like you received solid feedback, made the appropriate course correction, and feel good about the progress, you find one more thing pops up as wrong and in need of change. This may naturally happen once or twice, but after that you are in a pattern.
This is often where people deal with what is called perfectionism. You change and change and change (and maybe at first for the better), but the change requests never stop and they soon become a hindrance to your forward progress. The advantageous side of the perfection coin is we can all strive to be the best us, but to know at our core that we are good enough! The destructive side of the perfection coin is change for change sake because nothing is every good enough, we are never good enough, and something has to change to bring about core level happiness.
As Rene Brown writes, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.” (Daring Greatly, page 10). At some point, we all need to realize we are enough, and to stop allowing others to constantly be trying to change us! Boundaries help us accomplish this.
FOUR – Does the feedback giver take your relationship hostage?
In other words, you can choose to take my advice or not, but when you don’t accept and act upon it, you are responsible for the relationship failing. This becomes especially true of those who do not know how to express their fears or anxieties well, and therefore, this ploy is their attempt at control without expressing feelings.
Know this, you can be empathetic when you realize this in the feedback giver, and yet not give into their ploy and become hostage. This may be difficult, but often a third party (such as a counselor or spiritual adviser) can help bridge the gap between the feedback giver and the receiver. The third party should never be another family member, as this only leads to more broken and complicated relationships.
FIVE – Are they issuing warnings – or making threats?
A warning explains that danger is approaching and change can still be made and the situation salvaged. Threats are given when there is no choice in the situation and all information must be followed to the letter or ending the relationship is the only potion.
Most people are fearful of losing a relationship (especially a family ones), so they tend to give into threats. Remember the previous hostage discussion. Nevertheless, when boundaries do not work in a threat situation, some ending are necessary. If you feel you are in one of these situations, I suggest you grab a copy of Dr, Henry Cloud’s Necessary Endings as soon as you can. There is hope, but the process is incredibly painful. Stay the course!
SIX – Is it always you who has to change?
Are the conversations turning for the worst, with you always being on the end that needs to change. Is the feedback giver willing to change with you? Do they allow the conversation to be reciprocal?
We all have blind spots, so if we allow ourselves to be open to them, those who provide the feedback must be open to it also. Communication is a two way street, thus when it becomes a one-way rode, boundaries need to be set.
SEVEN – Are your views and feelings a legitimate part of the relationship?
Finally, if you are not allowed to ever bring up how you feel when feedback is presented, a danger warning alarm should sound. Although we should not go through our life and leadership spewing out every tiny emotion that desires to surface. No one wants to work with a person who cries when you bring up the most minor needed change. Notwithstanding, there are changes required in our life and leadership with attached difficult emotions and a place needs to be made for those.
I recall once working for a resort and being called in by the vice president. I was a young leader and was not good at being a team player. Because of my youth, I would often demand respect from those I led who were often twice my age. When I brought correction (even when it was needed), the responses ranged from anger to tears.
Back to being called into the VP’s office. There I was being given needed feedback on how to be a better leader, but in a very forward and demanding fashion. I began to well up inside. Before I knew it, tears were flowing. The VP looked at me and told me to straighten up and pull myself together. The VP didn’t give me any room to process just as I gave no room for those I led to process emotionally.
How did it end? Well, remember I was young, so I stood up, pulled myself together, and quit. I am not he best role model! It wasn’t for years later, was I able to look back at my blind spots and the blind spots of those above me. What a painful and ironic situation! I didn’t realize the benefits then, but I am sure glad for them now.
You may be dealing with a tough situation or relationship now, and there is no easy way but to travel through it. Know this, one day you can look back and use it to better yourself. Or potentially use the seven ideas above to bring about an advantageous solution.
Any relationship saved is worthy of a celebration. Don’t give up!
Lead happy my friends!