By Eva Gregory, CPCC
You’re in the middle of a huge project at work, a family dinner, or some much deserved alone time, when the phone rings, a relative barges in, or a co-worker pops in. You’re annoyed, but reluctant to say anything because you like your open-door policy, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, or you don’t want anyone upset with you.
This is a much different world than it was a generation ago. Back then, people were more polite, most offices had doors and were not cubicles, and people did not take it for granted that they were not interrupting you, but automatically assumed that they were. What’s changed? Technology has paved the way for this erosion of boundaries with pagers, e-mail, and cell phones accessibility has come to be expected. Unfortunately people have also come to stop respecting boundaries.
Belinda had just walked in the house when her cell phone rang. It was her sister asking her to fill in for her at her catering job. Belinda had filled in for Sue previously so she knew the work, but she was tired, having just completed her twelve hour shift at the hospital. She tried to convey this to her sister, but Sue being Sue, just assumed that the answer would be yes, and just continued with the details without waiting for an answer. Belinda was hurt and rather angry at Sue, but she hid her feelings and let out a rather long sigh as she went upstairs to change her clothes for her second work shift of the day. Toby was sitting in his living room watching the game when Fred burst in. He looked up a bit startled at the interruption, but when he saw who it was he was unsurprised at the intrusion. He and Fred had been friends since they were three years old, so Fred had been walking into his house ever since he could remember. He was very happy that Suzie wasn’t home because she looked at Fred’s familiarity as rude and it was often the cause of some of their rare arguments. Toby could see her point, but he didn’t have the heart to start making changes that could ruffle his nearly life-long friendship.
What do Belinda and Toby share? They both have people in their lives, close people, who do not respect them. Their needs, wants, and concerns are not being considered by Sue or Fred. However, while it would be nice for Sue and Fred to automatically consider their feelings, it is up to Belinda and Toby to voice their dissatisfaction with the situation. Realistically, no one can be expected to change a situation that has been working for them. Why should Sue think that Belinda would not cover her shift for her, since she’d always done so in the past? Why would Fred stop walking into Toby’s house when Toby had never told him not to? While it may seem like an issue of common courtesy, perhaps an oversight, or even a bit of stubbornness, the fact still remains that Belinda and Toby are responsible for setting boundaries and insisting that the people in their lives respect them.
Establishing boundaries to correct an action is not an easy thing to accomplish, just ask any parent. It takes time, patience, and practice. As difficult as it is for children to learn, it’s much harder for adults – think “old dog new tricks.” But boundaries must be established in order to protect one’s existence. There are many things in life that one does not have complete control over, but finding a way to protect the things that are important, is paramount to a peaceful, joyous, passion-filled existence. Everyone deserves the right to choose how their time is spent, how they want to be treated, how they want their life to operate, and if those choices are not being met, the light to the soul is being blocked, and changes should be made.
When performed in advance, boundary setting is a preventative measure, but proactively or reactively it is necessary in many different types of situations. Sit the person down for a talk, put it on paper, or make a phone call. Take a lesson from Belinda and Toby. Don’t be shy, take your stance and let your needs be heard. Reclaim your life, your choices, your space, and your soul.
Copyright @2009 Eva Gregory. All rights reserved.