Ouch! That’s a little rough, but hey, sometimes the truth hurts. Now, more than ever, I come across people really struggling with their boundaries, both personally and professionally. Why set boundaries? Because you can’t protect and take care of yourself if you don’t. For some, this is more of a personal issue. Not being able to stand up for yourself, saying no when you really can’t or don’t want to do something, or having your space and time invaded could be examples of lacking boundaries. For some the issue is more pervasive at work. The fact that you can text, tweet, and know anything about anyone, anytime, anywhere certainly doesn’t help.
When I used to think about Space Invaders, it was a cool game on the Atari (wow, I feel old). Today, space invaders are everywhere. Sometimes, we’re even related to them. So what do you do if your space is being invaded? How do you set clear boundaries without damaging the relationship?
1. Do a self-check. Is it possible you’re enabling the behavior? Most of the time, people won’t treat us in a way we don’t allow, at least not more than once.
2. Identify your fear. The reason you haven’t set a clear limit or boundary is generally because you’re afraid of something. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen? “ (Be realistic; chances are, the world as you know it won’t end if you set some limits).
3. Practice assertiveness. Whether we are passive, passive-aggressive, or just plain aggressive, most of us have trouble being assertive. Some examples of assertive statements are: “I really need some space right now”, “It’s not okay for you to speak to me like that”, “I’d rather you not email me outside of work”, etc. If being assertive doesn’t come naturally to you, you have to practice until it becomes a habit. Remember, practice makes perfect.
4. Take care of you. If you’re one of those people who always puts others first, remember, you can’t take care of someone else unless you take care of yourself first. Not only is it okay to protect and care for yourself, it’s your responsibility.