Doesn't that title sound like some type of self-help utopia? A healthier life, lower stress, and a happier workplace seem like such heavy subjects that they should have their own article for each topic, but I am going to tie them all together and talk about setting boundaries. In an age of meditation, self-help gurus and Tony Robbins’ Fire Walkers, you would think this topic is covered more often but it’s not, at least not in corporate America. You’re in luck, I’m not only going to write about it, but I am going to make it simple, I’m talking basic building blocks for utopic transformation. Turn on your favorite Tibetan monk chant song, light a candle and read on.
First, I want to introduce you to a Rita Goodroe, a Business Strategist who has a fabulous Facebook group that I have really enjoyed this month, The Women’s Garden. A kick butt group with a bunch of get shit done women. It was during a recent challenge that a garden member asked, “how do you establish boundaries with your clients?” I had to stop and think for a moment before I contributed to the answer because recently I had a similar situation with an employee and a client that were both pushing hard on my own after hours personal boundary, like seriously invading my red wine cozy up to the fire, snuggle time. I was like, whoa, maybe some people don’t get personal boundaries? I decided to dig in deep and deconstruct how I would teach this to someone, so I could quickly return to my bear rug bliss.
Establishing Boundaries in Sales is Sometimes Complicated
I know it’s hard to pull out your llamacorn badassery all the time, but this one is super important to get right. I understand it, establishing boundaries in sales is sometimes complicated, and those lines get fuzzy even when you’re not sleepy. You spend a lot of time building that ever special client rapport, you’ve shared stories, you see them more frequently than your BFF, and you probably have that yummy feeling in your tummy that you genuinely give a shit about the person. You may even feel like you have become friends …whoop, whoop red flag warning. The same goes with your work colleagues a little too much sharing around the water cooler and the next thing you know they are giving you relationship advice, not a good thing. What about your sales manager that you drive halfway across the state to kill the hours you have to spend with them in the car? It’s four hours of windshield time, so it’s easy to reveal a lot about your latest date night or family drama… warning get out of the shark infested waters. Recognize these as opportunities to honor your personal boundaries and resist the temptation to overshare.
It is crucial to have boundaries in both your personal and your professional life. Establishing these boundaries early on will make your future interactions with your clients, colleagues, and persons of interest that much more enjoyable because the limits will be set and enforcing them will be like rolling out of bed in the morning, easy peasy. Alrighty then, let’s dig in.
Define Your Personal Values
I may have some homework for you. When was the last time you sat down and wrote out your own values? Well, if it has been a while, I want to encourage you to start here with the free Personal Values Assessment that takes less than five minutes to complete. You can also head over to my blog, scroll down to resources and download a list of personal values to find inspiration to help you achieve your own list. Summon your inner Zig Ziglar and remember, “your value does not decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.” Set a five-minute timer and list out all of the adjectives that describe what is important to you. Whittle that list down to the top 10, and it’s like unicorn magic, you are now staring at your most important values. The decisions you make daily are a reflection of what you believe, and those beliefs align with your values.
Armed with your new magical values, you can now take a closer look at defining your boundaries. Remember, I told you it was simple. You just finished your first building block, you may need to restart your Tibetan chants or step it up a notch to a little jazz. Let’s move on to identifying the different types of boundaries that professionals have defined and how you can go about implementing a strategy to keep those boundaries in place.
Understand the Types of Personal Boundaries
The first step in building boundaries is to be aware of the different types of boundaries that exist. It is essential first to identify boundaries you personally need to establish in the different areas of your life. Next, be aware and recognize what healthy boundaries look like.
What is a personal boundary?
I consulted with my friend Wikipedia, the goddess of words. She defines personal boundaries as, “guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.”
Tracey Cleantis, LMFT a self-declared “happiness warrior,” talks about four variations of boundaries that people may or may not realize they have already created, “rigid, loose, somewhere in between, or even nonexistent.” The nonexistent type is like Julia Roberts in Runaway Bride where she doesn’t even know what kind of eggs she likes to eat. As a llamacorn, we gravitate towards the healthy side of the spectrum, and we know exactly how we love our eggs. BTW my favorite eggs are sunny side up on top of sourdough avocado toast with sriracha sea salt, yum.
Six Personal Boundary Categories
It’s a lot to take in, but I have your back with support and worksheets to complete as well as the articles I reference from peeps way more educated on this topic than me. According to Therapist Aid, there six different categories of Personal Boundaries. You can visit their website and download the PDF What are Personal Boundaries?
1. Physical – You guessed this one, it includes your body, your personal space, sexual orientation and sense of privacy. What does it look like to violate this boundary? How about that person, (me, sorry I’m a hugger) that always wants to hug you? You don’t want to be hugged, e-v-e-r. That hugger then becomes a violator of your personal space.
2. Emotional – This is Julia Roberts in the example above. You need to be able to separate your feelings from others’. Healthy behavior includes protecting your self-esteem. You know that emotional EQ that some, let’s make it easy and say, kids, need to improve? Not taking responsibility for yourself and blaming others for your problems. It also includes understanding when to and when not to share personal information.
3. Intellectual – Thoughts and ideas. Intellectual boundaries can be violated when someone dismisses or belittles another person's thoughts or ideas. Try this one out, "Oh, don't get upset about that. If you want to cry, I'll give you something to cry about!" Or, have you ever found yourself saying this? "Things could be so much worse! I don't know why you're so upset about this!" Total violation.
4. Sexual – (just gonna refer you to directly to the PDF)
5. Material – Money and possessions. Sharing is caring, but in some instances, boundaries can be are violated when someone steals or damages your possessions, or they bully or pressure you into letting them borrow something that you don’t want to share.
6. Time – You know that saying, “if it doesn’t get scheduled, it doesn’t get done.” Healthy boundaries have time scheduled for work-life balance. This is a big one, your time boundary can feel violated when someone demands too much of your time.
Ok, now you have six types of personal boundaries to chew on. Don’t get all caught up in your head here. We are taking baby steps and building a foundation. Just getting this far, and creating awareness around the concept of personal boundaries puts you ahead of the class. Right, where you should be.
Suggestions to Consider
Now let’s take a look at suggestions for you to consider when building your own strategy for establishing healthy boundaries:
1. Don’t connect with clients on personal social media, (yeah I know this one gets really fuzzy. You know if this one is right for your brand or not.)
2. Appropriately share personal information.
3. Value your own opinions.
4. Don’t compromise your values for others.
5. Know what you want and need, and clearly comminute it with others.
6. Don’t be offended when someone tells you “no.”
7. Practice self-care.
8. Find privacy within your own space at home.
9. Say NO to things you do not want to do and do not feel the need to explain.
10. Make sure to set consequences for those that do not respect your boundaries.
5 Examples of Healthy Boundaries in the Workplace
Here are some examples of how boundaries can be set in your professional life. Embracing your values, establishing your personal boundaries, then enforcing those both at home and at work, will create a happier workplace.
1. You are sitting in a meeting about a new product launch. You are a part of the team because you have successfully launched a very similar product at your previous company. Someone in the meeting asks for your opinion, and you confidently share your experience and your opinion about how the launch should take place. You value your own opinion.
2. You are traveling with colleagues on a business trip. You have set a goal to work out while you are on the road because staying fit is important to you. After your workday, your peers decide they are going to hit happy hour. You say no and head to the gym, you tell them you will catch up with them for dinner. You don’t compromise your values for others.
3. During a trade show, a vendor shares with you that they are thinking about leaving their husband. They ask you for your opinion and want to know if you are married or have ever been divorced. You kindly reply that you are sorry they are conflicted; however; those types of discussions need to be saved for a therapist or someone more qualified than you. You share that you are super happy in your current relationship and politely change the subject. You appropriately share personal information.
4. Your annual review is happening. Your boss asks if you have any career aspirations within the company? You state, yes, and then you explain in detail what you want to work towards, your ideas and a potential roadmap for how you would like their help to achieve your goals. You know what you want and need, and you can comminute it with others.
5. You have weekly conference calls with your team. Someone asks for a suggestion regarding overcoming an obstacle they are facing. You comment a suggestion, and the representative says, “no that won’t work because…”. You can accept your stance and are not offended when someone tells you “no.”
Whatever you do, don’t feel selfish about establishing your values-based boundaries, embrace your bold move and smile. Make sure to reflect and be aware of respecting the limits set by those around you, don’t be lopsided. I know, we are great salespeople and can sell happy hour to a non-drinker or fire walking to a pyrophobic, but don’t. Honoring both sides of the equation will empower you to create your own version of utopia, someplace where rainbows brighten up the sky and unicorns roam freely.
Healthy boundaries are essential and one of the steps you need to take on your path to becoming a llamacorn. I told you it was simple to be a happier version of yourself. By creating your own set of rules, you take control of what impacts your life. A happier you is a less stressful version of you. Remember, llamacorns make life happen for them, not to them.
Good luck and happy living.