Hold your boundaries or others will keep crossing them
Shiva was frustrated. She had just lost her early morning work time… again. Her colleague had seen her arrive and had taken the opportunity to ‘pop in for a quick chat’ before the day started. The first time it happened, Shiva politely indulged her colleague in the early morning chit-chat, thinking it was a once off, but after three days in a row, Shiva began to get upset.
"Can’t Frank see that I’m working? Can’t he tell I’m annoyed? It’s clear I don’t want to be interrupted but he just doesn't get it."
Shiva’s frustration was two-fold:
- frustration at being interrupted and losing her most productive hour of the day and
- frustrated that Frank couldn't tell that she didn't want to be interrupted thus forcing her to assert this boundary more explicitly… and she didn’t like confrontation.
This situation is very common. People get frustrated by the behaviour of others. But this frustration escalates mostly because they don't want to tell others what they need instead. Hope and hints are not effective solutions, when only words will do.
We’re not just upset at their behaviour; we’re upset at having to tell them we don't like that behaviour. If it was someone you felt at ease to give feedback to, then the behaviour wouldn't be an issue – it would just be an event requiring a conversation. But instead it becomes a frustration, which builds the negative emotion and blows up the conversation in our minds. This spiral means that we end up not saying anything and quietly resenting that person (without giving them the chance to do anything about it), or we end up blowing our stack and communicating our needs in a way that we’re not proud of, and which often does more harm than good!
How to hold your boundaries and avoid future frustration
Telling people what you need requires a clear conversation, and before launching in, it’s important to understand what it is that you really want. Follow the simple steps below to be clear on what you are asking people.
- Notice your feelings – frustration, annoyance, resentment
- Explore what you are frustrated about - Reflect on the expectations you are holding of the other person (What boundaries are they crossing? What needs are unmet?)
- Communicate your needs explicitly – assume the other person doesn’t know what you need and will continue the behaviour until told otherwise. Remember too that they are unlikely to realise how strongly you feel about it, or they probably wouldn't be doing it.
When we honour our own needs, we become easier to deal with, more effective and less stressed. It may feel easier to let things go, but over time, this is a recipe for resentment and escalation and no-one has time for that.
'Til next time