Why Learning Boundaries Is An Important Skill

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It's possible that it's a Canadian insider joke, but we apologize a lot.

Quite often “I'm sorry” is the first thing you will hear out of our mouths. Politeness aside, it's often habit rather than emotion because frankly, apologizing to the cat when moving it off the keyboard is just silly.

There's a bigger issue here and one I became aware of when listening to good people trying to say no to a request of their time or talents.

It often comes out with an apology. “I am so sorry but I just can't, I have x, y and z to do.”

They feel the need to explain they have a life and then apologize for having one.

I saw this often in my role as a Coordinator of Volunteers for a local non-profit. If the lessons of the day were short volunteers then it it was time to begin making phone calls or speaking to volunteers in the building.

That was my job. As individuals, and especially as business owners it's your job to set boundaries on your time, among other things.

Boundary setting is a form of self love

Many of us – especially women and not just Canadians! believe nice and endlessly giving of ourselves is how we show we care. That we're good people.

 Giving more is not necessarily good. It certainly isn't if you must scramble to arrange other parts of your life, often impacting others lives as well.

As a former over giver, I was pretty entrenched in the give til it hurts model. Usually what and who was hurt, was me.

Saying yes to others often meant I was saying no to me and in the ripple effect, my family too.

Learning what is negotiable and what is not is the foundation for your boundary setting.  

Strong boundaries equals good leadership

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Having a life and all of its pieces – work, family, friends, community and self, takes time and effort. If all of your effort is out there, then the person most sorry is ultimately you.

Knowing how to set boundaries and how to communicate them is important to you and your physical, mental and spiritual health. It's also good business.

Setting boundaries is the way to make sure that you're creating a life by design rather than by default. 

These days I notice when people have a strong sense of their boundaries and are able to communicate them clearly. 

For instance just last week I reached out to a woman whom I've heard is well connected in my new community and might be of help in a project I'm looking to bring to life.  

I'd  "friended" her on Facebook and as we'd already exchanged a few comments I felt okay with sending her a private message. I gave her a brief 2 sentence description of my idea. Then I asked if she'd be interested in meeting with myself and few others to discuss the idea and consider the potential interest. 

She got back to me right away and her first sentence was essentially, thank you but no.

She then went on to tell me a bit more about what's going on in the community and her participation in it. To a certain degree there was still some of the default explanations about her busyness, but overall the tone was more direct than apologetic.  

My response? 

Thank you for knowing what you do and don't have time for.

"Good boundaries make for a good life."

Since she also volunteered some information about her connections, I was able to both thank her and tell her  I  may be in touch again because of her connections. She was quite happy to be contacted again if that is the case.

It was a pleasant and quick exchange and so much nicer than getting either a long apologetic response or someone who says yes, but  just wants to say no. 

It truly is so much more pleasant when our commitments are based on what we choose to do, instead of what we feel we should do. 

Whether it's your personal or your business life, having good boundaries means that relationships tend to be stronger and there's less  chance for disappointments or unmet expectations. 

The next time someone asks you for more of your time, consider to whom or what you are saying yes or no. If you say yes and it is with a clear mind, not being acted upon by the nice girl or guy syndrome, then enjoy yourself.

If you are saying no, do it with the self-assurance of your right to do so. Insert a smile where the sorry would go and kindly say - no.


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