We always know when our personal boundaries have been crossed, so why don’t we do something about it?

We hold our breath, lower our eyes in embarrassment at the sarcastic put down. We pretend we don’t care about the not so playful shove, the raised voice, or rolling eyes.

They say a behaviour allowed is a behaviour condoned. Without a clear “stop, right here”, said unequivocally, the behaviour continues…for another day, week, month until the target breaks down. Some excuse the aggressor’s behaviour: “she’s under tremendous stress you know;” “he’s having a tough time at home;” or “it’s just Charlie being Charlie!”

What to do when personal boundaries are not being respected

Definitely seek help if you are stuck in a hopeless situation or in any danger. In other cases, what can you do when the disrespectful ball comes in your court?

I like to compare the art of genuine conversation in tough situations to high level competitive dancing. You may rarely need to use the full range of what you learn, but the moves are there just in case.

The ultimate goal is to exude calm strength and composure that discourages infringement. To get there, the Genuine Conversation process contains some suggested moves for your consideration:

– Acknowledge it’s happening so you can to stop it or report it.

– Increase your feeling vocabulary beyond glad, sad or mad. It’s important to name the feeling and own it. Are you embarrassed, anxious, confused, frustrated, puzzled, impatient, discouraged, envious, elated, crushed, overwhelmed, or surprised?  Be ready to describe the impact the boundary crossing has on you in a few powerful words.

– What is your interpretation of the situation? Yes, it’s your interpretation and very likely not the only one. Be prepared for the other person to have their own perception or story.

– What outcome do you envision, and what steps do you and your counterpart need to take to move forward?

Practice makes perfect

Some conversations stop after the first few steps.  Others go the full nine yards. Some conversations are awkward, others go more smoothly than initially thought. In most cases, the relief is palpable. You’ve now named the trespass, stood up for you, and clearly traced the boundary line.  

Establishing boundaries or reminding those who’ve forgotten about them is an uncomfortable task to say the least.  On the flip side, you’re now letting people around you know how you want to be treated.

What challenges do you face when establishing boundaries?  What successes do you have with it and how did you do it?

Let me know in the comment section. I look forward to hearing from you.

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