Pursue What Matters
Episode 67: Boundaries
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Boundaries, what are they? Why are they important? And how do they apply at work? So all of your burning questions about boundaries will be answered today because listen, I am a boundary guru. Let’s jump in.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:14
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. Oh, today we’re going to talk about boundaries. And I’m telling you, I feel like I’ve spent over half my life talking about the importance of boundaries, because they really are that important, and honestly, I probably have spent over half my life talking about boundaries. They’re one of the single most important principles of healthy living, and managing relationships well, and they are important in every relationship that we have.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:18
So what I hope to convey to you today is why we need boundaries. In every single relationship we have, whether this is at home, whether this is with our children, whether this is with our friends, and certainly at work. So, of course, we want to help you pursue what matters, we want to think about how you can strengthen your leadership, whether that’s leading a team of one whether that’s leading yourself, whether that’s leading a small group, whether that’s leading a large organization, boundaries are the name of the game, it makes the work so much more effective and efficient and productive. They are that important. So let’s go ahead and learn the ins and outs of boundaries. And you know, we’re going to talk about why they’re so important and what they are. And then how, how to set good boundaries, what those look like, so that you can really do your best work.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:20
So of course every week, my goal is to help you pursue what matters and to really help you develop the confidence to lead. And so with that, when we think about boundaries, you know, this this topic really helps you to lead a community right so leading with community because you’re not meant to lead alone. You are leading people, you’re leading with a community and boundaries help you do that more effectively. And of course, it this is also about curiosity and self awareness because When we have difficulty with boundaries, we really need to lean into self awareness and, and try to get curious about what’s getting in the way. Because often, when boundaries become an issue, it’s usually something in our own history or there’s something within the other person that’s pulling at us that, you know, makes it a little bit more difficult for us to maybe set a boundary or to keep a boundary. And so, you know, primarily we want to help you strengthen your confidence to lead in the areas of curiosity, which is all about self awareness, and then of course community which is leading others and building a community. So leading a community and building a community. So those are the two primary areas I really want to help you strengthen your confidence to lead.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:59
Ok, so I am not talking about physical fences or walls, there’s certainly been enough talk of that in the world we live in. But symbolically, Yes, that’s exactly what we’re talking about. So when we think about boundaries, they are those fences. And sometimes maybe they are walls that we have in place between us and others. And so a super simple guide to knowing the difference between healthy boundaries and unhealthy boundaries is, you know, is one that comes to us compliments of Mark Manson. And so this is from his website, I will link to it in the show notes because I think it’s a simple way to think about boundaries, but it’s useful that most of us can relate to.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:50
So he says, you know, “healthy boundaries, equal taking responsibility for your own actions and emotions. While not taking responsibility for the actions or emotions of others.” And so, of course, you know, this is a very common basic understanding of boundaries. But I like the way that mark framed that. And so when we think about healthy personal boundaries, it is taking personal responsibility for your own actions and emotions. And I would also say your own thoughts, while refusing that’s my language, while refusing to take responsibility for the actions, or the emotions or the thoughts. That’s my addition of others. And so that’s what we think about as boundaries. And so, you know, sometimes you need to have that fence in place, sometimes you need to have that wall in place. And so think for just a moment about all of the ways that we run afoul of this guidance. We do it all the time. So we have those individuals who take too much responsibility for the actions and emotions of others. So, you know, you might think of these people as the caretakers. And you know, maybe they’re the micro managers. Maybe they’re the approval seekers. They’re taking way too much responsibility for the actions and emotions of others. There may be the mind readers, they’re trying to figure out what is the other person thinking, boy, that person looked sad. It must mean something about me. And so these individuals do not have good boundaries, because they’re taking on too much responsibility for the actions, the emotions and the thoughts of other people. And then on the other side of that continuum, we have got the individuals who expect others to take too much responsibility. for their actions and emotions, so they expect other people to take care of them. They expect people to manage their emotions, to manage their thoughts to take responsibility for them. And so, you know, a simple way to kind of think about this is we’ve got the givers and the takers. And unfortunately, these individuals often end up in relationships together because initially in a relationship, it works out really nicely. Right? You’ve got to give her who’s like all to all too ready to take on too much responsibility. And then you know, that works out really nicely for the one who expects the other person to take responsibility. But, of course, this is a very dysfunctional dynamic. So over time, it becomes disastrous, and it falls apart. And you know, there’s there’s nothing effective about that. So that’s what I want you to think about as we frame this discussion of boundaries. So healthy personal boundaries, taking responsibility for your own actions, emotions and thoughts, while refusing. So that’s what I mean by boundary, it is a firm line, refusing to take responsibility for the actions, emotions or thoughts of others. So there’s a clear line a clear separation there.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:38
So, boundaries are essential for effective functioning in every single relationship we have. Now this is a really important point and I think this is where most people get boundaries dead wrong. They can see the value of boundaries in you know, work relationships, right like so most people recognize that value of having a good boundary with, say, your boss or with colleagues or, you know, with your neighbors, you know, that sort of thing. But I think where most people get boundaries wrong is that they don’t understand the value of boundaries in their closest relationships. And so I’m going to repeat what I just said. And that is that boundaries are essential for effective functioning in every single relationship we have. Every single relationship we have. And so that goes for, you know, parent child relationship. That goes for friendships, that goes for sibling relationships, that goes for partner relationships. So husband, wife, partner, relationships, all of those and That’s, you know, when when I talk about boundaries, that one, that last one about partners like I don’t need boundaries with my partner. And I said, Yeah, you do, because there have there has to be a separation between you and the other person. And I will. I will talk a little bit more about why in just a minute. But the point is that boundaries make relationships safer. If you have no separation between you and the other person, it’s very easy to lose yourself in the relationship. And so in order to be in a relationship with another person, and this is anyone so you can apply this to any relationship. We need to have a marker that separates us from the other. And boundaries do that boundary separate one from the other for the purpose of preserving The self. And we’ve got to be able to retain our own separate identity in a relationship. So the question that is asked when we think about boundaries is where do I end? And where do you begin? Another way of asking that is, who am I separate from you? And in order to have a healthy relationship, you have got to be able to answer that question. Who am I separate from you. And if there is no separation, there is no health in the relationship. And so boundaries help us to preserve our identity. Boundaries help us to preserve our opinion. Boundaries help us to preserve our values, and boundaries help us to preserve our perspective and boundaries are all about the end. integration of the self, okay. And so when we think about a relationship, right in order for a relationship to be healthy and effective, there needs to be integration, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:14
So, you know, a couple, or you know, you know, friends, that sort of thing, like they need to have bonding, they need to have integration. But in order to be healthy, they also need to have separation. There needs to be integration, but there also needs to be complementarity. There needs to be separate views, perspectives, identities in order for the relationship to thrive. And if we don’t have both, we end up in a very dysfunctional relationship. Okay. And so some of the ways that that shows up when there’s not a clear boundary when there’s not separation, when there’s not help The separation is we get codependence we get enmeshment we can get isolation we can get avoidant attachment we can get anxious attachment we can get all the fun psychobabble II terms right and I could keep going I could go on all day which I will not I will save you from all the psychobabble terms. But the The point is that boundaries clearly mark the separation of one person from another and they set the rules for interaction. Boundaries help us to know what is and is not acceptable in the relationship. So they make relationships safer because they set the expectations. And this in turn increases safety, for vulnerability and trust. And so in a very real way knowing what to expect In the relationship frees you up to actually go deeper in that relationship so that you can have more vulnerability, you can have more trust in the relationship. And of course, this is absolutely applicable when it comes to work.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:20
So of course, I do a lot of work with teams around the research of Brene Brown and the Dare to Lead curriculum and all of her courage building research, and of course, from her research, and then, of course, the excellent research based on the Aristotle project from Google. Right? When you look at what makes the most effective teams, and the most productive, successful, efficient, productive teams, right with the highest return on investment, what you find is that those Teams it doesn’t you don’t have to have the smartest people in the room. You don’t have to have the best mix of skills. You have to have psychological safety. And so, boundaries help, right? They’re not the only factor that boundaries help create a foundation of psychological safety, which in turn increases that ability to create vulnerability and trust. Okay, so it sets the foundation for psychological safety, on work teams, in marriages, and families, in organizations it creates, you know, if we think about this with in an organization, it creates a powerful culture where courage is encouraged, right. Where Daring Greatly is the norm, were asking for help is encouraged were being a learner is encouraged and so, good boundaries, set the expectations the rules for engagement. They also, you know, good boundaries are also completely about personal accountability. So right if we go back to that basic guideline that I talked about at the top of the podcast, which is taking personal responsibility for your actions, emotions and thoughts, boundaries, always call us back to our own work to our own responsibility. And so, boundaries really help us stay out. fingerpointing boundaries help us stay out of judging and blaming and shaming, which of course becomes so toxic in any time. But as you know, especially if we think about work teams. And, of course, those things absolutely erode psychological safety. And so boundaries, set up rules of engagement, that make teams safer, and really free teams up to be more creative, more innovative, more effective, productive, and more successful all the way around. And so again, the questions are, who am I separate from you? And what am I responsible for? versus what are you responsible for? Think about how powerful and how helpful that question alone can be in work settings, and in team settings, and how often teams fall apart around this question of responsibility. Well, whose job was that? They should have known how to do this. You should have known how to do this. So many teams fall apart around this question of responsibility around this question of finger pointing. Okay, what do I need that is separate from you? Right. And this is a really great question around accountability. And I think especially for leaders, who, you know, when you’re looking at your role as a leader and especially if you are leading other people, you know, what your people need from you will vary, you know, some people will need a lot of guidance, other people will not need much guidance from you. And of course, I just did a podcast on finding that sweet spot of accountability but being able to have these conversations about, you know, what do I need that is separate from you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:08
And really learning to speak to those needs and having honest conversations about those. And that, you know, when you can start to look at those needs, without it being an indictment of the other person, that can be really powerful and it can free everyone up to actually start getting their needs met. And, and, and it doesn’t have to be an indictment of leaders. It doesn’t have to be an indictment of the culture. It can be a simple discussion of, hey, I need a little more support or I need some online learning opportunities. And do you think you can help support me in that, and it could be a really productive conversation.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:59
So when we think about boundaries, they can be physical, they can be emotional, they can be psychological. And so I want you to kind of think about that as we go through our discussion, that there are different. There are different aspects of boundaries, right? So, if you think about physical, there are some, there are some communities so right, if we think about work settings, if we think about families, that they’re more touchy right now, in a post COVID world, none of us are very touchy these days, even if you know, even if we would prefer to be but respecting those boundaries are really very, very important. And respecting, you know, so an example of this is, you know, you might be someone who’s very comfortable with physical touch, and and, you know, like, inappropriate ways, but you You may have a colleague who whose physical boundaries are very different. And they may not be comfortable with physical touch. And so you need to respect those boundaries. If they are not comfortable with physical touch, you need to respect that boundary, and that the boundary is relative to the person you are in a relationship with. And so you can’t just say, Well, hey, I’m just a touchy feely person, and I don’t mean anything wrong with it, and that person just has to deal with it. No, you need to learn to respect that person’s boundaries. And don’t don’t personalize it, because the individual’s physical boundaries are different from yours. And then, of course, emotional boundaries.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:48
So some people, you know, they wear their emotions on their sleeves, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think sometimes how this can show up at work, is that you know, if you have some One that might wear their emotions on their sleeves. And so they might get a little, they might get a little more emotional when they are talking about an issue. Sometimes that can be labeled. Sometimes that can be judged. And you know, like, oh, like you’re out of control or you need to pull yourself together. And you know, like, that’s not, that’s not appropriate. And but also recognizing that sometimes, right sometimes you sometimes you need to also have a boundary around your motion emotions because the effectiveness of your message may be getting lost if your emotions get in the way. So we want to be mindful of that as well. And so just recognizing that, you know, those boundaries I show up in several different ways in the work setting. The next point is that of course, our boundaries vary. So, boundaries may be more rigid or diffuse. And that is going to really depend on who we are in relationship with. So for instance, you may have more diffuse boundaries with individuals you’re very close to. But the point is, you still need boundaries with everyone you are in relationship with. So for instance, you know, I have pretty diffuse boundaries with my sisters, but I still have boundaries with them. I have pretty diffuse boundaries with my spouse by virtue of my closeness and trust with him, but I still have boundaries with him. And of course, every relationship must have boundaries in order to be functional.
Dr. Melissa Smith 24:02
The next point is that boundaries may change based on behavior and probably should change based on behavior, right? So boundaries operate on a feedback loop. And that is the best way to think about boundaries. So if someone breaks trust with you, your boundary should probably become more rigid with that individual based on that behavior. So, you know, of course, from Maya Angelou, “if someone shows you who they are, believe them, so pay attention to someone’s behavior.” Now, that doesn’t mean that you know, people don’t make mistakes and that you know, that you don’t have a forgiving heart or anything like that. But you need boundaries for a reason. And so you want to pay attention. And you know, the thing that I always say about that when you know someone, you know, maybe breaks trust, that sort of thing is, believe their words and watch their actions. And so, you know, like, we want to, we want to give them the benefit of the doubt. But we are trained, we have our eyes trained on their actions. And if their words don’t line up with their actions, we are going to default to their actions because of course, actions speak louder than words. And so right rebuilding trust may lead to more diffuse boundaries over time, but when there’s been a breach in trust, it’s very appropriate though those boundaries should become more rigid. And as a result of that behavior, so right like if we think about this, in terms of a work situation, right, if you have an employee that so this is, you know, this is just kind of a low level exam. But if you have an employee that’s chronically late, with reports, you’re doing them a disservice to not increase structure to not increase the boundary with that individual. Because what they are communicating is that they need more structure in order to be successful. Every system is perfectly designed for the results it’s getting. Okay? And so if you have an individual who’s chronically late on their reports, right, and you don’t address what’s going on, then how can you expect different results? And so you need to be willing to increase the structure to help that employee get different results. And then of course, right if you if you get that behavior change in mind, then you can shift tomorrow. diffuse boundaries over time, if that seems appropriate, but every system is perfectly designed for the results it’s getting, whether that’s in effective results or effective results. And so as a leader, you really need to be paying attention to that. And you’ve got to be willing to adjust those boundaries over time and pay attention to that feedback loop.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:25
Okay, so now why do boundaries matter? You can definitely tell that I feel pretty darn strongly about boundaries. So boundaries ensure identity development. And you know, I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty important human endeavor. So, boundaries help set a good foundation for healthy development across time so it sets the foundation for good mental health boundaries also help us to avoid burnout, right? So it helps us to to have sustainable behaviors over time. And so more generally, you know, the consequences of not setting healthy boundaries often include stress, financial burdens, wasted time, relationship issues, right? In one word drama. When we don’t set good boundaries, we have a world of drama. And of course, that can create all sorts of mental distress. So a lack of healthy boundaries can negatively affect every single aspect of your life, whether that’s your work life, whether that’s your home life, it impacts functioning in so many ways. This is part of why I guess I’ve spent my whole life or half my life at least talking about the importance of boundaries and why they matter.
Dr. Melissa Smith 28:53
So they also help us to develop autonomy to be able to say okay, Right, like where do Where do I end? And where do you begin? boundaries help us with decision making boundaries help us to determine what, who we are, right. So that’s the identity piece. And what we believe boundaries in a very real way help us to be self determined. And that is so, so very important. Boundaries also help us to live to purpose, to take responsibility for our lives, to make choices, to have agency to say, I am going to choose this, over that and to see the consequences of those choices in our lives. These are powerful lessons, and we get those lessons as we set and keep boundaries in our lives. Boundaries also really matter because they help us Set the foundation for self care. So and that’s really because you know, especially in our work or in our personal relationships, poor boundaries lead to resentment, anger and burnout. And so one of the very first signs that you need to, you need to hold a boundary or a boundary has been crossed, is you feel resentment. So we’ll talk about that a little bit more. But boundaries really support your foundation of self care. Because it helps you to avoid a whole host of dramas in your life and in a very real way helps you to take good care of yourself and boy, isn’t that important.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:48
Okay, so now hopefully, I’ve made a good case to you for you know what boundaries are and why they are so important both at work at home, in every single relationship. And now let’s move to some solutions. So this is where we really want to think about how right like how do you set boundaries, and really give you some application so you can pursue what matters. And so the first solution so solution one, is I want to help you recognize when a boundary is being violated. And this is a big one for all of us, it’s really important to be able to recognize when one of your boundaries has been crossed.
Dr. Melissa Smith 31:37
So let me first give you some examples of some boundaries. I know I’ve, you know, shared a few as we’ve gone along. But one example might be teachers who keep their professional life separate from their personal lives, right, that that’s a good thing. That’s a very good thing. Teachers not taking responsibility for every aspect of their students lives. You know, that sort of as a psychologist, right in my clinical work, I keep a lot of separation from my clinical work and my personal life that’s by design are some very, very important reasons for that. And friends, right, so limiting contact with those friends who might drain you dry emotionally, or financially or physically, colleagues. So maybe you have a colleague who you need to respond to, only via email, because you know that he will take up an hour of your time that you just don’t have, and maybe maybe you have that colleague who you avoid when you see them in the hall or, you know, when you see her caller ID on your phone, you’re like, I’m just gonna let that go to voicemail. So these are Examples of boundary issues, right? And maybe you have a daughter who keeps an online journal or a regular journal, and respecting her privacy and not reading it. I can’t tell you how many how many teenagers I have worked with over the years, whose parents have read their journals and that is such a violation. Such a violation of privacy.
Dr. Melissa Smith 33:36
So now, on the other hand, so you know, this example of the online journal, so okay, first of all, the example of all the teenagers with their journals over the years and the parents reading them, that’s actually very true. I’ve seen that so many times and that’s a big violation. But then my daughter has an online journal. She’s a writer, and she loves to write. And we absolutely respect her privacy. And when she started her journal, she said, I don’t want you to read it. It’s for me. And I want my privacy. And so we’ve absolutely respected that. And we don’t, of course, read that at all. And that’s a really important boundary. And that’s a boundary that she set. And we as you know, her family members can absolutely respect that and respect that boundary. So now on the other hand, our kids know that their phones are owned by us, and that they are on loan to them and that we will be monitoring all of their text messages and everything that is happening on their phones. And so that is an example that privacy is not an accident. on their phones, and they know that we will be looking at those phones whenever we darn well, please. And we do. So, you know, if we were to hop on one of the phones, we don’t even call them their phones because they know that they’re not their phones. You know, no one cries foul. No one says you’re violating my privacy, you’re violating my boundary, because the expectation is, they have zero privacy on those phones. Because those phones are owned by us. Those the conditions by which they get to borrow those phones is with the expectation that we have eyes to see everything that they’re doing and of course we have you know, all the all the privacy settings and You know, screentime, locks and all that good stuff as parents of teenagers. And so that is an example of it not being a boundary violation, because the expectations are very clear. The expectation is of zero privacy. And so when we pick up that those phones and start going through text messages, our kids aren’t happy about it. It’s not like they’re really excited to turn those phones over. But they also recognize that those are the rules of engagement. Those are, you know, terms and conditions apply to the use of the phones. And that that’s part of the boundary is that we get to check those phones whenever we want. And so hopefully, that example, kind of helps you to see some of the differences and how boundaries can be set up.
Dr. Melissa Smith 36:59
So let’s do some more examples of boundaries and recognizing when they may be violated. So when you say yes, but you mean no. So no one else has violated your boundary, you have violated your boundary. You should have said no. But you said yes. So you’ve violated your own boundary, and you have no one to blame except yourself. So that’s something to pay attention to. And what happens in those times is you might start to feel resentment or anger because right, you probably said, Yes. And you should have said no, and it’s easy to get resentful towards the other person that asked you that made the request. But this is where you’ve got to take responsibility for your own stuff, because you said yes. And so part of owning taking responsibility for yourself is to not blame the other person to not throw resentment on the other person, but to actually take responsibility, hey, now I violated my own boundary, I can’t, I’m not going to put that on the other person. Like, of course, the person just made a request of me. And you know, that’s not unreasonable that the person made a request of me, and it’s on me to say no, if I can’t do it, so you got to watch your resentment, you’ve got to pay attention to that because it’s a red flag around your boundaries. So whether someone else has violated your boundary, or whether you yourself, have violated your boundary and so really pay attention to that and make sure you’re not projecting your anger or your resentment towards someone else. Or honestly, you need to be looking at yourself and taking responsible For that, so you might recognize that you need a boundary when you notice something that upsets you. Okay?
Dr. Melissa Smith 39:08
So sometimes we, you know, we say yes to something. And it’s not until we’re in the situation that we recognize, like, Oh, I should have set a boundary here. And so we want to learn as quickly as we can. So is it the same person that tends to cross this invisible line. So if you notice the same emotional reactions with this same person, start to pay attention to the pattern, start to pay attention to your emotional reactions, because that will help you to know when you need to set a boundary or when a boundary has maybe been violated. Because when you’re in relationship with people who tend to, you know, be very respectful of boundaries, it just doesn’t come up. But while you might notice is, gosh, every time I’m with this person, something comes up for me. I feel really frustrated. Or I feel like, you know, gosh, like, this person’s kind of disrespectful to me. And so start to pay attention to those patterns and get curious about your emotional experience in that situation, because it will probably call you to what might be that boundary violation that’s happening, and what is the boundary that you need to assert with that person?
Dr. Melissa Smith 40:39
So are there certain subjects that tend to get you, sometimes it’s a certain person, sometimes it’s a specific subject that really, you know, gets under your skin that can that you need to get curious about and so pay attention and many people don’t realize what their boundaries are. What their boundaries need to be until the boundary’s been crossed. And so this is where curiosity is super important because, and self awareness because it’s part of how you figure out what your boundaries need to be. Okay, and then solution to, let’s help you determine the kind of boundary that needs to be set. So of course, I talked about the different kinds of boundaries briefly. But now let’s just talk a little bit more specifically.
Dr. Melissa Smith 41:27
So first of all physical so we think about personal space touching. That’s a big one for people. So don’t ever make assumptions that touching someone is okay. And you know, as a trauma specialist, that is a big No, no, I mean, do not ever assume touching someone. You might is okay. Right? You might think it’s totally benign, right? Even like a pat on the hand, a pat on the shoulder. Just do not ever assume that that’s okay. So who you can touch? And who can touch you how, where when that sort of thing you get to decide you’re in charge of you have emotional boundaries, so separate your emotions from those of others. So right where do I end? And where do you begin? So this is where you want to give yourself permission to have your own feelings, and not to take on the burdens of other people’s feelings who this one can be really challenging for women who tend to see themselves as nurturers and who may be self sacrificing, right. And this can be so true for so many women, right culturally, for so many women, we have been taught to be the nurturers to be self sacrificing to really pay attention to the emotional experience of those around us and to anticipate needs, and to respond, right but that often comes at a cost to our own needs. And so you’ve got to pay attention to that. And so what I would say is you do not need to sacrifice your nurturing self in order to attend to your needs as well. Right? That that is a skill development that you can continue to be just as nurturing and aware of those around you. But you but we want you to be curious and self aware of your own needs. And sometimes that means that you need to prioritize your own needs and respect that others can take care of themselves, especially other adults. Right now, if you are nurturing a child, obviously, you will sometimes need to put your needs on the back burner. And that is the reality of, you know, being a nurturer. But this is where we really want to pay attention to this idea. Did that showing up for others and showing up for yourself does not have to be mutually exclusive. So it’s not an either or proposition.
Dr. Melissa Smith 44:11
We also don’t want you to define yourself by your job, marital status or your family alone. So your identity shouldn’t be wholly consumed by those roles. So of course, of course, those are roles that are part of your identity, but just that and so the way that I like to think about it is that there are so many aspects and that make up your identity, right? Like you’re a multifaceted, individual. And isn’t that awesome? Like, that’s so incredible. And so you have roles that you that you function in. And so think in terms of what role Am I functioning in right now, and that this role is an important part of my identity, but it does not define Me, and you don’t ever want to be defined wholly by one role. Because when you do that, you run the risk of having to cut off other important aspects of your identity. Or you have you run the risk of having to silence other important aspects of your identity. And we don’t want you to do that we want you to make room for all the important aspects of your identity. So I want you to think in terms of what role Am I functioning in right now. And you know, having some separation in those roles can actually, you know, simplify, simplify thinking and help you as you move through your day even. So, this idea of knowing where you and and I begin having this separate identity so you are your own person, being aware of your feelings, being aware of your choices, being aware of your responses. abilities, refusing to take responsibility for what is not yours. That’s such a big one. This is so important, especially for mothers who tend to take on a ton of guilt for the choices of their children. Right? So the choices of your children are not a reflection of your mothering. You’ve got to have a boundary there. Your children have agency, your children will make their own choices. And so you know, you’re also not responsibility responsible for others feelings. You’re not you. And you’ve got to have some, some boundaries there. And women especially take responsibility for the happiness of their family, the happiness of their teams all the time. And let’s just take a step back like you don’t have that much power. You don’t have that much control, like there’s no way. And it’s ridiculous to think that you could have that kind of power that you could make everyone within your sphere happy. It’s just it’s an unreasonable expectation.
Dr. Melissa Smith 47:22
So what I will say is, you’re responsible for how you treat others, but you’re not responsible for their feelings about that. You’re not responsible for their choices. So mentally, let’s think about those mental boundaries. So thoughts, values, opinions and beliefs. So you might decide that there are some conversations that are off limits because they’re just not productive for you. So I’ve maybe mentioned this before, but I have a very a strict boundary with my guy friend that there is absolutely no finance talk before bedtime, because he’ll talk about finances before bed time and then he will not off to sleep, like no one’s business and then I will lay in bed and I will be ruminating or I’ll be doing calculations in my head and I will not sleep all night. And that I like that’s not okay because I need my sleep. And so I figured that out several years ago, right? You you figure out what your boundaries need to be because you run into problems and so I’ve just had to say like no, like we can talk about finances earlier in the evening or you know, like during the day or something like that. But I cannot talk about finances before pet time because I will not be able to sleep if that happens.
Dr. Melissa Smith 49:00
Another boundary that a lot of families have these days includes no politics talks with certain family members. So that might be a nice guideline for you. So thinking about what those boundaries might need to be for you. Okay? And then solution three. So I want to give you four steps to setting a boundary. So of course, this also comes from Maya Angelou, she’s got all the best quotes, right? “You teach people how to treat you.” So if you don’t respect your own boundaries, others will not respect them either because we can’t assume that others know what we need. And we can’t expect others to hold our boundaries that we ourselves will not hold. It’s not there. job, it’s our job, right? It’s our responsibility to set our own boundaries. So step one, I want you to define or identify the desired boundary and add step to communicate. So say what you need to say. So say what you need to say about the boundary. And so right so an example of that is step one define identify the desired boundary. So like for me with my husband, I’m like, I cannot talk about finances. Before that time, right? And step two is communicating, say what you need to say, like you fall asleep and you’re fine. It’s no big deal. But I ruminate, and I won’t I can’t sleep after we have those conversations. So like, it’s a no go, you cannot do that to me anymore. And not like he’s trying to do it to me, but you know, it’s just he doesn’t realize, and I didn’t realize it. And then step three, keep it simple. Don’t over explain. And this is the step in setting boundaries where people get in trouble. And this is often because they feel guilty about setting a boundary. They feel like oh, like I don’t deserve to set a boundary or if I explain it just write then the other person will understand or they’ll support me and you know what, like, they might not like they might not agree with you, they might not like it. And so just keep it simple. Don’t over explain it. And you know, if the kiss acronym is helpful, it’s not always the most friendly. But kiss is keep it simple, stupid. Just keep it simple. So don’t over explain. Right, so maybe I just be like, it’s just not helpful for me to talk about finances. before bedtime. I’m happy to talk about them earlier in the evening, but not right before bedtime. Okay?
Dr. Melissa Smith 52:00
So you don’t owe anyone an explanation. So remember that boundaries are about your needs and your psychological safety in the relationship. So if you need the other person to perfectly understand and agree with your boundary, you will never set a boundary. So it’s not uncommon for others to be unhappy about boundary setting. Because anytime you’re setting a boundary, you’re disrupting the system. Now the boundary example that I have for you about the finances right, like that’s a pretty small boundary, like that’s not a big deal. So my husband’s like, okay, whatever, right, like he didn’t care at all. But with bigger boundaries, it’s not uncommon for those to disrupt the system and that’s what I’ll talk about next. But if you have to over explain, or if you have to have The other person perfectly understand, you’ll never set the boundary. Okay, so then step four is to set consequences. So say why it’s important. So declare the consequences that you’re willing to follow through on. Otherwise the consequences pointless. So, you know, the parental threat, I’ve heard this before, the parental threat to sell the child to gypsies is hollow at best. And by the way, like, that’s not very respectful.
Dr. Melissa Smith 53:28
So, you know, you’ve got to set a consequence that you’re willing to follow through on. Otherwise, the consequence is pointless, of course, like in my example, like I didn’t really need a consequence, it was a very small boundary. But typically with with boundaries, like there needs to be a consequence. So right like if you had an employee that was consistently late, you wouldn’t need to set a consequence but it needs to be a consequence that you actually are willing and able to follow through on. So, you might be willing but are you able to follow through on it? So, both of those parameters need to be in place. And so, I will reference to positive psychology article that talks a little bit more about those four steps for setting a boundary okay and then solution for prepare for Fallout once you set a boundary. So, like I just mentioned boundaries shift how a system functions and it really shifts the dynamics of how the relationship functions and so, parts or you know, people within the system will not necessarily like the changes that come with setting the boundary. So, you have to prepare for fallout, you know, sometimes the boundaries are good, meaning other people will be like Yeah, that’s no big deal. But other times like, people will not like the boundaries. But ultimately boundaries make the relationship safer. Boundaries are an effort towards a more functional relationship. But you just need to know going in. People aren’t always going to like boundary setting because it disrupts the system. And so boundaries are about your needs in the relationship. And so it’s not uncommon for the other person to not be super thrilled about them. Because remember what I said, every system is perfectly designed for the results it’s getting. So your ineffective boundaries or your lack of boundaries, to this point, has been perfectly designed for the results the other person has maybe been getting, so they might not like your new boundary, right? Because they’re like, Oh, you mean I can’t manipulate you anymore? Or you mean I can’t keep coming to meetings late? Every every day, right? And I’m like, I’m not trying to say that people have these nefarious plans that they’re hatching and they have all this this conscious awareness about these boundary violations. But what I am saying is that boundaries and accountability are hard for people. And that’s just that just tends to be human nature. And so when you shift boundaries, it’s going to be challenging, and so most of this is not happening in a lot of conscious awareness. But don’t expect them to throw you a parade when you set a boundary. So even if they understand and support you, they still might not be happy about It. So anytime you disrupt a system by changing the boundaries, there are bound to be waves. So just think about that a systems like a pond, you’re changing that ecosystem, there are going to be waves.
Dr. Melissa Smith 57:15
So you want to stick to the simple boundary don’t over explain. You need to tolerate your distress, they guilt you might feel your desire for them to understand you don’t need them to understand really understanding is kind of overrated. Really, what you need to do is just assert the boundary, stick to the boundary, get out of dodge, right, so just set the boundary, assert the boundary. Don’t over explain, move on. And you’ll likely need to repeat that boundary and sometimes many times over, and you just need to get used to it. Anyone who has spent any amount of time with a toddler knows this. How many times you have to repeat a boundary, and you just have to be the calm repeating influence of the boundary over and over and over again. So, you need to learn to repeat the boundary and you can do it and eventually the other person will get the message. So, you may need to consider strengthening your boundary or making it more rigid as needed, if your boundary is not being respected. And this is the last word about it, you are entitled to your boundary and the other person is entitled to not respect it. So you both have your choice there. And ultimately, you maybe you choose to no longer be in a relationship together. But you both have your choice. And and Time will tell when you set a boundary. And right it either leads to Okay, this relationship is becoming more functional, or all Hell’s breaking loose. And you know, there’s You know, it’s getting more difficult to interact with this individual, then it’s like, okay, something, something more needs to happen. And whether that’s like, okay, we gotta, like we got to take this to the next level. Because these are serious concerns. It’s impacting our work, you know, it’s impacting the team. So be it boundaries are still always the answer. Boundaries make relationships more functional. Boundaries are the foundation for psychological safety. And so a lot of times when people first start on the work of boundaries they’re like I set a boundary, but it doesn’t work or I felt like it made it worse. And it will feel that way in the beginning, but I’m telling you, boundaries are the answer when it comes to more effective relationships and psychological safety in marriages and families in teams right when any, any relationship, any team, any group. And so time will tell if, if the boundary is sufficient for productive work to be able to proceed. And if not, then you have to start looking at serious questions in terms of, can we continue to work productively together? And those are hard questions. And a lot of people don’t want to look at those questions. And so they say, Well, I can just live with this, but for how long? Because here’s the thing. It really undermines culture. It really undermines productivity, efficiency, and doing your best work and it corrodes culture from the inside, from the inside out, and so it’s a really high cost to pay. So that is the last word on on boundaries.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:01:03
So I hope that this has been helpful in terms of helping you understand what boundaries are, why they are so very important and how you can start to set boundaries and certainly strengthen the boundaries. I’m sure you all have really great boundaries, but kind of getting into the details of how to strengthen those boundaries and how to recognize when your boundaries have been violated and how you can strengthen those boundaries so that you can pursue what matters. So make sure you head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode at www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-67 one more time www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-67. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, remember love and work, work and love, that’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai