Boundaries and Standards


“Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.”  (Author Unknown)

Talane Miedaner is the owner and founder of Talane Coaching Company and the author of “Coach Yourself to Success,” a book on how to achieve what you want. She provides over 100 tips on how to be happier and more successful.

In the chapter entitled “Increase your Natural Power,” her advice includes how to set boundaries for yourself.  “Boundaries, “ she writes,” are simply the things that people can’t do to you, lines that will protect you and allow you to be your best.” We all need them, but it can be hard to set them and stick to them, especially if you like to think of yourself as a nice person.

Fortunately, Miedaner provides a four step approach that will calmly establish (and re-establish) your boundaries in any situation – personal or professional. Here are the four steps.

Step One: Inform. Miedaner suggests that you state your point clearly, neutrally and without emotion. “Do you realize that you are yelling at me?” “Do you realize that that comment hurt me?” “I didn’t ask for your opinion.” Sometimes, this will be enough to stop the other person in her tracks.  “I didn’t realize I was yelling.” “I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to get so worked up.” Of course, some bullies know perfectly well that they are acting inappropriately.  They will require more intervention.  See step two.

Step Two: Request. This step is simple: ask the person to stop. “I ask that you stop interrupting me when I’m speaking.” “I ask that you make your remarks less personal.” If that doesn’t work, go to step three.

Step Three: Insist. Obviously, if asking nice isn’t working, you have to make it clear that “no” is not an option. “I insist that you stop yelling at me now.” The word “insist” has power; it means business. You can also use “demand,” or “require” to make your point.  Whatever word you use, you should keep your calm and neutral demeanor. If the person persists, go to step four.

Step Four: Leave. (without any snappy comebacks or remarks.)  Miedaner suggests that you simply and calmly state your case: “I can’t continue this conversation until you… (name behavior.)” It shouldn’t take long for someone to begin to understand and respect your boundaries. If you have people in your life who won’t after several applications of this process, you’ll need to reconsider your relationship.

The key to success is remaining calm (on the outside at least) and maintaining a neutral tone.  Your reaction can serve as a calming influence or like gas on a fire. It may sound scary to take on an intrusive boss or angry customer, but your alternative may be seething rage that’s suppressed for years.  That’s the kind of feeling that erupts suddenly one day into a fit – screams or tears. That would be much worse for your career.

The flip side of boundaries is standards – the behaviors you hold yourself to. You can’t expect people to respect your boundaries if you exhibit the same behavior. You must choose the standards you will uphold and practice them often. For instance, mine include never bringing a bad mood into the office, always being polite to people who serve the public for a living, and always showing up on time. You may have others that you consider to be an important part of your character. Once you decide that something is a standard, you have to be ready to do your best to uphold it, even on a bad day or under provocation.

When you fall short, and sometimes you will, you have a way to make it right. “I am so sorry for being rude yesterday. That’s not the standard of behavior I try to uphold. Please accept my sincere apology – I won’t do it again.” You may get one free pass from a friend or colleague, and maybe even a stranger. But their respect – and your personal integrity – rides on true changes in behavior. Are you ready for the challenge?

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