The Power of Setting Good BoundariesNov 01, 2021
Written by Julia Amato, Life + Leadership Coach
It’s 4 p.m. and your boss sends a message asking if you can review something before close of business. You know it’s going to take at least an hour, which means you’re leaving work after 5 p.m., sitting in traffic and late picking up the kids...again.
Alas, you reply with a reluctant, “Yes. I’ll be late picking up my kids, but they’ll understand.”
Sound familiar? Yeah, same here. I've had my fair share of reluctant yeses that put kids, friends or significant others on the back burner.
Even though we know the impact that immediate decision has on our life outside of work, we feel good about being a trusted colleague and we worry we’ll lose that credibility if we say no.
But let’s talk about what saying “no” would ACTUALLY mean in that case. Say instead our response was, “Happy to take a look at it first thing tomorrow with fresh eyes. I need to head out by 4:30 p.m. today to pick up my kids.”
Here’s what we communicated to our boss in that scenario:
- I care, and I want to do a good job reviewing this.
- I’ll do a better job in the morning with fresh eyes.
- I have a life outside of work.
- I value my children/my life outside of work.
- I’m confident in my ability and my contributions to this job, and I don’t need to sacrifice other priorities to prove it.
Now, put yourself in your boss’ shoes. Do you have more respect for someone who stands firm in their values and recognizes their worth? Or, do you respect the person who’s willing to make their kids wait and feels they need to over-perform to be seen?
Don’t get me wrong. There will be some bosses who don’t make the connection to your character and just want the deliverable done. Those bosses are the ones who will burn out themselves and aren’t really the ones we want to work for anyway.
But, there are a lot of bosses who will see the integrity in your “no,” and they’ll respect you more for it. What’s even better in the “no” scenario? You’re respecting yourself and the relationship you have with your kids.
It’s so easy, especially for women, to feel the need to say “yes” and put others’ needs before our own. We’ve been conditioned to do just that, i.e. over-perform just to be seen as a welcomed guest at the table. But the truth is the more we show up as ourselves and stand firm in our boundaries, the more respect we gain from others.
Why? Because boundaries are a measure of self-esteem. They let others know we respect ourselves and we have guidelines for how others should treat us. I like to say boundaries are an act of love. We show ourselves love, but ultimately, we’re creating more loving relationships with others through mutual respect and support.
Setting good boundaries begins with knowing yourself and your values. If you want guidance on how to create meaningful boundaries and stand firm in them, I encourage you to check out my Core Values Academy course.
You’ll come out knowing your top five core values, an action plan for living them and the confidence to stand firm in your “no” and feel exhilarated by your “yes.”
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