By Bryan Kramer | Business, Commentary, Featured

Everything is Better with Boundaries

We recently sold our house! I say excitedly AND with a lot of emotion.

I read somewhere that selling a home is more stressful than almost anything else. It’s been our home for 15 years where both of my kids grew up. I realize now looking back as we were going through the process that we had to maintain a level of boundaries with everyone involved the entire way. It’s the only way emotionally we could get through it all. All that said, we are excited for the next chapter as we move into our new home.

On top of that, the holidays are upon us and everyone up and down the country starts their epic voyage back home or frantically prepares to welcome every man and his dog around the dining table. Whether it’s family or friends, it’s a time when humans come together and hopefully (if there’s no political chat!) connect.

It’s a difficult time of the year for a lot of people too. Forced interaction can be tough, especially with people you might not choose to have in your life, but because they’re family or an old friend, you’re obligated to spend time with them. With these kinds of scenarios, boundaries are important.

And it’s not just about boundaries, it’s living the life we deserve, protecting our time and emotional wellbeing, which is especially difficult in the new tech space we’re navigating that increasingly blurs boundaries.

Setting up your emotional boundaries

Unfortunately, we can’t walk around with a sign saying ‘sorry, I’m not available and people would avoid us accordingly – life would be a lot easier if we could! The boundaries we have are more like invisible shields and communicating them effectively helps to show what we’re comfortable with.

Better self-esteem, conserving energy, and feeling more confident in a situation are all advantages of preserving boundaries. Boundaries make your own feelings a priority. And it’s not to say boundaries have to be fixed and unable to change – flexible boundaries are healthier and allow you to apply context.

Boundaries are essentially advocating for yourself and emotional wellbeing. Showing and letting down boundaries to become more open in a conversation is an example of demonstrating to friends or family that they’re welcome to connect to us and get closer.

Defining healthy rulesets

Defining boundaries by using healthy rulesets relies on being assertive. Assertiveness rests on a balancing act of firmness and kindness. 

You can communicate clearly to someone when something is too much with assertive language, such as ‘I feel [insert emotion] because of [insert reason] and this means I need [insert action]’. You’re using confident, assertive language to demonstrate what’s going on internally so that someone else can understand.

I work on giving myself the space to be an extrovert sometimes and an introvert at other times (or ambivert as I like to call it) and this helps to keep me in balance, with a healthy mindset.

When to say yes, how to say no

The power of saying no is a liberating experience. Some people go through life and think people-pleasing is saying yes and agreeing to everything. But if you have a family and a job, saying yes to every extra shift or duty at work can end up alienating you from your family and displeasing your loved ones in the process.

The art of knowing when to say yes and no is about connecting with your needs, capabilities, and goals. There can be pressure to deliver a ‘no’ with a plethora of justifications and reasons, but being assertive and honest is often the best policy. 

How to go about setting a boundary

You don’t have to announce to the world that you’re setting boundaries, but you can put things in place which will give clarity to others. This could be something as simple as setting an auto-reply that tells people when they can expect an email reply and if there are hours when you won’t reply to emails, which is especially relevant in our crazy digital world. 

Our wellbeing is affected simply by the idea that we should always be available to reply to emails and messages. 

Or you could set aside time every week for yourself where you turn all digital devices off and chill out – giving anyone that would usually wonder where you are a heads up if you need to. 

It’s important to remember that you have a complete right to your own privacy and good mental wellbeing, so communicating boundaries with this in mind is acceptable.

Being clear with expectations 

If someone repeatedly tries to push your boundaries, even when you’ve given social cues or have verbally articulated that you’re not comfortable then you should listen to your gut.

You might have to reassess a boundary you’ve put in place or your relationship with a person. Sometimes you need to be clearer with the expectations around your boundaries and remind someone – it can just be a miscommunication.

I like to use the principle of charity with most situations, where you see the good in people and give them the benefit of the doubt. Giving a gentle reminder that you don’t reply to emails after a certain time or that you need space from someone helps others get on the same page as you.

Putting boundaries in place in your personal and professional life helps to protect your own wellbeing, foster better relationships and helps you to learn about others.

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