There’s been a lot of talk recently about the importance of drawing boundaries. In particular, the work of Brene Brown has thrust this concept into the spotlight, reminding us all that strong boundaries are the key to strong relationships.
It feels a little counter-intuitive. Because we equate boundaries with division -- and division doesn’t feel all that conducive to strong (never mind healthy) relationships.
The power of a solid boundary cannot be denied. Heck, there’s a cliché that states unequivocally that “good fences make good neighbours.” There’s a way that having boundaries helps us interact with one another clearly.
So, if boundaries are so critical to good relationships -- whether professionally, personally, or in any other context -- what is it that stops us from being able to draw boundaries with ease?
Quite simply, we get hung up on the human need to be “liked”. Most people I know have a deeply-held desire to be liked, to not hurt or be hurt, to be seen as “the good guy”. In light of this, rather than state our needs (which is what drawing a boundary is all about), we stay quiet, or minimize what we’re feeling. The result? Resentment. And trust me when I say, resentment does not provide a strong foundation for a good relationship.
The thing we’ve got to understand is that folks might be annoyed, angry or otherwise put out when we draw a boundary. They may not like it. They may walk away. They may take their business elsewhere. It’s true. But fear of any of those outcomes is not a good enough reason to refrain from drawing a boundary. Because if you don’t draw a clear boundary and they stay, or they smile, or they continue to do business with you, you will be seething internally. The relationship you have will be built on a lie -- and eventually, all will come crashing down around you.
So, what’s the solution? Learn to let go of the need to be liked, just a bit. You don’t need to be an ass. You do need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable -- in service of being in integrity. Remind yourself that another person’s choice -- to walk away, to be angry, to blame you, whatever -- doesn’t mean a thing about who you are or how worthy you are. It means they don’t like your boundary - and that is okay.
Bottom-line: being uncomfortable and in integrity is far greater than being resentful and out of integrity. Strong, clear boundaries are the key to healthy, compassionate relationships. Learn to draw your strong boundaries. Honour them. And you’ll find yourself surrounded by strong relationships.