Burnout to Leadership

Ep#21 How to set effective boundaries

February 11, 2022 Dex Randall Season 1 Episode 21
Burnout to Leadership
Ep#21 How to set effective boundaries
Transcript

Hi, everyone, my name is Dex Randall, and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello, my friends. This is Dex. It's delightful to be with you today. And we're gonna look at the very important topic of boundaries, because lack of workable boundaries is an enormous source of misery and suffering for so many people, and there's really no upside for poor boundaries since it so often breeds this festering sore of resentment and hostility, or am I just talking about myself there? Anyway, I know that one of the behaviors of people in burnout is to kind of let people try and pull over them in some ways. And let's not kid ourselves. We don't get exhausted because everything's working fine in our people relationships, and that's certainly one of my patterns from the past, and in many ways, I'm still learning how to successfully navigate human relationships. So wherever you are with all this, all this human stuff, it's already perfect. And, of course, if we don't have good boundaries, it's not because we're ill intentioned. We normally have very good intentions. We're usually trying very hard to help, people fix problems, be generous, be of service, foster good relationships. We mean well, but it doesn't always work out that way, because we end up feeling exhausted, used, resentful, and avoidant of the person we're trying to be good to, if not, of course, outright aggressive. So it's time to stop all that. This boundary thing is... If we don't have good boundaries, it's really demoralising, and you become less of yourself when you're all bent out of shape trying to please other people. And so by the way, you might like also Episode Number 12 on Saying No. It is a separate adventure from Boundaries, but it's kind of a near neighbour. As a side note, I watched a documentary on Sparks, the band, last week on a plane, and I remembered an album I heard in 1974, the first album I ever bought, and a hook that came to mind was, "Don't leave me alone with her, 'cause if you all go, who'll say no to her?" I've got no idea why I felt like the moment to share that with you, but anyway, back to the plot, boundaries. And rest assured, when I talk about boundaries, I'm not judging anyone, and I encourage you not to ever judge or blame yourself. What we're doing here is we're working our way forwards from whatever the point that we're at. And also, we humans have an animal instinct to connect, to relate, to belong to the herd. It's a survival instinct. So if we're challenged with setting boundaries, it's because it seems like a high risk, a threat to the connections that we cherish so much, and that's normal. So be kind to yourself as you approach this work. As I record this episode at the very end of January 2022, I'm preparing for a workshop on boundaries, where I'm going to teach how to set boundaries, but you can do it just from what you'll hear today on this podcast. So let's explore how. First of all, what is a boundary? Wikipedia defines it as the practice of openly communicating and asserting personal values as a way to preserve and protect against having them compromised or violated. I think about boundaries has been required when a person or multiple people do something that results in us experience physical, emotional, or spiritual violation, and notice that that's subjective, it depends on our values, so only we can say when a boundary has been crossed. You might have your own definition, but the point is, somebody did something that was out of bounds for you, and you feel the need to draw a line in the sand to prevent it happening again. And when we do that, that's how we take care of ourselves. Of course, drawing that line might be unsuccessful. It might lead to years, actually, of habitual acrimony, where two parties choose not to compromise and to remain in relationship with each other, so we're gonna talk about a new way of doing it in a minute. But next, How do you know when to set a boundary? Well, your anger is gonna be a good tip off. Generally, we feel angry when somebody crosses our boundary. If we're experiencing it as a violation, as opposed to just undesirable behavior that we wish we could change. So a boundary feels like not what when we want someone to change their behavior, but when we need them to to feel safe. And be careful here, it really is not us trying to control other people. It's not us wanting them to behave how we would like them to. It's a way of reducing threat to our well being and our personal sense of safety. And we might also feel fear, depending on the behavior and our sense of violation. And then later on after the fact, our feelings might cool into often resentment, frustration, defensiveness, antipathy, bitterness, hatred, aversion, or avoidance, but in the first place, usually anger. Of course, if there is actual danger present, for example, physical danger, it's really not the time to worry about boundaries, but rather get the heck out of there. So when that happens, please take care of yourself in that case. But for the rest of this episode, what I'm assuming is a lesser form of compromise, not involving immediate danger. So, okay then, we know what boundaries are. How can we set an effective boundary? And it possibly isn't how you think because I think most of us have not received particularly helpful training in setting boundaries, and probably most of us haven't really ever asked ourselves if there was a better way. But I think the first point is don't lash out. It's really better to withdraw and take a little time to let our anger subside, 'cause it can be really difficult learning the skill of boundary setting from anger. But fundamentally setting a boundary is simply letting someone know that when they do the undesirable thing, we will enact a consequence. So we set a boundary for ourselves, not for the other person. Let me just say that again. A boundary is about us and what we're going to do, not about them. Specifically, it's not telling them what they can and can't do, or expecting them to comply with our boundary. Our attempts to change the behavior of other adults particularly are largely futile. They're gonna keep being them regardless of what we say, so watch out. There is another podcast episode on this, and I'm gonna call it having a manual for somebody. So keep an eye out for that one. So the way we set a boundary that will be effective for us without relying on compliance for them, and which comes from love not anger, is by saying to them, "When you do X, I will do Y." So an example might be when you smoke indoors, I'm gonna ask you to go outside. Or when you don't pay your bills, I'm not gonna lend you the money. Or when you raise your voice at me, I will leave the room. And it's really good to be clear about that because many people don't know what our boundaries are unless we tell them. They're all groping around in the dark. What's not a boundary is, "If you don't do the washing up, I'm gonna walk out," because doing the washing up is probably a want not a safety issue, and therefore it's not a boundary. It's us trying to control people. Alright, so what happens when you've set a boundary? The next time the person does the thing that's in your boundary, you need to be 100% consistent and reliable about acting the consequence, and be warned, it might be challenging or emotionally uncomfortable for you to do this. If you've said you're gonna tell the person to go outside if they smoke indoors, you'd better do that every time. That's your responsibility. Otherwise, what you've done is you've undermined your own boundary, and you're both back in limbo in the unknown. And remember, even enacting the consequence comes from a place of love. You're firm and consistent, not critical, blamey or irritated. You're not punishing the person. You're keeping yourself safe. It's about you still, right? And if you retract from taking action, out of fear maybe of offending or upsetting the other person, it's really helpful to look at why. There's probably people pleasing, fear of rejection, or disapproval in there, and that's the reason so many of us don't set boundaries in the first place. But you can learn to respect yourself more fully and claim who you are without harming others. You can learn as an emotional adult that the other people won't agree with you or approve of you 100% of the time, but they don't need to. You do. If you approve of yourself fully and if you act with integrity with your values, a lot more internal safety becomes available to you, and with that a lot more freedom to engage deeply in your relationships with others. You need less from people. So the upside of setting a boundary and keeping it is the communication between you is now clear and consistent. The other person knows what to expect, and you're honouring both yourself and actually them by being truthful about who you are and what you need. It's hard work, of course, and it might elicit a bit of kickback initially. This new way of being might come as a bit of a shock to you both, but in the long term, it builds stronger relationship, it builds trust, and it builds open communication. You could phrase your boundary as, "I love you, but when you do X, I will do Y." And when you're clear like this, you can really clean up your own resentment towards them and take action from a lighter spirit, from a more neutral and respectful place, because pretending things are okay when they're not does not deepen relationships. Let's face it, no two people are gonna agree entirely on values and boundaries. There needs to be a process on how to differ in matters of safety where we'll set boundaries without having a tantrum, without rancour and blame, and without needing the other person to change who they are. And I would suggest if you're having difficulty letting go of your frustration and getting to a loving frame of mind to set a boundary, you might wanna take a look at Byron Katie's work. She has a worksheet called the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, and I'm gonna put a link to in the show notes, but it's a terrific practical tool for letting all the pus out of the wound of our resentments. Okay, so you've set a boundary and then in the time coming up, you see the unwanted behavior continues. Each time it does, you can just gently remind the other person of the boundary and let them know you're going to be carrying out the consequence as you said you would. Under no circumstances, unless there's actual danger, do you seek to manipulate, blame, or criticise the person in that moment to try to make them comply with your boundary. As an adult, it's always up to them. They have free will. If there's consistent behavior that you really can't put up with and that's not being modified, of course, in some cases, you might make a new decision about the nature of your relationship with that person. That could be your choice. But within a relationship that we want to maintain, blame and manipulation are not going to contribute. If we want to build a better relationship, it requires us to embody all the love and acceptance that We can. I mean, both for ourselves and for the other person. The other thing that can help here is depersonalising their behavior. It can take a bit of the sting out of it, and if you need a primer on working with other people's opinions, and it also applies to other people's behaviors, listen to episode 13 of the podcast about that. And again, I will pull you back there on Byron Katie's Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, which will help you manage your emotional response. Above all, work tenderly and gently in these matters. You're a valuable human being, and so are the people you're working with. You're just not the same as them. In all things, be gentle with yourself, acknowledge your vulnerability and courage, and work your way always towards a better and better relationship with yourself, kinder, more accepting, more trusting and supportive, because when you fill your own cup, the goodness overflows into your relationships with all other people. Thank you very much for listening. That's it for today. I love that you're here. You can visit my website at burnouttoleadership.com for the show notes. Please do subscribe and rate this podcast, and I would love you to forward this episode to anyone you know who's in burnout or stress and anxiety and is tussling with relationship difficulties by not setting good boundaries. And hang on at the end. If you'd like to hear the link to come and talk to me about your own burnout. If you're in burnout and ready to recover, come and join my Burnout to Leadership program. You can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com. Just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.