How To Protect Your Boundaries With Honest Conversations
Want to learn how to protect your boundaries with honest conversation? Here are my best tips for creating boundaries even when it’s tough.
How many times have you said yes to commitments, events or obligations simply because you wanted to be polite?
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Sometimes we get so caught up in being agreeable or people-pleasing or doing all the things that we stop protecting our own boundaries.
We don’t check in with our energy levels or ask what’s expected of us before we volunteer our time.
We put the needs of others in front of our own.
We get so wrapped up in someone else’s enthusiasm that we prioritize their goals instead of our own.
But if we want to achieve incredible things in this new decade, we have to start making different choices with our time, energy and resources.
We need to embrace the power of honest conversation and choose to be truthful in the moment — because that’s how you’re going to protect your boundaries and show up as your best self for others.
Why You Need To Protect Your Boundaries
One of the biggest lessons I learned in 2019 was the power of saying no.
In order to uplevel, to grow, to scale, I have to be able to dedicate my mental focus to taking steady steps in the direction of my dreams — every day. That also means making sure each of my commitments aligns with that plan, too. It means making choices like there’s no time to waste, yet a finite amount of energy to accomplish it.
I can’t be stretched too thin, or nothing gets done well.
Not to mention I also want to have the reserves to spend time with my family, go on vacation or practice some self-care.
Now I know there’s a strong culture of the hustle mentality in the entrepreneurial world, and I’m not knocking that. Building a global reach requires consistent hard work and dedication.
But that’s just it — it’s a long game.
And that means you need to reserve your resources, whether that’s your mental, emotional, intellectual, financial or physical resources. You need to make sure you’re moving at a pace that’s sustainable over the long run.
Because global growth doesn’t happen overnight.
5 Tips For Protecting Boundaries Through Honest Conversation
1. Know What’s In Alignment With Your Goals
In order to successfully have those tough, boundary-preserving conversations, first you need to be extremely clear about what you want to achieve — and what’s in alignment with that ultimate, top-level goal. So make sure you’ve really honed in on that top goal. Then break it down so you can see the steps it takes to get there. Once you can visualize the steps, you’ll have a much clearer vision of what’s in alignment and what’s not.
Now, even if you know exactly what your goal requires of you and your team, recognizing what’s in or out of alignment can be easier said than done. So here are a few tips to help you figure it out.
- If the mere thought of that commitment gives you anxiety, you should probably say no. Just to be clear, I’m talking about the gut-level, red-flag anxiety — not the healthy dose of fear that comes with new opportunities and challenges.
- Don’t say yes until you have all the details. In most cases, you won’t have enough detail on the spot and will need to schedule a follow-up call. You can even prepare questions, so you know you’re covering all your bases.
- Listen to that sense of inner knowing within you. Close your eyes, tune in or meditate on it. Or sleep on it. Sometimes a day of space will help your access that inner guide a little easier.
2. Honest But Tough Answers Avoid Future Frustration
Once you know your answer, you may need to have an honest but tough conversation. While nobody likes to turn down a friend or colleague, sometimes it has to be done. However, it doesn’t have to be done in a way that hurts others’ feelings, so let’s go over some quick tips to honest, tough conversations that strengthen relationships — rather than harm them.
- Always give them your answer as soon as you have it. Prolonging the conversation can cause unnecessary frustration and create tension. The sooner you allow them to move on, the better.
- Part of showing up authentically is being able to exercise truthfulness. Let them know you’re working toward a big goal and need all your commitments to deeply align with that goal; otherwise, you can’t make the commitment. If you respect yourself, others will, too.
- If it doesn’t align, say: I so appreciate you thinking of me for this incredible opportunity. If it were up to me, I would say yes in a heartbeat. But this year, I’ve committed my time to a huge goal: ____. Maybe we can talk again next year, if you’re still interested in working together.
- If you’re too busy, say this: I am so grateful that you thought of me. That’s such a huge compliment. Unfortunately, I’m already feeling a little over-committed, and I wouldn’t be giving you the best of me. I don’t think it would be fair to you if I couldn’t show up as my best self.
- Simply: If I’m spread too thin, you’ll get what’s left of me — instead of the best of me — and I don’t think that’s right.
3. Say No For Now
Sometimes, an offer comes along and, even though it doesn’t totally align with your current goal, you’re dying to say yes. Most entrepreneurs and creative spirits are multi-passionate, and we can often get ourselves in trouble that way. While you don’t have to limit your creative passions, make sure you’re prioritizing them appropriately. There’s time to get everything done — just not all at once.
In these cases, the answer is no for now. It doesn’t have to mean never.
And remember to think of the long game in these instances. Personally, I’m looking at the next decade to see what I can accomplish, not simply the next 365 days.
4. Recognize When Your Commitments Evolve
It can take a lot of mental space, time and awareness to collaborate with others. In fact, many times it can take more energy than it would have if you simply did it yourself. Though collaborations also yield results you couldn’t reach alone, there’s something to be said about the energy required of a good collaboration.
And often, the commitment you originally signed up for evolves over time. Sometimes it becomes more streamlined; yet more often, it can grow or spiral into something entirely different. If you’re a doer, or you’re skilled at executing tasks instead of just ideating, this can be especially true for you.
That’s why these tough, boundary-setting conversations never really go away. You have to get good at having them because you’ll likely have to continue to protect them throughout the lifetime of your relationships and collaborations. Here are a few circumstances to watch out for in your existing collaborations:
- Your partners/relationships have taken your “yes” and stretched it to meet their goals.
- Your partners/relationships became so excited by your contributions that they grew your commitment and assumed your availability would also grow to accommodate their vision.
- Your partners/relationships set certain expectations in the beginning and changed them on you halfway through the process.
If you find yourself in these circumstances, you need to honor yourself enough to have the tough conversation. Let them know that things have changed, and the commitment is no longer a good fit for you. Tell them this is healthier and less frustrating for everyone because you’re protecting the relationship from becoming too strained. Just speak from your heart and stick to the truth — even when it feels tense in the moment.
5. Protect Your Team, Too
Lastly, remember to protect the boundaries and energy reserves of your team, too. Once other entrepreneurs find out I have a skilled team of specialists — from photography to video to content creation — they often ask to hire their time for joint projects. While I used to allow this all too often, I now see that this kindness also pulls energy away from our mission and toward the missions of others. That would be fine if I wasn’t soul-committed to my own global mission.
It’s not just you, as the leader of the ship, who must stay focused on the course ahead. You need all the support you can get, and that means the support of your team. To reciprocate that support, don’t overload or distract them with projects that are out of alignment. Instead, ask them to refer other professionals in their fields for your colleagues. Everyone will appreciate the opportunity being created, and more importantly, you’ll still be on track.
Share With Us!
How do you handle those tough, boundary-setting conversations? What do you say? What tools do you have in your back pocket?
Share with us! We would love to know!
Your story is so important.
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