Learn the Power of Boundaries
You’re invited to be on the PTA!
You’re such a great baker; we need your help with the bake sale!
A co-worker needs your help with a work project!
“It feels good when people ask us to do things we’re good
at,” says Joyce Weiss, M.A., C.S.P., and conflict resolution
consultant. “Our egos are stroked. We like it when other
people need us.”
Boundaries? What Boundaries?
“We had boundaries as kids,” Joyce points out. “Come
home when the streetlights come on. No TV until your
homework is completed.” Too often, though, we don’t
set them for ourselves as adults. “Think about recent
commitments and make a list of duties you wish you
had said no to. This can help you prepare a response for
the next time. Finally, politely but firmly enforce your
boundaries. If you set boundaries and people still take
advantage, it’s your fault. You get what you tolerate.”
Shannon, a busy working mother, wanted to return to
school to earn her degree. She knew the extra hours would
affect her family, so she called a family meeting. “She
explained it was a two-year commitment,” Joyce recounts.
“Her kids would need to make their own lunches and life
might be a little more stressful. The payoff was a better
job for Shannon, allowing the family to have money for
the vacation they wanted, or for her kids to attend college.
They agreed to her plan. To this day, when they complain,
she reminds them about that meeting. That’s Shannon’s
boundary, and it’s working.”
Do you have a co-worker who stops by your desk, seeking
help for her projects and leaving you with less time for your
own? “Use ‘I’ language to deflect them,” suggests Joyce.
“For example, ‘I’m frustrated … because I’d love to help you
out, but I’m too busy.’ Or set a time limit: ‘I can give you
five minutes, because I have a meeting at three.’”
What about that friend whose number on your caller ID
makes you groan? These energy vampires are talkaholics,
and it’s all about them and what they need. You don’t have
to pick up the phone. Or you can say up front, “I’m tied up
this week; I’ll be glad to call you back or email you.”
As Wise Women, we encounter demands for our time
and energy from many directions. When those demands
become too much, the continual stress can lead to an
array of health problems. Create and enforce boundaries
to help manage your stress levels, and you will feel better
about the commitments you make. It can mean a longer,
healthier, happier life.
Joyce Weiss, based in West Bloomfield, Michigan, is the
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