I used to really struggle with setting boundaries.
I certainly don’t have the boundary-drawing down perfectly, but I’ve made progress. Maybe it’s maturing or passing 40 or just not being quite as merciful as some of my incredibly gracious girlfriends.
As a result, I end up getting phone calls and texts and Voxers (seriously, you all need this app) and emails about issues cropping up in their lives around a singular issue: BOUNDARIES.
It is hard. This saying no and setting limits and creating priorities that aren’t negotiable.
However, it is SO valuable and you live a better life once you’ve begun setting boundaries well.
So, there’s going to be a little column here every once in a while called Boundary Boss! Think of it as a Dear Abby/Gindi column for issues around boundary-setting.
I’ll take examples from my friends as well as from you dear readers – email the situation in via the contact form and I’ll take them up (anonymously!).
Today, we’ll take up an issue important, but hard, to establish boundaries in order to sustain your mental and emotional health.
Getting the smack talk.
Okay, so maybe that’s not the technical term, but you know what I’m talking about. When someone feels the need to “overshare” why they don’t like an event you are running or a mannerism of yours or your family dinner style or whatever the case may be.
And to clarify, there are two things I am NOT talking about. One, I am not talking about random people criticizing you on social media, etc. In various leadership roles, I’ve got the negative Tweet or post or comment. If they’re just attacking, I ignore them. I know the people who love me have my back, and I turn off the voices of people not really in my life. (That’s its own boundary.)
I am also not talking about people who you trust providing constructive criticism on an area in your life where it adds value. For example, your boss giving you annual reviews or your friend expressing some concerns about the way you are being treated by a boyfriend.
This smack talk example cropped up when one of my friends, we’ll call her Pam, had someone Pam considered a friend approach her at an event Pam had planned. She started telling Pam what was wrong with the event.
Y’all, that is not a friend.
Plus, you don’t have to stand there and take it.
But you don’t have to be rude either.
I call the boundary-setting technique, “talk to the hand.” (Because I’m just that pithy.)
Pretend you are at an event that you and your friends planned. Your “friend” comes up to complain how far the venue is or the music is too loud or the co-leaders are really disorganized. You can simply raise your hand and say, “I can’t hear this right now.” Then walk to where you need to be next, ideally next to your handsome hubby or best friend.
People offering criticism just because they have a negative world view doesn’t mean you have to listen. This applies to someone criticizing your co-workers or attacking someone’s appearance or whining about a new leader at your church or community group. You can simply raise your hand and say, “I don’t want to have this conversation.”
This feels SO hard the first time you do it. Do it anyway. Negative talk will spoil your attitude. It will color the way you view a person or circumstance. Optimism is integral to succeeding and optimism breeds optimism. It’s like rabbits! (I couldn’t resist.)
So if someone wants to attack you or criticize others, set the important boundary of stopping them. You will overcome the concern you have of offending someone or seeming rude when you find out how much happier you are once you’ve removed these voices.
I know this is a more simplistic response to this situation but sometimes I think that people struggle for conversation. Other people tend to go right to the negative and that is where the conversation begins. Of course this is not always the reason. It could be spiteful or attention seeking but sometimes simply changing the subject stops it. On rare instances I have stopped it with a ” oh my goodness, those shoes are awesome where did you get them…” I also have resorted to thank you for your opinion, it would be awesome if you could help next time ( if it is a church event, school event, etc). But maybe it is because I am not yet 40, 2 months to go!!!
I think that is a good path but it often doesn’t put the person on alert to shush on the negativity. It’s certainly a more comfortable option as you ease into the boundaries 🙂 (You’ll love 40!)