• Do you agree to do things that you really don’t want to do and later regret it?
  • Do you avoid speaking up for yourself at times even though you’re seething inside?
  • Do you tend to avoid conflict? Do you let others have their way or make decisions for you?

These are all signs that you haven’t established your boundaries. You may think that asking for what you want is selfish or that it’s not good team behavior. So you say something like “Whatever you choose will be great!” What happens is that you agree to do things you don’t want to do.

Yes, you may avoid conflict with others. Unfortunately, it can create built-up frustration and anger inside of you. Eventually, this stress and tension becomes too great and you explode or do something stupid.

Boundary Management
It’s far better to become aware of what you need and develop strategies to ensure that your needs are met appropriately. That requires you to set boundaries – what you will or will not do; what is acceptable behavior towards you and others and what is not; and other things that are important to you. Setting personal boundaries is essentially a three-step process:

 Step One: Be Aware of Your Needs
Think of times when you felt angry, frustrated, embarrassed, hurt or powerless? These can be signs that your needs were not met or things were done that went against your values, goals or priorities. Then ask yourself these questions to figure out what needs were not being met. It could be for recognition, or assurance in your knowledge or expertise, or having freedom to make certain decisions, or acknowledgement of what is important to you, etc.

  • When did someone keep me from doing what I needed to do?
  • What did I have a right to ask for but I was ignored or dismissed?
  • When did I feel left out or not acknowledged by my boss, team members, others?
  • When did I not speak up when someone caused me or hurt, embarrassment or even fear?

Step Two: Set Your Boundaries
When you understand what you need to be satisfied, engaged or motivated, that’s only the first part of the process. You must also let others know what you need. Your colleagues, peers, and friends can’t always figure this out on their own. To do that well, follow these guidelines:

1. Focus on your goals.
Getting what you want takes commitment. Setting boundaries isn’t always easy, so maintain a strong focus on your overall goals you want to achieve. Make sure they are realistic and relevant.

2. Be more assertive.
It’s the art of communicating what you need clearly, openly and rationally, without resorting to anger or demands. It’s not just telling; it’s listening as well. You also need to work with others to reach solutions that can satisfy both you.

3. Learn to say no, when appropriate.
If you say yes to everything, you risk not having enough time to do anything properly. You also risk not working on the things that are truly important.

Step Three: Monitor Your Boundaries
When you set boundaries, you start to have a sense of empowerment. Realize that boundaries should not completely fixed or unchangeable. Sometimes situations arise that need a certain amount of flexibility. Also remember boundaries are a way to help you work more effectively with others and that may require a give and take.

Smart Moves Tip

When you have a clear set of boundaries that are reasonable and appropriate to the situation, you empower yourself to get what you need to be satisfied. If you’re satisfied, you’ll be more productive and will make a larger contribution to the team and the organization. Therefore make boundary management a priority today.

Marcia Zidle, the smart moves executive coach and speaker, is host of The Business Edge  on the Voice America Business Network. The show features the Smart Growth System providing small to medium sized businesses the proper foundation for expansion: a Growth Agenda that becomes their roadmap, a Growth Engine that attracts and engages the best talent and Growth Leaders that make it happen.  Marcia, the CEO of Leaders At All Levels, brings street smarts to help businesses get on the right track and not get sidetracked on their path to higher performance and profitability.