Say It, Don’t Spray It

Life is filled with complexity. Complexity brings with it all kinds of challenges, most of which can be mitigated by some good boundary setting – and that takes practice. Here are a couple of scenarios – what would you do when facing them?

You are working with a client and they begin to ask more and more of you, until you find yousrelf outside what you initially agreed upon. Do you…

1. Figure it comes with the territory and just do the extra work in “good faith,” hoping that your extra effort will bring you more work.

2. Recognize that what they are asking is outside the scope of work and tell them you are happy to do it, but they’ll have to pay you for the extra time.

3. Get frustrated, rail about it in your mind, then in a passive aggressive move, deliver less than what you agreed to.

4. …(Insert your own reaction)….

You have been daydreaming about all the wonderful things you are going to do with your free time this weekend. Your partner lets you know that they have made plans to take their car in to get serviced on Saturday AM and need you to pick them up at a time when you had planned to start that new yoga class. Do you…

1. Calmly tell them you have made other plans, and suggest they take an Uber home.

2. Agree to do it and secretly fume, blaming them for your flabby thighs and then eat a ginormous bowl of buttery popcorn.

3. Chalk this up to “Relationship compromises” and figure out a way to work out later in the day.

4. …(Insert your own reaction)

Boundary setting is so simple and yet so difficult all at the same time.

It requires a good level of emotional intelligence to do it well. There’s the critical point where you need to make a choice between getting angry about something, or recognizing that life is offering you an opportunity to practice boundary setting.

First you have to realize that you need to set a boundary. Your brain is wired to want to do the right thing, but the question is, what is the right thing? Once you’ve figured that out, you need to explicitly say what it is you want or need. Think about how many conflicts could be avoided if we all just told one another what we actually needed.

I’ve walked away from many an interaction thinking, “Oh boy, that didn’t go very well” and then turned right back around to try to say it again. I call this the spray it reaction, which I have resorted to in cases where I didn’t actually ask for what I needed or failed to set a boundary. I’m essentially spraying my emotions all over the room, with no real benefits.

The more I explore conflict, the more I recognise it has everything to do with setting good boundaries with others – which, if you think about it, is just another way of telling people what you need. If you don’t like that someone monopolises the airtime, you have to be willing to tell him or her. If you feel like the client is taking advantage of you, say something. If you want to make your health the priority over the car, make it clear.

Boundary setting doesn’t have to be filled with conflict, but conflict can happen if you haven’t been good at setting boundaries in the past. You may shock your friends and family with your sudden firmness.

If you’re new at setting boundaries, take it slow. Consider talking about it with your closest friends and loved ones – let them know you’re being pulled in every direction and need to start setting some boundaries in the interest of self care. If they understand where you’re coming from, they’re less likely to become upset when you set a new boundary.

It’s complicated to be a creative genius interactor, but practice makes perfect. Today, raise your awareness and know that you can ask for what you want and you can also get it.


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