1. Needing to give feedback to a defensive team member
2. Worrying about whether your pitch will make people want to buy your services
3. Trying to get the approval of a critical boss or client
4. Allowing a colleague you don’t trust to present a project you worked on together
What these situations have in common is that your success depends on others, but you can’t control them. Building strong boundaries helps you reduce your dependence on the behavior of others, which paradoxically makes it easier to get more of what you need from them.
Here are the three core practices we use in boundary setting that reduce anxiety, and help you get more control in unpredictable people situations:
1. Get Clear on what you Can and Can’t Control.
Typically the worst stress in situations like those I noted comes from expecting yourself to make someone else think, feel, or behave a certain way. The problem is we don’t control the thoughts and behaviors or others, nor should we. You can actually be more effective in an interaction if you allow others to own their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
2. Have a “Worst Case” Plan.
Once you let go of the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others, you are left with a scary possibility – what if they don’t end up thinking, feeling, or behaving the way you want or need them to? Instead of trying to control what you can’t control, focus on what you can control – which is your own response if things don’t go your way. At first it might not feel so great to consider a worst case scenario, but it can actually be quite empowering!
When you know that worst case you’ll get fired or dumped by a client, you are free to think beyond that moment to what you’ll do, and you often realize that you can handle a lot more than you thought you could. Your resulting boost in confidence shows through in your approach and can be quite compelling to others.
3. Develop “People Systems” to Get your Needs Met.
You won’t be as dependent on your boss’s opinion of you if others in your organization know you and your work well. If you have a pipeline full of prospective clients, one difficult client could be easier to get rid of, and the pressure is off when it comes to your pitch. Build a strong network within and outside your organization so that your reputation is strong and credible, and you have people to go to when you need help.
The goal here is to NOT NEED any ONE person or situation to go your way in order for you to be okay. It’s much easier to be patient and relaxed with difficult people if they can’t harm you.
These three practices are MUCH easier said than done, but even taking a few baby steps can make a world of difference!
If you get stuck or have a situation that you would like to discuss, feel free to reach out and schedule a phone call with me. We are also discussing boundaries this month in our Aspyrre group program, where you’ll have an opportunity to hear stories from other members of challenging work relationships they have experienced, what they have tried, and what has worked for them.