DSC00784In a talk I gave a few weeks ago about transforming toxic interactions, a member of the audience asked me, “What do you mean when you talk about boundaries?”  This was a great question from a group of people who were interested in changing their interactions for the better.

In fact, many of us have had blurry boundaries modeled for us through family interactions, TV shows and romance novels.

Boundaries define what is or is not acceptable treatment from others.  They mark you as being sovereign; a free agent in charge of your life and your choices.

When boundaries are honored, you feel respected and empowered.  When trespassed, you feel, and probably are, disrespected.

The distinction can be very obvious, as when someone eats off your plate or calls you a foul name.  When a friend shares embarrassing confidential information about you to a whole group of acquaintances, you are likely to feel disrespected and even vulnerable about what future boundary violations may be in store for you from such a person.

More insidious disrespect is often shown by those who provide unsolicited help, and such help is often a power play.  The employee who tells me how to turn on the projector which I have already powered up is being helpful.  He is also demonstrating his assumption that I don’t know how to operate the projector without assistance.

The person in the audience who interrupts the presentation to add expert information, which doesn’t really support the speaker’s topic, is pretending to be helpful while her intention is to demonstrate superior knowledge, even though she is not the speaker.

Notice the wonderful people who honor boundaries and show you respect.  Seek out more of them.  They have certain sterling traits.  Primary of these is the empathy to discern where your boundaries are.  They also respect your ability to live your life, make choices and take care of yourself.

They may seem less helpful, but they respectfully assume you are handling things until you tell them otherwise.  They won’t often rescue you unless you request their help, but when they do help you, there will be no strings attached.

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