The Beauty of Automated Boundaries

Hands up if you have ever found yourself paralysed by emotion? How about making a decision in the moment that is completely against your own interests - and not in the best interest of the other person either? Emotional transactions are tricky, and you know what? Every transaction is an emotional transaction, just like every choice has consequences. By giving ourselves strong guidelines to follow, guidelines grounded in our integrity and self-knowledge, we create an intentional distance which allows us to feel the emotions without being overpowered by them, and to choose which emotions we will honour.

Imagine you have a client call booked. You have done your preparation for the call, arranged childcare, dressed appropriately, and are ready to go. You are extra keen as her payment will help cover an urgent bill. Ten minutes before the call, she messages you to say she is just not feeling it today and wants to reschedule. Feel the emotions that flood through you. Now imagine this is not the first time she has said this to you. You really like this client, you know you can help her, but your frustration and resentment levels are through the roof! How dare she disrespect you like this? And yet you have to bottle all of that up and reply politely because you can’t afford to turn clients away. All sorts of fear-based thinking starts clamouring for your attention. If you say “no” to her, she might never come back. She might tell others that you are rude and damage your reputation. You might feel guilty for turning her away – after all, she needs your help! How can you disappoint her without sounding nasty? Instant emotional turmoil – definitely not a recipe for clear, calm decision-making!

Now, imagine being in that situation, but knowing that you have set your intentions with integrity and communicated them – in advance – with certainty. Before your client even booked the appointment, you made it clear in your terms of service (which you clearly and carefully made known to her) that rescheduling appointments requires a reasonable amount of notice, and that there are consequences if this notice provision is not complied with. You thought through the practicalities of enforcing those consequences and have a clear understanding of what you need to do in that eventuality. You have the clarity that comes from knowing that you have set your intentions with integrity.

Now, let’s flip this scenario and look at it from your client’s perspective. She wants to work with you, but she is drowning in her own stuff – all of that emotion we described a moment ago? She’s feeling it all from her perspective as well. When you provide her with clearly communicated boundaries, you are not only serving yourself. You are saving her from the anxiety of not knowing what is reasonable – what she can ask without offending you, and what her rights are under the circumstances. By giving our clients everything they need to make informed decisions and trust us, we not only manage their expectations and teach them how to respect their relationship with us, we empower them to step up and make sovereign decisions in their own right. They have a choice about whether to comply with our boundaries and they can weigh the consequences of non-compliance.

Anxiety and uncertainty keep everyone off-centre and ungrounded. By automating your boundaries, you set your business up to hold a protective space of calm confidence where your relationship with your client can flourish.

Finally, automating the boundaries around our business helps us deal with resentment and trauma triggers by giving us the time we need to process our feelings and make conscious choices from a space of calm, conscious clarity. It is impossible to make our best decisions when we are under the pump of emotional pressure – especially when we are trying to deal with that in the moment and it is unclear what is ours, what is theirs, and what is the distorted hall of mirrors that inevitably emerges from our pre-programmed habits, imperfect perceptions and uncertain assumptions.

One of the most important buffers we can build into our business is space for decision-making. We need to practice asking for time (without apology). Brainstorm a list of ways to delay, and role play them with a friend until they start to feel natural.

  • “That sounds really interesting, but I need to check whether I have capacity to take it on right now.”
  • “I have limited availability at the moment. Can I check my schedule and get back to you?”
  • “That’s a tough one. I need to think about my answer before I reply.”
  • “I hear what you are saying. I am going to consider my options, and you’ll hear from me soon.”

It is very very rare for you to be in an emergency situation that requires an immediate answer. Taking the time to process your emotions, and then run your decision through the filters of who you are, what you need and what you want allows you to review your intentions make a strong decision that supports your sovereignty and integrity.

  • When we find ourselves paralysed by emotion, making decisions in the moment that are not in anyone’s best interests, it is often because we have been blindsided by guilt, expectations or habit.
  • What is an issue that you deal with often that really wastes your time, annoys you, or that you find difficult? It might be unreasonable client requests, scope creep, unpaid invoices, appointments rescheduled without notice…
  • How can you communicate your boundaries around this issue clearly, in advance, in a way that empowers your client to make an informed decision while respecting your own needs?
  • Prepare and practice a range of responses that let you ask for time and space before making a decision.

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