By Jessica Carlson, Employee Benefits Consultant
Do you have a hard time saying no to people? What if someone needs a simple favor or needs to borrow money? What about at work? Are you busy and someone you work with needs something done ASAP? How do you decide what takes priority?
Setting boundaries is essential, to healthy relationships with others and for your own mental health. You know what they say; lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.
So, how do you draw healthy boundaries in both your personal life and your professional life? This is something that I have had to work on myself. Even when I have made clear what I want/need, people still push to get what they want out of me to the point that I have lied to or completely ignored them because I feel guilty for saying no.
Professionally, I find it much easier to say no. I am not worried about hurting someone else’s feelings. I know what my workload looks like and if I have time to assist with your project. I am willing to help and will prioritize what’s more important to complete right away, vs. what can wait a few days.
Healthy boundaries will help you make decisions that are best for you and not necessarily the people around you. They can also help to improve our self-esteem and build confidence. Here are a few ideas that can help with creating healthy boundaries at work:
- Prioritize yourself – Forget about other people’s feelings sometimes and give yourself permission to put yourself first. Your feelings are just as important as theirs are.
- Self-Awareness – When something or someone is making you feel guilty or stressed, try to figure out why it is happening. Is there any part of this situation that you can control to minimize those feelings?
- Start slowly – Everything takes practice. Begin with something that seems small and not threatening and build your way up to something more challenging. Do not start with something that would make you uncomfortable.
- Be flexible – It is important to have firm boundaries in most cases but sometimes if you are too rigid, there can be issues. You will occasionally want to reevaluate the situation and make adjustments if necessary.
- Set realistic expectations – Know your limits. This is important so that you do not over promise and under deliver. There are always going to be obstacles to any project that you are working on so it is important to choose flexible deadlines. Under promise and over deliver that way it seems that you are going the extra mile.
- Communicate – If you are overloaded at work, give yourself permission to say no. If there is no way you are going to finish the project that you are already working on by the deadline, it is ok to say no to taking on additional tasks. Communication is the key to avoiding future misunderstandings.
- Delegate – If you do not have time to complete something ask yourself; is this project better completed by someone else? Is there another colleague that has less of a workload and may be better suited to finish this project?
- Be prepared – You will experience pushback. Building healthy boundaries is not done overnight. Sometimes people are completely oblivious that you are busy and focused, demanding your attention. This can be a good time to let them know when it is an acceptable time to interrupt you and set realistic expectations.
In your attempt to create healthy boundaries, whether it is in your personal or professional life, you discover that people continually and combatively ignore or discount your boundaries it may be time to move on. You may be in a toxic environment/relationship and the only thing that you can truly control is you and your mental health.