Boundaries & Balance

Overwhelmed by too many to do's?

Overwhelmed by too many to do’s?

This week we’ve invited a guest blogger, certified coach Christine Scudder, to talk about boundaries and balance.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.

In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

– Viktor Frankl

Demands, requests, and expectations are everywhere. These stimuli come from our families, professional organizations, friends, neighbors and colleagues.

If our knee-jerk reaction is always “yes!” we’re missing out on that moment of discernment that lies between the stimulus of someone’s need and our response.

A boundary is a space between you and another person that’s both physical and energetic. While we might share bonds or commonalities with others, it’s important to remember that we are separate people, each with our own capabilities, responsibilities, wants and needs.

While “having boundaries” has become synonymous with “saying no,” there are different types of boundaries. If a person always says no, their boundaries are rigid, and they miss out on the give and take of life. A person who always says yes, or says no but ‘acts yes,’ has nonexistent or inconsistent boundaries, and may contribute to an unhealthy dependence that leaves one person feeling helpless, while the other is overwhelmed. 

Effective boundaries, on the other hand, take a CLEAR, balanced approach:

Communicate with compassion.

Listen to yourself and to the other person.

Educate briefly about your response- let people know where you’re coming from.

Actions are consistent with your response.

Respect your needs and capabilities as well as those of the other person.

Here are a few tips to help you to be CLEAR in the face of a request or expectation:

1) Slow down. Pause before you respond. Let the person know when you’ll get back to them.

2) Consider where the other person is coming from. Can you find compassion for their need or request, regardless of any part you might play in the solution? If you agree, are you rescuing this person from doing something for his or herself? Are you the only person who can help? Consider your available resources and interest.

3) Decide: no, yes, or another alternative. Your decision might include ways that you need support.

4) Communicate clearly and succinctly, with respect for both the request and your response. If saying no, don’t justify your response with apologies or a list of all the times you’ve come through in the past.

5) Follow through. When your actions match your words, you gain credibility and respect. Without follow through, you have words, not boundaries. 

Remember, other people can ask, but it’s not always up to you to say yes! It might take time and adjustment for others to get used to your setting limits or asking for help, and it may be uncomfortable at first.  Just as you may have “trained” people to expect you to do whatever they ask, it will take training to respect your boundaries.

Christine Scudder, MSW, BCC, is a burnout to balance coach, specializing in wellness solutions with people so focused on taking care of others, that their own needs have gone by the wayside. Find out more at:


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Filed under General Organizing, Perspective, Strategies, Time Management

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