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“B” is for Boundaries

Uncategorized Dec 01, 2018

By Dr. Nguyen "Tom" Griggs

 

Happy 2019, my friends. For this new year, I’m launching a series of columns using the acronym BLACK BELT, as it relates to teams and leadership. Let’s begin.

 

B Stands for Boundaries

One of the biggest issues clients and loved ones constantly grapple with is conflict resulting from violated boundaries. We all have had an experience where someone violated a boundary.

 

Boundaries are exceedingly important to your happiness and maintaining healthy relationships with other people. I remember a moment from 5th-grade recess that illustrates the value of respecting boundaries.

 

As we were playing in the schoolyard, one of the boys was teasing another kid and made a “your momma” joke. The kid on the receiving end warned the mouthy kid to not talk about his mother. The mouthy kid had this smirk on his face, which indicated he was going to test this boundary. A few minutes later, the mouthy kid made another joke about the offended kid’s mom.

 

The offended kid got into the mouthy kid’s face, pushed him, and then body-slammed him. The sounds of that kid’s body hitting the grass, plus the air quickly evacuating his body and his muffled crying, will never leave my memory. We quickly moved the not-so-mouthy-anymore kid to the side and continued to play because, you know, it was recess.

 

Boundaries Matter

In our martial arts schools, we can always joke about solving our differences on the floor or the mats. But in our schools and lives, boundaries truly matter. Let’s examine a few boundary-related tips that will be helpful.

 

Boundaries are a bouncy net. Think of boundaries as a bouncy net. When you throw some things against the net, some stuff will bounce back, some will stick, and some will get through. With people, sometimes you get through and other times things get thrown back at you.

 

Suppose you need to have an important talk with someone. First, ask permission before you venture into a touchy subject area.

 

For example, if a team member has been having problems at home and it shows in this person’s interactions at work. You may say something like, “May I ask you about how things are going at home?”

 

Now, I need to stress a point here. If you ask permission and the person says “no,” then respect his/her answer. The quickest way to create resentment and toxicity is to ask permission, be told “no” and you do it anyway. That screams contempt, which breeds toxicity. Don’t do it.

 

The second approach is to notify the person that you are going to talk about a touchy subject. The difference here is that you’re not asking for permission, but you are taking the initiative to go forth anyway.

 

This approach works when things are serious and you must proceed. But please, be respectful. Listen carefully and caringly to the person to provide understanding, not to act like an all-knowing oracle.

 

But if you decide to take this approach, be prepared for what may bounce back at you.

 

Check your bias. It’s easy to label a client or a team member as always being troubled, disorganized or lazy. Yes, people will give you fuel for these perspectives, but, sometimes, things are actually bad for them. If every time this person walks in the door, you find yourself thinking, “Oh goodness, here comes some mess,” then perhaps you need to check your bias at the door.

 

Having a bias in relation to someone will create subtle, insidious problems that will go unnoticed until it’s too late. Trust me, many leaders have made this mistake by labeling certain groups or people only to discover that their perception was wrong. By letting their bias win, the leader violated a different, personal boundary. Sometimes, the people can tell, and you will lose them.

 

Treat others as you’d like to be treated. It’s worth it!

 

Do the messy stuff. As a leader, you have to play referee and mend broken moments. When you see people violating boundaries, intervene and make things right. In 4 Ways Leaders Effectively Manage Employee Conflict, Glenn Llopis cites working with boundaries as an important factor in managing workplace conflict.

 

Glenn states, “Identify behavioral tendencies that seem to trigger certain attitudes, provoke mindset shifts, or demonstrate a lack of self-awareness.” When you see these things happening, act accordingly before damage occurs.

 

Next month, I’ll discuss the importance of a word starting with the letter “L”.

 


Dr. Nguyen “Tom” Griggs is a professional consultant/ speaker in the areas of Teams, Leadership and Conflict and can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

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