“My new boss casually asks how I spent my weekend. I want to keep my personal life private.”
“My parents criticized my decision to start a business. They’re convinced we will soon be living in a homeless shelter.”
“My friends invited me for lunch this week and I just don’t have time for one more social event.”
As you begin a new venture — job, business, promotion, relocation — you may feel you’re living in a glass bubble. Friends, coworkers, and family watch you closely, wondering if they’ll have to pick up the pieces after a midlife crisis career crash.
You love them, but you need to set limits. Life gets crowded when you live in a small bubble.
1. Draw your own boundary map before getting caught in tough situations. If you’re clear on your own needs, your lines will be solid.
2. When you’re asked a tough question, use the opportunity to communicate the message you want to send.
Q: “Shouldn’t you be spending more time with your family?” A: “I have a wonderful family. Did I tell you my daughter is a starter on her high school basketball team? And my son just won an award for…”
3. Skip apologies and explanations unless you really need forgiveness.
Q: “Can we get together for lunch next week?”
A: “Gee, I’m so sorry, but I have all these errands to run, and my mother will be visiting, and…”
Ouch! Let’s try it again:
A: “I always enjoy lunch with you, but this week won’t work for me. Can I call you later to set up a time?”
OR (if you never want to have lunch with this person):
A: “Lunches do not work with my schedule. Let’s stay in touch by email.”
4. Borrowing money or asking for favors will erode your boundaries.
If your parents lend you $20,000 to buy a house, they deserve regular updates on your financial status.
If your coworker watches your cat for a week, she will expect vacation stories (as well as a delightful gift and a promise to hire a sitter next time).
5. If you find yourself surrounded by people who push your boundaries, consider reviewing your priorities with a coach, counselor or trusted friend. Your words and gestures may signal, “Come on in!” when your brain says, “Keep away!”
Finally, don’t beat yourself up! Genuine self-acceptance and self-confidence will deter most boundary-trespassers.
And sometimes you risk loosening your boundaries, recognizing that life in a glass bubble can also bring unexpected help, surprises and even rewards.