Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Boundaries - Part I

I *almost* L-O-L about this subject and the perceptions that have been brought to me recently by some of the folks with whom I work.

They believe they are having trouble with *other* people who don't seem to understand their boundaries.

In fact it is the problem of the very people who are complaining!

Here's how it works:

A complains that B is too intrusive.

OK. According to A, B might be too intrusive. But B is just being B - and in his world, he's just acting normally.

And, dare I say it? B isn't a mind reader.

We train people how to treat us.

In one case the proverbial A told me she was actually *mad* at B for not keeping her idea of a boundary.


Get this: it is not B who is the problem. It's A.

A simply needs to explain to B what she considers a boundary - what boundaries she needs in the relationship.

In the vast majority of cases, if the relationship is new, B will say, "Kewl."

If the relationship has existed over a period of time, negotiations are necessary to create a full understanding of what each needs re: boundaries in order to communicate and relate comfortably with one another.

In order to be successful, both people need to understand what sort of boundary works most effectivelly for each. Without this self awareness - specifically what she needs or doesn't want re: boundaries and behavior, the negotiation will fail.

A needs to figure what she wants/doesn't want before getting upset about whatever B is doing, especially if B is doing nothing normally considered objectionable.

Serious problems arise if A has "allowed" (in her mind) B's "transgressions" without saying anything over time, building unnecessary and unfair resentment against B. It's definitely not B's fault A has failed to say what she needs.

Passive-aggressive behavior works this way: when B does something A believes is OK? A is passive; there is no change in her behavior. In her mind, that behavior is "permissible."

B is somehow supposed to get the telepathic message that when nothing is said, no change is made, B's behavior is "approved." But when a perceived transgression has been committed? Then A does something aggressive - taking negative action - without saying a word.

For example, borrowed books and dvd's are returned, dumped in B's mailbox without a note of thanks or any source of identification from who put them in the box!

I had this happen to me - someone angry with me stuffed my mailbox with books and dvd's borrowed long ago without a thank you note or any identification. I loan so much stuff out, for the life of me, I couldn't remember who borrowed them.

Finally it hit me - I remembered who returned them. I thought, "Oh, right! This is the aggressive in her passive-aggressive pattern." Shrug. Move on.

It always stuns me when the A's come to me, almost bitterly complaining how *angry* they are with the B's - and how shocked they are to find that it's not the B's problem *at all* but their own lack of communication skills and clarity that create the painful dilemma.

In some cases, B will sense A's discomfort - and may ask A what's going on. If there's no truthful response from A - or no response at all, B may withdraw from the relationship altogether because in the end, A's behavior is disrespectful, at least a bit dishonest, untrustworthy and in its own way, emotionally (passive-aggressive) abusive.

All of which is only to repeat: we train people how to treat us.

If we don't like the way people are treating us or their behavior, we either need to clarify how we want the relationship to work or remove ourselves from the situation.


Boundaries - Part II

Today's blog is about people who are just being themselves - B's who are considered to be crossing a boundary of A's - but are not doing anything that is actually inappropriate, untrustworthy or abusive.

Tomorrow: dealing with people who are either or all three.

Note: If abuse is in any way a factor in a current relationship, it's always a good idea to get help to deal with it. Particularly in the case of sexual and physical abuse? Find safe ways to leave.


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