Relationship Boundaries – Making relationships work
Everyone has a limited number of relationship spaces in their life.
The challenge for all of us, especially leaders, is to understand into which relationship space each person in our world belongs. Maybe some of the people in our world do not belong or should not belong. If you are finding a lot of pressure or conflict, or a high degree of boredom in your relationships, perhaps it is worth doing a relationship audit to determine the relationship boundaries in your life.
The reality is that you cannot be close friends with everyone you meet. You will not have the same type of relationship with everyone.
The number of people with whom you can build close relationships depends a lot on your emotional capacity and your level of busyness.
Relationship boundaries can be a problem for everyone
If you are an ‘I Style’ in the Extended DISC Personality Model you will find it easy to build strong emotional connections with people. You are friendly, likable and connect easily with people. You will enjoy being the centre of attention and have capacity to connect easily with many more people than the other Styles.
Relationship connections are a strength for I Styles. Believe it or not, this can also be a source of confusion. They can give the impression on meeting someone that this person is the most important person in their world. For that moment they may be. They just love talking and being with people. However, this can mean that I Styles sometimes have more problems with relationship boundaries than other Styles. As they relate to more people, there is more potential for relationship boundaries to be quite blurred. People find that when they are with an I Style that they are very friendly and feel connected, but then when they are apart, there is a sense that they are forgotten.
Confusion and conflict come in relationships when expectations are not shared. When relationship boundaries are unclear. When one person unwittingly sends the signal that you can be my close friend, when they really are just being friendly in a way that is normal for them with everyone.
Leaders need to be aware of relationship boundaries
When you are a leader, people already have some expectations of you. It is even more important to understand your relationship boundaries.
One of the biggest mistakes that occurs is when a close working relationship is confused with friendship. A work colleague may become very close in terms of time spent together, getting to know personality strengths and weaknesses, sharing highs and lows together. However, this does not mean that you are friends who socialise together and know each other’s families well.
Questions to help you think about your relationship boundaries
- Who do you trust when you are vulnerable to share your failures?
- Who allows you into their world when they are struggling and not at their best?
- Who will you allow to speak into your life when you need perspective and even tough love?
- With whom do you have a equal relationship where there is respect and mutal give and take?
- With whom do you want to spend regular time together? And the feeling is mutual!
- Work Colleagues:
- Who is a good team member but you would feel awkward inviting them home for dinner?
- Who are you happy to share a drink after work but do not really want to spend time with their kids?
- Who are the many people you meet with whom you may share a regular moment, a joke, but you never spend time getting to know who they are; maybe you don’t even know their name?
Advice for healthy relationship boundaries
- Be friendly with everyone but be careful who you invite into your confidence
- Be very careful not to blurr the lines between a work relationship and a personal friendship. It is okay to have friends at work, but you need to be aware where they really fit into your relationships spaces.
- Friendships are usually close, involve spending regular social time together. Some longer term friendships work without much regular time together; it is easy to pick up, and the relationship includes the present not just regaling past glories.
There is a whole other article about where wider family fits into relationship boundaries. Suffice to say that you need to be free to set the boundaries of your life. Those who respect you and allow you to be truly yourself will be a healthy part of your world. Those who are close and do not respect your boundaries are likely to be the source of pain in your world. There are times when hard decisions need to be made where you step back from people with whom relationship is not healthy or safe. This is always hard. It is especially hard when the people with whom you do not feel safe share family heritage.
Leaders need to know how to set relationship boundaries across their whole life. If they do not, I can guarantee their leadership will be limited.
Finally, it is important to know your relationship capacity – if you know you have a lower relationship capacity you need to factor more time alone into your schedule. Setting relationship boundaries always involves creating healthy space for yourself.