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How to Actually Set and Guard your Boundaries!

Updated: Feb 10, 2019

2018 was an awesome year for me and my business and it was also a pretty bloody difficult year too. I enter 2019 (the year of a Big Birthday!!) as a braver, more successful, more vulnerable and messier human. The biggest change is that I also now find myself a single parent and the challenges of running a business and raising a child alone is an (ongoing) interesting juggling act.


I received some interesting feedback in recent months:


- I have a ‘mommy complex’, always collecting humans and taking care of everyone around me like I’m their mum

- I love my clients so much that they become friends and associates and this change of relationship is not clearly discussed and new expectations set. This results in “things becoming complicated”


The one theme that’s been showing up for me again and again is the fact that I don’t have clearly communicated boundaries with my friends, family and clients.


This actually all changed for me late last year when I attended a training course on “Understanding and Dealing with Difficult Behaviour”, which was run by the wonderful and wise Lou Willis-Keeler from Psych-Logical. We learnt all about Choice Theory (William Glasser) and other paradigms she has skilfully pulled together to enable her to achieve her success. I can’t wait to read her book when she writes it!!







Choice Theory


These are the building blocks:

  1. Nobody can control your behaviour but yourself

  2. You can’t control anyone else’s behaviour - All we can give another person is information

  3. Your ability to influence the behaviour of someone else almost entirely relies on the quality of the relationship

  4. Quality relationships rely on creating standards/boundaries, negotiating, support, encouragement, trust etc. Not nagging, criticism, etc.

  5. All behaviour is “Total Behaviour” and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and our physiology

  6. All “Total Behaviour” is chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking parts. We can only control our feeling and physiology indirectly through how we choose to act and think.

  7. We are negatively biased... which means that we more readily see and perceive more negative threat (which has stopped us as a species from going the way of the Dodo!).

  8. All behaviour is motivated by the same basic human needs:

  • Survival - our basic needs (like Maslow), food, shelter, clothes, warmth etc.

  • Love and Belonging - this is focused on being accepted by our peers and allowed “into the tribe”

  • Power and Self-Worth - this is focused on our ability to achieve our goals and self-esteem which is feeling good about ourselves.

  • Freedom (and autonomy) - the ability to do what we want and to have free choice

  • Fun - no real need for explanation!



Conflict... urgh!!


So, generally I don’t love conflict - so having a conversation confidently about boundaries and actually asking for what I want were alien concepts to me. And I’ve not been sure how to even do it until now.


As Brené Brown has said in her recent and most excellent book – Dare to Lead... “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind” the best thing you can do is help people understand what you will and will not tolerate. Frustration and anxiety come from not knowing what other people want from you and making assumptions about their intentions is literally the worst thing you can do.


So... remembering that all behaviour comes from a place of the other person’s needs satisfaction (even when the need is not being satisfied) and this behaviour is their best attempt at getting it... An example of this is like you still throwing tantrums when you’re in your 20s - it worked when you were a kid, but you’ve not learnt any new strategies to satisfy your need as you start to ‘adult’.


The way to deal with behaviour that you don’t like / crosses your boundaries you have 3 choices...

  1. To confront the behaviour (we agreed this was our standard for behaviour in this relationship, you doing x is not meeting the standard. This was the consequences of your behaviour. What do you want? And what might be an effective strategy for getting what you want?)

  2. Ignore the behaviour (it might not be your business to deal with it “not my circus, not my monkeys”) or maybe you ignore it for now.

  3. Distract to get the other person’s brain to let go of the thing they are thinking of.


Nobody can make you feel bad, you give them permission to do so. For other people, their behaviour is all about them and meeting their needs. You should be curious about what is driving their behaviour and it’s absolutely your choice how to react to it.

I am attempting to implement this learning into my life, as a parent, coach, leader and friend, it takes daily practise!


Very excitingly, Lou is running another training day in Newcastle on 7th March… book now to attend, I couldn’t recommend it enough for parents, managers, friends, actually all humans!!


#selfcare #boundaries

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