Setting boundaries comes with two challenges: first, you have to find the courage to speak up and articulate the parameters, and then you must come to grips with the frequent guilt that arises because you denied someone what they wanted.

People often allow themselves to be taken advantage of because of the difficulty in establishing limits that leave them feeling good. Never mind that the boundary was appropriate; it’s still far too easy to feel like you “let someone down” when you drew a line, so people often remain quiet.

I found myself in this situation recently: I said no to a request that I felt was unreasonable, then second-guessed myself, wondering if I should have just shut up and done it anyway. I felt bad for not doing something, and I would have also felt bad if I had given in and done it. Which is better?

I am working to reframe setting boundaries. Instead of seeing them as saying “no” to someone, I’m redefining it as saying “yes” to my needs. It feels good to say “yes”, and that habit can carry over to other disciplines where it is helpful to answer in the affirmative, such as with new experiences and taking appropriate risks.

Setting boundaries on small asks builds the muscle to create strength to say no when the situation truly warrants it. Say “yes” to what is reasonable for you, and opt for “let’s talk about that” when others draw the line too close for your comfort.

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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