Tackling Distractions With Boundaries
Boundaries are the Strategy of Choice for Distractions Involving Other People
People, whether we’re talking about others or ourselves, can be the most challenging types of distractions to eliminate. People are complicated, and it shows in our relationships. (Read the first and second posts about distractions if you haven’t yet – then this will make more sense.)
The behaviors of other people are what push your buttons and cause distractions and energy drains. What they do, or don’t do, will often impact you. Chances are, you’ve got quite a few behaviors of other people on your list of tolerations. And there’s a good chance that something you do shows up on somebody else’s list.
We did a survey a short time ago and asked people which type of distraction dominated their list: Things, events, other people, or themselves. 82% said it was other people. This is no surprise to us. We’ve found it to be true with most of the clients we’ve worked with as well.
Most often, it comes down to other people’s behaviors that violate your boundaries. That means they do, say, or act in a way that you don’t want in your life.
These behaviors are as varied as the people in your life: from arriving to meetings late, to talking too loud in the office; from a neighbor mowing the lawn at 7:00 in the morning, to dogs barking late into the night; from one person dominating the office meeting, to your office-mate dumping unfinished work on your desk.
It adds up, and every one of those behaviors causes an energy drain for you. Sometimes it gets so bad you’re ready to scream or quit.
Using our D3 model, you can either establish the boundary and enforce it (Do it), have somebody else deal with the person (Delegate it), or stop any involvement you have with that person (Dump it). How do you do any of this? Here are your guidelines:
First, identify the behavior involved. Interruptions are a problem for many so let’s use that as an example. The specific behavior involved is people coming to your desk and demanding your attention when you’re working on something. Often, the interruption is for things that are not critical and could wait.
Next, decide what behavior you want instead. In this case, you want people to respect your time and hold their questions until you’re available to talk.
Finally, communicate what you want to the people involved, explaining the problem, the solution you’d like, and requesting the new behavior from them.
When talking about behaviors of others, delegation is usually not an option because it’s a behavior that affects you directly. However, in some work situations delegating a problem becomes necessary, as in the case of sexual harassment.
There will be some people who are not willing to change at all. Then you have to make a choice. Sometimes the result will be they’re no longer part of your life.
Throughout this whole process, there are a few things to remember:
- Remain neutral. Judgment and blame have no place in conversations involving boundaries.
- Just pointing out a behavior might be enough to affect change. People aren’t always aware of what they’re doing.
- You’re asking for a change. Be ready to repeat your request more than once.
- Know there’s a chance some people will choose not to respect your wishes and will no longer be part of your life.
Given what we’ve learned through coaching so many people, eliminating these distractions is likely going to be where you find yourself floundering a bit. It takes patience and persistence. And if you need help, ask for it! That’s exactly why we created the Bug-Free Zone© program.
In the final post on distractions, I’ll talk about the things that involve you and your behavior. This can be equally as hard as with other people, but it’s possible if you’re ready and willing to make some changes.