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7 Sanity Saving Business Boundaries

The lack of strong boundaries is one of the chief causes of stress, overwork and overwhelm in the business environment.

Clearly set boundaries help other people to understand how you want to be treated. They are the rules, if you like, that apply when others deal with you and your business. Many of us aren’t good at establishing boundaries, something that probably stems from way back in our childhoods.

As children we are often taught that other people’s needs are more important than ours. That we should obey others without question. And we were rewarded for pleasing other people and sacrificing our own needs. Sometimes we do not set boundaries because we dislike confrontation or anger, or because we think we will hurt other peoples feelings. If this behaviour of putting ourselves last carries over into our adult lives, it’s likely to stop us from telling other people what we want.

The good news is that setting boundaries is a learnable skill, and one that can make a huge positive difference to the quality of your life.

The first step is to identify which boundaries you need to set. These seven are suggested for easing the pressure on you in your business life:

1.Learn to say no
Don’t feel uncomfortable about saying no to an unreasonable request. If it is going to have a negative impact on you, or you don’t really want to do something, then just say no. And don’t feel as thought you need to explain why. After all, we don’t offer an explanation when we say yes.

2.Be clear about what you do and what you don’t do
If something is outside the bounds of your normal scope of work, then simply say so. It is easy to get caught up agreeing to do unusual things or one-offs that take up a lot of extra time. Your time is valuable and you want to spend it accordingly.

3.When it’s OK for people to contact you
If you get customers and suppliers calling you at all hours then you need to establish this boundary. You can take control in this situation by looking for a win-win outcome. For example, "I know that you would like to speak with me. Right now, I am spending time with my family. What time tomorrow can I call you back? I guarantee that you’ll only need to say this once, and people will get the message very quickly.

4.Payment terms
If people aren’t respecting your

payment terms you need to let them know that this is unacceptable. Be clear upfront about what your terms are (yes – actually advise new customers verbally), and consider using payment options that give you control. For example, the timing of credit card deductions and direct debits are controlled by you, rather than by the customer.

5.Working hours (Value your own time)
You are in control of your diary, not your customers. If you find yourself consistently working excessive hours, or longer than you want, then you are taking on more work than you can manage. Be honest about how long it will take you to complete the job. For example, “ I can start working on this on Wednesday, which means it will be ready for you on Friday afternoon”.

6.The way in which people can speak to you
Some people use aggressive or abusive language to get what they want. You need to let them know that this isn’t OK. For example, “ I can see that you are upset. We do need to discuss this but I am not prepared to do so while you are angry. Let me call you tomorrow at a better time”.
There are times when we are happy to provide a discount –to valued and regular customers. At other times we can just get talked into it before we realize what has happened. Be very clear in your own mind about the circumstances in which you are prepared to drop your prices, and those in which you are not. And just stick to your guns. You’ll find that most people are just trying it on to see if it will work.

The bottom line in setting boundaries is asking for what we really want. There is no need to defend, debate or over-explain your boundaries. If questioned, simply say something like “it’s a business decision”. When faced with resistance, repeat your statement or request. Stay strong. If you give in, you are inviting people to ignore your needs.

Each of us has a right to set boundaries. While others may not always get what they want in the short term, you will garner more respect from them and for yourself by standing up for your needs.

About the Author

Megan Tough, director of Action Plus, works with small business professionals who are ready to do more than ‘just get by’. Increase your income - decrease your stress! To learn more and to sign up for more FREE tips and articles like these, visit


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