- Who & Why?
Category Archive for: ‘Boundaries’
When I was in practice as a securities lawyer, I used to think I had to be tough. Many days I also thought that the only way to compete with the male securities lawyers, I had to be mean. It all felt so wrong, yet it was all I knew. That was until the day when I couldn’t do it anymore. To be honest, I’m not sure I ever did ‘tough and mean’ very well. But who really does?
Yet I find so many of us still hang our professional hat on the notion of competition that includes being tough and mean. I’ve had several people (we’ll leave gender out of this for now) say that I’m just “too nice”. Really? Is that supposed to be a negative comment? If it is, then how do you explain why my business is doing so well?
While my response is not, “kill them with kindness” or “you wouldn’t know nice if it hit you in the head”, I do stop and think about what society, in particular professionals, consider an effective brand. Why is it that kindness doesn’t seem to be an option? Was it ever an option?
Here’s the deal, just because I’m kind doesn’t mean I’m a pushover. I think this is where the confusion happens. We automatically assume that if we are kind in business, then someone is going to run right over us and then we lose. Really?
On a recent trip through an airport, a billboard sign from Southwest Airlines caught my eye. It said, “Stand out by standing your ground”. To me that means, have an effective brand by holding firm to who you are and your values.
What does it mean to hold your ground? Since so many of us have boundary issues, I suppose most of us think it means we have to be tough and mean and ready to rumble.
It doesn’t mean that at all in my world. In my world standing my ground as an effective brand means being kind, yet firm. “No” means “no”. No explanation needed. Yet there’s no hostility and no grudges. Kindness can exist just the same by respecting the other party.
So what does this mean for you? Stop and think:
- Do you think you are too kind? If so, why?
- Do you maintain healthy boundaries with others?
- Or do you overcompensate by coming across as a rough and tough brand. Is it really working for you or could you be more effective as a brand by being more kind?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the word, “self” and in particular, how people perceive themselves and others in relation to the word, “selfish”. All of this inquiry leads to the conclusion that people with a strong sense of self have strong personal brands. By a strong sense of self, I am referring to being able to love themselves, express their authentic selves and bring this notion to their work and careers with ease and grace. This equals one fantastic personal brand.
Often when people call us “selfish” it is because they can’t value the healthy boundaries we’ve established. Likely, they also don’t have good boundaries themselves. That’s why saying “no” or establishing any other type of boundary with them makes them feel unloved and rejected and thus, they call us selfish.
In fact, it is just the opposite. In her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection”, Berne Brown points out that in order to have compassion, we must be able to have good boundaries. Otherwise, we are not genuine because we feel resentful of not being able to say “no” or hold our boundary. Then we feel taken advantage of and “unloved”
If you can’t be compassionate towards yourself enough to set boundaries, then you can’t be compassionate towards others.
Now that’s selfish, if you ask me.
It seems that more and more people are talking these days about how having boundaries within our lives is optimal and productive. I’m not talking about physical boundaries. The boundaries I am talking about are those we enforce with people in our lives in order to respect our time, feelings, preferences and of course, our personal brand development. The alternative is a downward spiral.
I find in my daily interaction with clients, friends and potential clients that people just can’t say, “no”. I find it happens with certain types of people and professions more.
I get many junior attorneys and other junior professionals who fall prey to a lack of boundary. Just the other day it happened again: a junior attorney was late to our meeting because:
-“I had a client on the phone and I just couldn’t end the call so I could be on time to my meeting with you.” OR
-“I disagreed with my senior partner’s theory but didn’t feel comfortable saying so and then someone else voiced their dissent, instead of me, and got all the praise.”
Being able to say, “no”, with ease and grace is a gift we bring to ourselves and to others. It helps people understand where they stand with us. I liken it to training a puppy. Puppies need rules and discipline. Just the same- we need to know where we stand with people. I call this having a high “confront”, where you are able to eloquently and easily state your preference and views while respecting the person/people on the other side.
If you have a low confront, and thus low/no boundaries, people walk all over you and the result is a disastrous personal brand. Why would anyone think you could provide them quality service, if you can’t draw boundaries or dissent? The assumption is that if you can’t stand up kindly TO me, how can you stand up kindly FOR me and be my advocate in business?
So please take some time to:
1. Figure out what your boundaries are in general.
2. Figure out what your boundaries are in a particular situation.
3. Draw your boundaries. Practice on the small stuff so you’ll be able to draw the boundaries on the bigger stuff with the ease and grace of an effective personal brand.
In the end, you’ll see the world respects you and your personal and business brand more.