Often, we go about our lives thinking our relationships at work and in life are ok while under the surface a subtle ember of discord is burning. Then one day it bursts into a full blaze and we do or say something that rips at our presence. At work, this is particularly difficult when it strips your executive presence.
One of the subtle feelings that shreds our peace is the feeling that we have been taken for granted.
You might think you hate your boss or that a colleague is self-absorbed but that is focusing on their behavior and not your feelings. What does their behavior make you feel? Small? Disregarded? Disrespected? Undervalued? Naming the feeling disarms its power.
You know you want to draw healthier boundaries when you feel taken advantage of, taken for granted, responsible for someone else’s happiness or blatantly disrespected. To understand the power of health boundaries first imagine that you are on a big farm. You have all the people you know inside one white fenced pasture. You notice one of the people is troubled and kicks you or the people you care about. So, you remove yourself from that pasture and go inside another white fenced pasture where he/she cannot get past the gate. Others may choose to follow you there, but the injuring party cannot. Either way, you can still see and interact with the troubled person through the fence if it is necessary, but they cannot harm you. You are safe.
Boundaries are invisible lines between what you will and will not allow. You are only responsible for your happiness and your opinion of yourself. No one else’s happiness or opinion of you matters because it is outside of your control.
Leaders are problem solvers. They often don’t want to generate the solution to your feelings, especially to a problem they don’t see. But, when given a choice between two solutions they can generally make a good choice. And they can support a solution you generate.
Share your feelings with the injuring party using “I” not “You” statements.
Launch the conversation with grace. “Jonathon, I realize you aren’t purposefully being hurtful but when (describe his/her behavior or that of the organization without editorializing it) it makes me feel ______. I ask that (describe your solution to the situation).”
Make a firm commitment to yourself to take actions that reinforce your confidence. Confidence builds by having the courage to take risks. A good risk is one where you know you have strengths in a certain area but have not been using them. Ask to work on a project where you can bring value. Volunteer for a team outside of your direct area. Take a class on a new skill. Spend time with people who are at a higher level within the organization.
Support yourself as you would a friend. You are not a victim unless you allow bad behavior of others to affect your opinion of yourself and paralyze your power. Victims fear taking responsibility for their own actions. That’s not you. “May I be gentle with myself in this process.” You can’t change what the other person says or does. You CAN change your perspective on it. Let them have their opinions. Just because they say something doesn’t make it so. “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Speak with your voice and your feet. “I’m not engaging in this.” Walk away.
When we feel taken for granted or undervalued we must become our own advocates.
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