Last week I shared several ways in which nonprofit communications staff get treated like doormats.

If you recognized yourself in that post, I encouraged you to refill your tank, think about what you want, and identify your fears.

Ready to set some boundaries so no one treats you like a communications doormat again?

Last year, I took a “train the trainers” course with Sarri Gilman, author of Transform Your Boundaries.

Sarri says that boundaries are made up of Yes and No. The voice inside you that says Yes or No is like a compass that guides you through life. When you stop listening to your compass and ignoring the Yes and No that you know to be true, you get into trouble because either you or someone around you is crossing a boundary.

As you set boundaries, remember that boundaries are there to protect you, not to appease or please other people.

For nonprofit communicators, many boundary problems arise when you should be saying No but everyone around you is insisting or assuming that you will say Yes (see the Doormat post for examples!).

Sarri recommends this four-step process to effectively setting a boundary and enforcing it by saying NO. First, identify the boundary: What are you going to say No to? Then . . .

  1. Don’t Panic. Instead, try to understand what you are feeling. Try to ground yourself. This is what I discussed at the end of the “doormat” post.
  2. Know Your Truth. Be clear in your own mind about why this particular thing is a No and what you will gain by saying No. How does it help you to enforce this boundary? This is essential because it will help you stand firm later!
  3. Choose Your Words. Write down what you will say in one or two sentences. NOT A PARAGRAPH! Edit until you can say No clearly and concisely and firmly.
  4. Expect Pushback. It is human nature to push back against boundaries. Every time you say Yes to someone, you make THEIR lives easier. But that’s not your job!

Instead, work through the objections you expect to hear and practice your response. If you expect powerful pushback, think even harder about how you stay firm.

One of the most powerful things I learned from Sarri is that boundaries are not emotions.

Yes and No are not emotions.

Use your Yes and No boundaries to guide you, not your emotions or the emotions of others around you.

You have to learn to separate the two things: boundaries and emotions.

While you and everyone around you will have emotional reactions to boundaries and emotions can make setting boundaries difficult, they are not one and the same.

You can attend to your emotions and acknowledge the emotions of others WITHOUT changing your boundary.

Other people — not you — are responsible for their own emotions and reactions to boundaries. You alone are responsible for your own emotions.

What would it look like for you to set a reasonable boundary and then let others deal with their own emotions when you stand firm?


Want more?

In this post (which includes a video), I shared how to define a boundary, explain the boundary, and enforce the boundary.

Earlier this summer, Kristina shared some advice on setting boundaries with friends at work, so you can get work done while still being friends.



Published On: October 30, 2019|Categories: #NPCommLife, Nonprofit Communications Team, Team Culture|

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