Maintaining and respecting all boundaries

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Showing that once again, it would be more effective to mail someone what we want than to just have a conversation about it element5 unsplash

Boundaries and consent are not just for romantic relationships; they should be upheld in all encounters

As we move into a new academic year, we have the opportunity to come into contact with a variety of new people in a range of different roles. Regardless of whether these people are faculty, peers, coworkers, or any other role, you can imagine it is important to know that maintaining boundaries you are okay with and respecting the boundaries of others are vital for ensuring positive relationships.

Boundaries are the limitations that are put into place between two people in order to help guarantee that lines are not crossed, and ensure that expectations are clear in order to avoid misconceptions later on. These are important to have set for any relationship that you may be a part of, whether it is professional, romantic, or platonic. Here are some ways to ensure that you can maintain your own boundaries as well as ways to make sure that you are properly respecting everyone else’s as well!

First, it is important to think about what you are okay with before keeping in mind that everyone has different expectations and desires that need to be recognized and respected. It is perfectly acceptable that your boundaries may not look like others. When thinking about what you want for boundaries, there is a lot to consider. Professionally, you must consider how much you are okay with working, if you feel confident leading projects, or if feel as though you need more training among many other decisions. Romantically, there are a lot of considerations regarding the sharing of personal information, physical intimacy, and the overall general progression and direction of the relationship. As you can see, there is a lot to sit and think about before rushing into something of this nature.

Now that you have hopefully thought about what boundaries you want in place, it is time to think about how you are going to convey those to other people. One cannot just assume that other people know what you are wanting if you are not explicit in sharing that information. It is important to be prepared to have conversations with people you are involved with in order to share what your expectations and desires are for the variety of topics you have chosen to set specific boundaries for.

If you have shared these expectations about your boundary desires and the other individual(s) involved do not choose to respect and follow those, it is important to address that. Your needs and wants are valid, and if someone is not respecting them it is vital that you bring attention to it or do your best to remove yourself from the situation if it cannot be remedied. Although this removal process can be challenging, it is important that you respect yourself and your desires by ensuring that those around you can also uphold and follow the lines that you feel need to be put into place for your own comfort and peace of mind.

Second, it is extremely important to remember that other people have different personal boundaries set in place, and those must be respected regardless of what your boundaries are. This may sound confusing given the fact that you should respect your own and make sure that you have your lines drawn our clearly. This is also true for those around you, and you want to make sure that you do not cross those lines either. Some people are a lot more liberal, and their expectations are not as strict as others, but that does not mean that those restrictions are not still present and deserve to be respected.

It is never okay to overstep someone else’s boundaries, regardless of if you feel theirs are too rigid or because you assumed that they were the same as yours. To make sure that this does not happen, there needs to be a conversation about what is expected from and for each party. By having this conversation, the chances that something happens and lines are crossed will be lowered. Respecting someone as a whole person is important.

Having conversations about boundaries are not one-and-done types of conversations. In any situation that you find yourself in, it can be difficult to ask the person for clarification on where they stand before proceeding with your actions, but it is important. The process of asking for an update on how one is feeling about a specific topic or action is known more formally as requesting consent from someone. Without this confirmed assurance that they are okay with what is unfolding, you should not proceed with the event or action in question. Boundaries are not a rigid idea, but rather they are fluid and can change as a person grows and changes which is why it’s important to check in and make sure the other person is consenting in the moment.  

In order to ensure the best quality of care where workplace duties and expectations are upheld, and to respect the autonomy of those around you, it is important to check in with them while also being honest when they do check-ins with you. For the sake of gaining a clear understanding of what others need and what you need from them, all cards need to be laid on the table when having these conversations. Upholding respect for another’s personal autonomy is something that everyone deserves to have and is something that we need to do for everyone.

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