When I played high school soccer there was a clear rule, “If you are on time, you’re late.” Practice started at at 4:15 pm but it was our responsibility to be at the field by 4:00 pm or we would find ourselves doing something that was not on our list of desired activities for the evening (think burpees and or a lot of sprinting).
Our Coach did a great job of teaching us how to treat each other, practice, and the sport as a whole. We respected the rules in place and looked forward to our time together because of this mutual respect.
Now, as an adult, I have run into many situations where I wonder why certain people do not “listen to” or respect me. I make stories up in my head that these people don’t value what I say or even who I am.
However, the truth is- most people do listen to me when I speak.
Most people do more than just listen to what I say- they also watch what I do.
I realized this when a supervisor of mine looked at me and said, “Kathryn, if your boundaries lack consequences they simply become suggestions.” And then it clicked; whether we want to admit it or not we are constantly training the people we interact with how to treat us.
At this point in my career I was well aware what boundaries were but never really looked at what they feel like in the everyday world. Boundaries feel a lot like rules; rules on how I want to be treated.
The thing about your boundaries becoming suggestions is they leave people with a choice. And because humans are humans we usually make the choice that is most desirable to us. If I could show up for practice 15 minutes later and not have to run after practice you better believe I would have chosen to get to practice at 4:15. The same applies to how someone can override or ignore a “suggestion” you make in your work, personal, or spiritual life.
People don’t tend to follow rules unless they have a reason to.
In high school we didn’t arrive to practice at 4:00 pm simply because our coach told us to- we arrived at 4:00 pm because our coach showed us what would happen if we didn’t. The boundary he set had a specific, direct, and consistent consequence. It was a rule that expressed how he wanted practice to be treated.
If your boss tells you a document is due on Tuesday but when you lay it on his desk Friday he accepts it with a smile- there becomes no motivation to listen to your boss’ deadlines. He is training you that his deadlines do not actually matter. They become suggestions.
It is our responsibility to give other people a reason to follow our rules/boundaries because:
If all our boundaries become suggestions to others then we train people how to treat us poorly.
If we train people how to treat us poorly then we send the message:
“My needs, wants, and desires are not important as yours are so actually just do whatever you want.”
Here lies our responsibility to identify what is important to us, where our boundaries lie, and what we are willing to let go of or hang on to in order to get our own needs met.
It is not our job to make others believe or follow the boundaries that we set it is our job to follow through with the consequence attached to them. AND- following through is probably the most challenging part of this whole thing- however, the temporary discomfort of standing up for yourself will never override the permanent joy of being treated with respect, care, and love.
Where are you becoming frustrated with how people treat you in your life? Is there a space where you are lacking consequences in your boundaries? Is there a space where you want to become more capable in following through with consequences? I encourage you to dig deeper into these questions so you can live more fully in your own path.