Interpersonal Edge: Better boundaries guarantee better behavior
Sunday, October 18, 2015


By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
  Q. I am a great believer in second chances, but I’m finding people use my generosity to take advantage of me repeatedly. How can I give people the benefit of the doubt without ending up on the short end of the stick?
  A. You can balance your two sides by realizing people tell us who they are in the first minute. You are not being “generous” to them or yourself when you ignoring signals they are generously providing that they act badly.
  Many of us love to maintain a Disneyland view of human nature in which monsters turn into heroes and good people always win. The real world is more complicated. Good people can win but only if they start paying better attention to the treatment they receive upon first encountering someone else.
  Here is a short list of behaviors and what they mean: lateness (they will make you wait); rudeness (they are discourteous); lack of follow-through (they will drop the ball when depended upon). Notice that these signals don’t need much translation from me. 
  Consider the people at work with whom you have problems. Think back to when you first met them. What are the first memories you have of them? Can you see that these first memories contained warnings that you were in for rough waters with this person?
  On the flip side, you’ll get positive signals as well. People who are punctual will respect your time; people who are thoughtful will seek win/win solutions; and people who impress you with integrity will follow through.
  We often generate our own suffering because we are unwilling to acknowledge poor behavior when we see it. We tend to get side tracked by explanations, apologies or, worst of all, flattery. Many people who act badly will immediately tell you how important you are - right after ignoring you.
  Especially if you had neglectful or emotionally abusive parents, you may be a sucker for people who behave badly and then try to persuade you to forget what you just experienced. Don’t forget what you experienced or let them explain it away. They just gave you a warning flag that you can count on that behavior being repeated.
  One of my clients was meeting interesting men in her industry. They would date her but they always seemed to be unavailable. She told me these guys always told her on the first date that they didn’t want to get married. She thought she would change their minds. After working with me for about six months, she came in glowing with pride. I asked her what had happened. She told me she went out on a date with a terrific guy who told her he didn’t want to get married. I asked her what she did. She said with delight, “I believed him!” and didn’t go out with him again.
  After a lifetime of ignoring what is right in front of our faces, it can be surprisingly challenging to trust our initial experiences.
  Everyone has the right to decide what kind of agreements they are willing to make. Just because someone else can put up with a certain behavior doesn’t mean you should. Not having boundaries, whether in and out of the workplace, does nothing but invite avoidable suffering.
  When you want to walk away from a work relationship, state calmly that you have found you work best when some quality - let’s call it X - is present. Let the person not doing X know you can see they are looking for a different style of working together and you would not be a good match. It’s not cheating to make a person who will annoy you feel good about going away. You will not benefit from spanking them when you invite them out your door.
  The last word(s)
  Q. I did something years ago I’ve felt bad about ever since. Is it ever too late to make an apology?
  A. No, Twinkies and apologies never go stale. People get too few apologies to turn down yours.
  Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel’s “Workplace Guru” each Monday morning. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.


This column was printed in the October 18, 2015 - October 31, 2015 edition.


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