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March 28, 2008

Could be a fable of emotional boundaries

Although sociability and its relationship to intelligence was the point of this writer’s fable, I think it does a fine job of illustrating emotional boundaries.

“On cold days people manage to get some warmth by crowding together; and you can warm your mind in the same way--by bringing it into contact with others. But a man who has a great deal of intellectual warmth in himself will stand in no need of such resources. I have written a little fable illustrating this.” Translator's note: The passage to which Schopenhauer refers is _Parerga_: Vol. II Sec. 413 (4th edition).

The fable
“Porcupines huddled together for warmth on a cold day; but as they began to prick one another with their quills, they were obliged to disperse. However the cold drove them together again, when just the same thing happened. At last, after many turns of huddling and dispersing, they discovered that they would be best off by remaining at a little distance from one another.

“In the same way, the need of society drives the human porcupines together--only to be mutually repelled by the many prickly and disagreeable qualities of their nature. The moderate distance which they at last discover to be the only tolerable condition of intercourse, is the code of politeness and fine manners; and those who transgress it are roughly told—in the English phrase—to keep their distance.

“By this arrangement the mutual need of warmth is only very moderately satisfied--but then people do not get pricked. A man who has some heat in himself prefers to remain outside, where he will neither prick other people nor get pricked himself.”

--The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; Counsels and Maxims by Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860)

The next time you think of emotional boundaries, think of porcupines.

March 27, 2008

Emotional boundaries bring order to your life

Strong emotional boundaries provide a clear sense of who you are and your relationships to others. Boundaries empower you to determine how we’ll be treated by others. With good boundaries, you protect yourself from the ignorance, drama, meanness and thoughtlessness of others.

Emotional boundaries define and protect

Each person has unique ideas, feelings, values, wishes and perspectives. Strong emotional boundaries include
• the right to say no
• the freedom to say yes
• acceptance of differences
• permission for expression

Clear boundaries preserve your individuality. Boundaries are formed by your history, experiences, personality, interests, dislikes, perceptions, values, priorities and skills.

You teach others where your boundaries are by the way you let them treat you

Most people will respect your boundaries if you indicate where they are. With some people however, you must actively defend your boundaries.

Boundaries should be distinct enough to preserve your individuality yet open to admit new ideas and perspectives. Firm enough to keep your values and priorities clear, open enough to communicate your priorities, yet closed enough to withstand assault.

Boundaries protect without isolating, contain without imprisoning and preserve identity while permitting external connections. Good boundaries make good relationships.

March 25, 2008

The boundaries between work and personal life

Most of us need good working relationships to do our job. You get to know the habits, likes and dislikes and some personal tidbits—the names of family and friends, personal projects---of coworkers and bosses.

It doesn’t guarantee friendship or closeness. The best indicator of lasting friendships is shared personal values. At work, you’re focused on the mission and values of your company.

The boundaries between work life and personal life vary wildly
Notice how much a person talks about his or her personal life.

Look at the workspace. Are there photos or clues of family, pets or hobbies?

Do friends and family visit the office?

These indicators give an inkling of what you can talk about to that person and where that person’s boundaries lie.

When you hear people say ‘too much information’ or ‘mind your own business,’ you’ve crossed a boundary either telling too much or asking too much. For example, what you do on vacation or weekends and whom you do it with falls under personal boundaries. Some people love to tell you and others don’t think it’s any of your business.

We each have different boundaries. Do the civil thing---pick up the clues and respect that difference.

March 21, 2008

Will your email or text message make the news?

Sounds pretty sensational, doesn’t it? Public employee emails and text messages are in the news in open records laws and proposed laws nationwide.

One of the proposed changes to Iowa’s open-government laws this year refers to information “stored in any medium” and defines the records as anything “owned by, created by, in the possession of, or under the control of, any unit, division, or part of state or local government or the officials or employees of such public bodies in the course of the performance of their respective duties.”

A circuit judge ruled “The fact that state employees are using state resources to exchange non-work-related messages during working hours is a matter of legitimate inquiry for the public.”

You do not own your work computer, cell phone or hand-held device
It’s becoming clearer that whatever you send from a public computer, that is the one on your desk if you’re a government employee, may be subject to open records laws. The same for your cell phone or hand-held device if it belongs to the government.

So be a good citizen, be civil, particularly if you’re a public employee. Two points:
• Don’t type something you don’t want to see in the newspaper. That’s a double negative. Think of it like this—assume anything you type can be used in an open-records case.
• Don’t send non-work related communication from equipment owned by your employer.

If you didn’t read these posts last summer, read them now, or reread them---
Think before you send. Send email you would like to receive.
Work email and personal email are quite different in two ways
It is difficult for me to select the most relevant posts about email because I think you need to consider many aspects. To find my eight posts on email, go to http://www.extension.iastate.edu/mt/civility/communication/email/
And if you want to borrow my copy of the book SEND which is the basis of some of these posts, just ask.

March 19, 2008

Does your workplace décor reflect boundaries as well as professionalism?

That was the topic in the Indianapolis Star last October. (The link to the article no longer works.) Here’s an excerpt:
“It seems all those knickknacks that help personalize an office space can reflect poorly on a worker's professional image, according to research from the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

"There is this taboo in American culture against referencing your personal life in the workplace," says Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, assistant professor of management and organization at Michigan. "This happens through photos, kids' drawings, but it also comes through subtle references you might make, comments about personal life."

Sanchez-Burks and colleagues Susan Ashford and Emily Heaphy, both of McGill University in Canada, conducted two studies with managers and corporate recruiters to see if impressions of professionalism are tainted by references to personal life. The answer was yes.

How much is too much?
Researchers say if more than one in five items that adorn your office are personal in nature, you may be viewed as unprofessional. Most of what decorates your office should be neutral. Think Monet paintings and professional award certificates.”

March 13, 2008

Protect your boundaries at work

Your relationship with your boss
“Maintain your boundaries. Remember to keep your business relationships about business. However close you may be with your supervisor, he or she is still the boss, and at times that means making unpopular or difficult decisions.” From MayoClinic.com

A boss who doesn’t observe boundaries may abuse power, sometimes unknowingly. A boss may be manipulative. It’s a pyramidal effect in the organization. Workers won’t feel safe expressing true opinions and will band together to maintain safety and self-esteem.

A boss who is receptive, fair and approachable by subordinates and who maintains excellent boundaries between himself and his subordinates fosters a healthy organization.

Your relationship with coworkers
Workplace friendships can enhance creativity and productivity. A key measure of job satisfaction is the quality of relationships we have with people in our workplace. Too much socializing cuts into productivity. Cliques can lead to exclusivity and negativity.

Peers may handle uncomfortable feelings by shoving them onto someone else. Discriminate between your feelings and another’s feelings. You can listen to another talk about feelings and not have to fix them. Differentiate what are your problems and those that belong to another. Refuse to take responsibility for feelings that rightly belong to someone else.

People need to accept responsibilities at work and if they don’t, there needs to be an honest conversation about what happened. Take out all of the personal explosions and develop an expectation that people will actually do what they say, without excuses, and, upon failing, will change the behavior that failed. You’ll be working on trust and clear boundaries.

It comes down to good communication and professionalism
A workplace thrives with people who are friendly, open and approachable, who are genuinely interested in others. A good workplace has the elements of civility: showing appreciation, apologizing when you’re wrong, fairness, superb communication, trust and all the rest.

Respect boundaries.

The most visited post in my year and half writing about civility
Do you want your boss to be your friend?

Improve your supervisor relationship and reduce stress

March 12, 2008

Build good boundaries to avoid boundary confusion and violations

Crossing supervisory roles with peer activities leads to boundary confusion. Sooner or later something happens that demands one type of response from a supervisor and another type from a peer.

Confusing coworker roles with best friend roles brings confusion. Think about why people often won’t sell an item to a friend; you have to decide which role, friend or business relationship, is more valuable to you.

If you don’t have boundaries, you use defenses such as withdrawal, control, sidetracking, creating rules, blaming others, rationalizing, intellectualizing, name calling, gossip, perfectionism, black-white thinking, threats and excessive concern for another.

All are methods of avoiding honest civil communication.

Boundary violations
Emotional boundaries are harmed by ridicule, contempt, derision, sarcasm, mockery, scorn, belittling, stifled communication, insistence on conformity, arbitrariness, the need to overpower and heavy judgments. Derogatory, insulting, disparaging remarks violate emotional boundaries.

Social networks on the Web can collide with your business world and provide boundary violations.

The healthy alternative is to establish boundaries
You need to be clear about what you want. If you have good established boundaries, you can be calm and relatively unaffected by the turmoil around you. You welcome communication and people respect your boundaries.

How to build better boundaries
• Increase your self-awareness.
• Identify those who have violated your boundaries in the past and how you feel about the offenders.
• Examine the state of your boundaries in your present relationships and clean them up.

Source for some of the boundary posts:
‘Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin’ by Anne Katherine, 1991, from the Hazelden Foundation which works in addiction treatment, publishing, education, research and recovery support.

Suggested reading
Save Your Sanity: Keep emotionally toxic people from ruining your mood by setting limits, speaking up for yourself, and standing your ground

Real Simple (magazine) March 2007, second half of article is ‘How to protect your boundaries’

Coming next: Protect your boundaries at work

March 11, 2008

A boundary is a personal property line

Boundaries mark those things for which you are responsible. Boundaries help define who you are.
• Physical boundaries define who may touch you and under what circumstances.
• Mental boundaries give you the freedom to have your own thoughts and opinions.
• Emotional boundaries help you deal with your emotions and disengage from the harmful and manipulative emotions of others.

Boundaries are healthy
Clear boundaries are essential to a healthy, balanced life. Boundaries impact all areas of your life-- at work, in families and friendships. The boundaries change with different relationships.

The best boundaries are ones with civility, some flexibility and definite limits

All relationships have boundary limits. Boundaries move in response to situations---out for strangers, in for intimates. Great emotional closeness is possible between friends. The keys to closeness are communication and being known. For example, you probably accept appropriate anger from friends and loved ones, but believe it’s inappropriate in the workplace.

The workplace can develop all the roles and craziness of a dysfunctional family
The roles you play define the limits of appropriate interaction with others. Roles carry built-in limits. A violation occurs when the limits of a role are ignored or forgotten.

Some people expect the workplace to take care of them personally. Poutiness, meetings with hysteria and catty exclusive relationships are all about inappropriate boundaries. You can’t expect the workplace to assimilate such craziness without becoming dysfunctional. Everyone suffers.

What is appropriate? What’s your relationship to the other person? Do you look up, down or across? You need to understand the boundaries to know how to communicate.

Coming next: Build good boundaries to avoid boundary confusion and violations

March 06, 2008

Receptive--open and responsive to ideas, impressions, or suggestions

If you’re receptive, you’re adaptable and tend to be creative and innovative. You like to solve problems, be visionary, to learn from and connect with others.

An unreceptive person may believe her way is superior so there’s no need to listen to the ideas or comments of others. I might label an unreceptive person as stubborn, close-minded, insecure or egotistical. An unreceptive person frustrates those around him, stifles morale and momentum and misses dynamic discussions and brainstorms that could lead to higher productivity and satisfaction for everyone.

An author on Ivy Sea®, Inc., http://www.ivysea.com, a guide for right-livelihood-- resources for living true and working well, writes:
“Imagine a clear, healthy, flowing stream, and then imagine that same stream with a blockage of garbage and dead wood. Where receptivity is limited, so is the stream of what otherwise might be flowing in and received.”

How do we become more receptive?

Devote time to mindful and skilled communication.

1. Mindfulness is being in the moment. Concentrate on the speaker, the nonverbal moves and what he or she is saying.

2. Listen and receive what that person is saying. Don’t judge (piling up trash on that stream) but be open to the person’s perceptions, thoughts and ideas.

3. The skilled part is deep inquiry, not inquisition. You genuinely want to hear more about a specific idea or observation. Ask questions rather than offering advice or giving opinions. It’s asking the right questions so you understand what another means and work toward creative and innovative ideas.

4. Be open to criticism. It’s someone’s perception and you need to understand their view. Discuss without being defensive. Often you’ll generate ideas for improvement or you’ll learn you didn’t communicate as well as you intended.

“The thunderclap of passion is heard only by the heart ready to listen.” Benita Eisler, American author

How can you be more receptive?

March 04, 2008

The engaged university

We should never quit learning and asking questions. The more knowledge we gain, the more we realize how little we know.

True leaders understand this.
They surround themselves with people who are smarter in different fields than they are. True leaders ask questions, listen and learn.

The workers who encourage give and take of conversations, instead of trying to monopolize the conversation, get this.

The university extension service that asks questions and listens to its citizens to learn about the problems firsthand, understands this.
Engaged extension folks practice information and knowledge sharing from the university to the people and from the people back to the university. The extension service understands university research and teaching need to focus on the right problems.

Here’s an annual news release out of northern Mississippi that always impresses me in how well this extension service plans engagement, how well extension listens. It’s the ultimate respect, the ultimate civility. It’s working for the public good.
Ag producers meet to tell research, education needs,