“Whatever you are willing to put up with, is exactly what you will have.”

—  Anonymous

That is so true!  How people treat us, in the end, is our responsibility. Think about the times, at home, socially or at work, when you’ve allowed someone to take advantage of you and you let it pass.  Maybe an employee tends to run late for meetings, and you’re often left waiting—and fuming.  Or your boss blows a gasket and yells at you, berating you in the process, and you let it slide. How about the manager who promises to do something but frequently forgets to follow through? The first time something like this happens should also be the last time it happens when you know how to set boundaries.

They are not the physical kind, of course, they are the invisible personal and professional limits that guide all our relationships. Boundaries reflect the opinion we have of ourselves and the ideas and values we care about most. They impact our personal relationships, our performance at work, and our experiences with money, sex and emotional intimacy.

Whether with family, dating, friendships or the workplace, boundaries signal that you respect yourself and expect the same in return. They aren’t about keeping people at a distance. Not at all.  In fact, signaling what your boundaries are draws other self-respecting people to you. As for setting personal boundaries, that is one of Oprah’s favorite topics.

Awareness Is The First Step

Awareness is usually the first step in changing anything. And it’s true for setting boundaries.  Let’s take the always-running-late scenario. You hate having to wait and it makes you mad. It would most of us. You make a point of being on time, so why can’t your employee or friend do the same?  Don’t they respect your time? Becoming aware of how you feel when something like this happens is the first step to changing the pattern.

Next, decide what kind of boundary you need to establish to stop the unwanted behavior and then figure out how best to talk about it. A calm tone and friendly manner is highly recommended! Maybe tell your tardy employee or partner that, as they probably already know, you have a thing about being on time. It matters to you and so, if they’re late again by, say, more 15 minutes, you will not wait around. You will start the meeting. You will leave the restaurant, or take a cab, or whatever, but you will not be there, waiting. Of course, boundaries will have no impact if you don’t follow through!

What if your boss yells at you or a colleague speaks to you disrespectfully?  Even if they intend to give you constructive criticism, which we should all be open to, a tirade or nasty tone and manner is unacceptable.  And expect it to happen again if you don’t nip it in the bud and set boundaries. Tact and diplomacy come in handy when communicating what that boundary is.  Maybe try: “I hear what you’re saying, but I would appreciate your discussing these things with me in a more respectful way.”

Talk about being empowered! Imagine how good you will feel when you start drawing the line more often.


Beate Chelette is a respected career coach, business trainer, and a consummate entrepreneur who founded The Women’s Code, a unique guide to personal and career success that offers a new code of conduct for today’s business, private and digital world. After selling one of her start-up companies, BeateWorks, to Bill Gates in 2006 for millions of dollars, CEOs and entrepreneurs around the country came calling to learn her strategies for success, and today Beate shares them in her dynamic break-out training sessions on leadership, conflict resolution and effective communication.