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Is setting a boundary actually a judgement? It was a very uncomfortable realization as recently a friend pointed this out to me when I asked, if by expressing my boundary was I sounding judgmental?
Working at being less judgemental was a skill I learned over 10 years ago as I was doing my coach training. But it was also one I had to work on in personal relationships too. If we are to create deeper connections in our lives, or connections at all, we need to learn the skill of keeping our judgement in check. We need to work at replacing it with compassion.
VALUE OF BOUNDARIES
Boundaries are important things to have in our lives. It’s also important to know what they are for us specifically. Without knowing and honouring our boundaries we can often be talked into doing something we don’t want to or aren’t comfortable with. It can also lead to being steamrolled and taken advantage of. The results are resentment and even anger towards others. Boundaries also help to keep us safe.
As a coach this is a key area that I work on with clients. You are not alone if you struggle to know and honour your boundaries. So recently when I was having a significant struggle in one of my relationships, I sat down to figure out, what exactly were my boundaries on this particular issue?
In a conversation with my oldest and best friend I shared them. And I asked for honest feedback around, was I sharing them without judgement in my voice? Was my tone one of compassion?
AN UNCOMFORTABE REALIZATION
There was a long pause on the other end of the phone.
“If we think about it all boundaries contain some form of judgement don’t they? Aren’t we telling someone that even though this isn’t ok for me, if you do it then it’s not ok with me either. And really that’s a form of judgement.”
A massive light bulb went off.
For years I, as a coach and a human being, had been solid in my belief about setting boundaries. My job was helping others to do the same. In this moment my belief was coming into question. But not in a, “Oh my god my world is crumbling with this realization,” kind of way but instead in a , “Wow. I never saw that. I have to share these boundaries with compassion and understanding. Not stand and deliver them with my feet in cement and therefore be closed to the other’s perspective and even their possible needs.”
When you think about setting your own boundaries around what is right and what is not for you, consider also thinking about the other person you are sharing them with. Are you sharing through a tone and lens of compassion or are you sharing from a place of moralistic judgement?
In his book, Non Violent Communication, Marshall B Rosenberg, PhD has this to say about moralistic judgements:
“One kind of life-alienating communication is the use of moralistic judgements that imply wrongness or badness on the part of people who don’t act in harmony with our values. Such judgements are reflected in language: “The problem with you is that you’re too selfish.” “She’s lazy.” “They’re prejudiced.” “It’s inappropriate.” Blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticism, comparisons and diagnoses are all forms of judgements.”
When you express a boundary are you showing up from a place of moralistic judgement or are you showing up from a place of compassion?
So is setting a boundary actually a judgement? In some ways yes, it could be perceived that way. Because of this how we communicate those boundaries and how we honour them in relationship with others matters.
There was something here for me to learn in this very uncomfortable situation I found myself in. Though I prided myself in being less judgemental in my life I clearly needed to remember that it is a practice and not something that can be checked off the list of life.