In this episode of The Feel Good Effect, we’re getting into all things boundary-setting with Nedra Tawwab – licensed therapist and sought-after relationship expert. Her philosophy is that a lack of boundaries & assertiveness are the key to most of our relationship issues.
Listen in to the episode or read the article for all her tactical tips!
setting healthy boundaries for better work life balance with nedra glover tawwab
I don’t know about you, but my work-life boundaries have blurred quite a bit in the past year. Maybe you’re craving a little refresh and reset for yours too. Whether you work inside or outside the home, you can use these tactical takeaways to develop, build, and tweak your own boundaries for better work-life balance.
“I define boundaries as a verbal communication or an action that you communicate to someone to feel safe, secure, and supported in a relationship”
Nedra Glover Tawwab
meet guest & boundary expert: nedra glover tawwab
A few years ago, Nedra started creating content on Instagram, much of which reflected her work as a therapist and lived experience as a human. A lot of her work continues to center around helping people develop boundaries and healthy relationships, so writing a book about that topic was a natural alignment.
We’re already doing a lot of things in our relationships that are boundary-ish. Nedra talks about three types of boundaries in her book: rigid, porous, and healthy boundaries.
- Porous boundaries are very loose, we don’t say anything but we think it
- Rigid boundaries are very strict in what we want from others
- Healthy boundaries are where we want to be. To get here, generally, most of us just need some boundary tweaking.
Nedra defines boundaries as a verbal or an action that you communicate to someone to feel safe, secure, and supported in a relationship. Often we think of boundaries as only verbal, but boundaries are also an action. A closed door is a boundary. It’s a two-part process.
what is the risk of not having boundaries?
The risk of not having boundaries? Chaos, frustration, resentment, and so many other unpleasant things.
When we don’t have boundaries, we are often unhealthy in our relationships. Sometimes the other person doesn’t even know what we’re struggling with. We assume they should figure things out based on our behavior towards them, or based on a past conversation. Typically the other person is unaware there is an issue.
In these cases, so often our biggest fear is saying something that rocks or disrupts the relationship. Yes, this does happen sometimes and in some relationship you may get some pushback. But most of the time when we ask for something people are able to agree – especially if they didn’t even know it was an issue and it’s not a huge thing for them to do.
In relationships that are already pretty healthy or growing, most of the time people will adhere to your boundaries.
“It’s really important to think about the ways you’re trying to implement boundaries”
Nedra Glover Tawwab
tell us about different kinds of boundaries as they’re structured and organized in the book.
The book is structured in a two-part format.
Part 1 is a lot of theory and Nedra talks about what boundaries are, different types of boundaries (e.g., sexual, emotional, intellectual), what a lack of healthy boundaries actually looks like, and what setting boundaries looks like, including with ourselves.
Part 2 is more application and practice – including scripts and tools, talking about family, romantic, and work relationships as well as social media and technology. Each chapter talks about the communication and action pieces of boundaries.
Sometimes verbally communicating a boundary is enough, other times you’ll need to enforce it in other ways too. It’s really important to think about the ways you’re trying to implement boundaries because so often we think that we’ve told someone something but our actions don’t connect to that.
One without the other, communication or action, can create a disconnect or friction. It’s important to make sure those two things are working together and not against you.
“Think about where your energy is going and protect your peace”
Robyn Conley Downs
let’s talk about social media boundaries
One helpful tip is to do a cleanse. The next time you are on social media, really sit with the information on your page and assess how you feel when you’re scrolling.
If you’re scrolling and you find yourself upset with a post, take a look at that account and think about if that is someone you want to continue following. Do you want to mute them, unfollow their account altogether, are you happy to continue engaging in their content? Every so often it’s good to take a look and see if the information still sits well with you. Nedra’s encouragement is that “it’s okay to shift what you need on social media”.
It gets really complicated when we have close relationships with people and we don’t like their social media content. Nedra suggests ‘unfollowing’ or ‘muting’ accounts that do not align with what you need from social media currently. If approached about it, you can say, “I am trying to follow more accounts like ______ and as I am looking through your stuff sometimes it doesn’t agree with my spirit. I don’t want social media to be a part of our personal experience together”.
Sometimes we just need a little permission to make those difficult decisions. If you know that you want to unfollow certain accounts but feel wildly uncomfortable communicating that given the risk of being asked about it, there is some comfort in knowing that in many cases others don’t have to know. The way most social media platforms are set up, you can be following someone and never see their content.
“You have to decide what is too much and what is enough”.
Nedra Glover Tawwab
what about work boundaries (especially for those working from home)?
This is especially interesting when work and home have become blended for many of us this past year. So having some parameters around it might help.
To start, we have to figure out what’s not working in order to create boundaries. What’s not working for you? Many have fallen into feeling like there’s nothing else to do on evenings or weekends, so why not work. It’s something to check your values against, if I have free time does that mean I have to work?
For Nedra, taking her own advice that she gives to clients has been helpful. Having a schedule and routine is very helpful in this modified work-life situation many of us find ourselves in – in addition to setting boundaries around intrusions while at work but also being at home.
With all of the things she does, having a routine is what helps Nedra get stuff done. It’s kind of like a junk drawer, it’s easier to get things done when they all have a place with structure. This is what many were struggling with early on, getting up whenever they wanted to or unsure when to start work and end work, which started to disrupt mental security. It is helpful to have a dedicated work time that you can set up boundaries for.
what advice would you give someone who is worried about hurting people’s feelings while trying to communicate their boundaries?
When people are concerned about hurting others’ feelings, it’s a strength to have such compassion. Nedra’s advice, however: “push through with your boundary”. Certain topics of conversation might not make you feel good. Or perhaps it’s the timing of those conversations, like not wanting to hear about upsetting news stories while at work.
Sometimes we aren’t mindful of how much time and energy distractions take from us. Think about where your energy is going and protect your peace.
“Communicate in a way that honors your boundaries”
Nedra Glover Tawwab
how do you approach boundaries at work with your boss?
Setting boundaries around work time is beautiful. You can set these with qualifiers, saying something like “I really want to start enforcing boundaries around work time, therefore, I will no longer answer texts or emails on the weekend unless it’s an emergency”.
As a therapist who used to work with crisis populations, Nedra always made it a point to define what a crisis is. If you say to your boss, “I won’t be answering unless it’s a crisis” – then what counts as a crisis? Define that for them. At the same time, the boundary for you might be taking work email off your phone or not looking it up on your laptop at certain times. Remember that boundaries are communication plus action.
When it comes to work boundaries, there’s also this subtle competition of who can work more. Your boundary is not only a boundary, it’s a statement that you’re making about opting out of the competition of who’s working themselves more to the bone. You have to accept that somebody else is willing to do this and it’s not you, and that’s okay.
Someone who works really hard does not necessarily reap all the benefits of that hard work.
what is one small shift for someone who wants to create or expand their boundaries?
Take a look at what you’re doing to honor your boundaries with others. Not what they need to do, but what you can do. And then communicate in a way that honors your boundaries.
what it really means to be healthy
“Healthy for me is being in touch with your best self and striving to be in that space and having all things in alignment around being the real you”
Nedra Glover Tawwab
Nedra Glover Tawwab is a licensed therapist, sought-after relationship expert, and author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace. She has practiced relationship therapy for 12 years and is the founder and owner of the group therapy practice, Kaleidoscope Counseling. Every day she helps people create healthy relationships by teaching them how to implement boundaries. Her philosophy is that a lack of boundaries and assertiveness underlie most relationship issues, and her gift is helping people create healthy relationships with themselves and others.
Connect with Nedra on Instagram @nedratawwab