I heard this idea pitched by a relationship coach on a quick video, and thought the analogy was a great one. The whole point of his video was to help people reframe the idea of who should have access to you in the same fashion as everyone trying to get into a night club. If you pay the cover charge, you get in, if you do not pay the cover charge, no entry…
In the example of your own personal access, the “cover charge” is whatever you determine is applicable. For most, it should be things like communication, respect, consideration, etc. If someone does not “pay” these to you, they have lost their access to you. This applies to dating, your working relationships and more. But YOU have to act as your own bouncer and make sure you do the following:
1. Set these expectations up front
2. Enforce them
Sounds easy enough, right? The reality is that some of us struggle with setting boundaries or enforcing them later on. It is easy to get taken advantage of on occasion, and when someone does this, shame on them. But when it happens more than once, that becomes shame on you. You are the only one who can not only set the parameters but also enforce them.
I have worked for a few tough bosses in the past, and even at a young age I had my limits on what I was willing to tolerate. I was raised to be very respectful of my elders and people in positions of authority, but with some limits. I remember a job at Radio Shack when I was 16 that was ne of the first jobs I ever had. I was (unknowingly) hired as Holiday season help starting at the end of October. My boss was ex-military and a very religious person, two things I struggle with having shoved down my throat. To each his own, but please do not expect me to conform to your thoughts and beliefs. The other guy who was hired at the same time was headed into the military after his last year of high school, so the boss loved this guy and looked down on me for my “lack of willingness to serve my country”. This was not a criteria for the job, or at least is was not in the job posting. I ended up getting let go the day after New Year’s day, since the holiday season was over and only one of us was needed now that business was going to return to normal. I had spoken to my parents about leaving this job, and had planned on giving my two weeks notice at the end of the week I was let go, so it worked out in the end.
That was a good life lesson learned at an early age, as I can’t have my parents fight that battle for me. It was not easy to tactfully push back to an older, loud and angry man with a commanding presence, especially as a sixteen year old. But I mustered to courage to do it as best I could, and it set a tone of me later in life. I applied this same mentality in the future relationships I had, including having some very difficult conversations with a few (soon to be ex) girlfriends about my expectations of our relationship. These things are never easy, but the reality is that if you don’t draw lines in the sand, you suffer the consequences of this for a whole lot longer than necessary.
In my day job, I have difficult conversations with prospective clients on a regular basis, and I say no when it is appropriate to do so. I have learned the hard way that if I set the right expectations now, my life will be easier later. Some clients think they know what they “need” us to do, but if this does not align with what we do or believe we should be responsible for, the answer is no. I would say this was much harder when the company was new and didn’t have a ton of business, it gets easier when you have a successful business and don’t need someone’s business, you just want it. Now it comes down to a matter of ethics, and saying no when it is difficult to do for financial reasons is a good test of how committed to your ethics you really are. For the sake of each party involved, this means that they need to comply with how we provide our service or find another vendor. It is not personal, and I never take it as such. But if I don’t have that somewhat uncomfortable conversation now, it will no doubt bite me in the end. I set myself, my team and my company up for failure by not playing bouncer and say “No Entry” without the prospective client “paying” the admission price. That price is doing things the way we do them for one thousand other clients, with a staunch track record of success.
Another example of this would be my life prior to getting married. I was not looking for a relationship for a long time; I spent almost all of my twenties in two different long term, committed relationships. After the second one ended, I knew it was going to me a long time before I was going to repeat that process, and I took measures to assure that. It took a little while to really refine this, but eventually I did get to the point of total transparency. On date number one with someone, I would lay out what I am comfortable with in terms of us dating. I was not going to change my mind, get lazy and find myself back in a committed relationship just because I didn’t want to have an uncomfortable conversation. I discovered that not everyone can manage this so easily, and/or is not as self aware as I am, and there were some difficult follow up conversations a few weeks down the road as well, mainly around why I have not changed my mind about upgrading our relationship status beyond “dating”. While a few people got mad at me, I never had a car keyed or had to file a restraining order against a disgruntled woman that I am no longer involved with.
If setting boundaries in any part of your life is something you struggle, get ta practicin’! Start small and work your way up, but learn to express your thoughts and expectations with everyone that you interact with. Your life will be far less stressful and you will proactively weed out problem people from your life by doing so. You remove lots of anxiety and future issues by having an up front adult conversation with someone to outline the rules of engagement. It is so much easier than the alternative, I promise.