When Boundaries Aren’t Being Honoured…


We all know it’s important to set clear boundaries.

  • Boundaries indicate, both to yourself and to others, what you’re willing to put up with and
  • They show the people you deal with what to expect.

But sometimes you state your boundaries and the other person just doesn’t seem to pick up on them. Or they seem to feel that your boundaries don’t apply to them, that they can be the exception; that they’re entitled to that, and that, basically, your boundaries were merely invented for the sake of others.

This particularly sucks when you’re dealing with clients.

Because you want their business and even when you wish they would just disappear from your life, you can’t afford to alienate them (bad publicity and they still have to pay that last invoice you sent!)

I have a friend who runs a small accountancy agency. She works from home. People have to come to her house to drop off or to pick up their files. But they seem to think that ‘she’s home anyway, so they can come whenever they feel like it,’ and even though they verbally arrange to come at a certain time, they never do. This is, of course, horribly frustrating. But when I look at how she schedules her appointments, it’s no surprise that her clients don’t take her schedule seriously. Because she goes with the flow. And according to how that flow evolves, she’ll do ‘this’ or she’ll do ‘that’. What’s more, she’s so accustomed to clients not showing up at the appointed time, that she factors it in: “If they’re on time, I’ll do this and if they’re not, I’ll do that.”

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That’s no way to establish boundaries.

For her to create boundaries, she’ll have to ‘toughen up’. With herself!! But that’s not working out so well. Which raises the question:

Do boundaries even serve her? Wouldn’t she benefit more from not being frustrated by the fact that people don’t keep their appointments! Because then she could really go with the flow, and they could fall in line with hers! She’s clearly a strong enough creator, so it’s just a matter of redirecting her attention!

Not having your boundaries honoured is even more frustrating when you’re in the creative profession.

You create something for someone against a previously agreed upon price and they’re not happy with the product. Now what? Sure, things can be described in the contract, but the feeling place of what’s agreed upon is a lot harder to capture. When is the website you’re building for someone truly finished? When it has the header, the banner, the slider, the sidebar, the footer and the agreed upon wording?

It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t possibly ask a designer to help me out, because the moment I see the finished product, is when I know how I really wanted it! But of course the designer did what I originally asked for and I should pay for the adjustments I now require.

But what if you’re the designer and the client feels you haven’t met the terms of your contract because he still hasn’t arrived at the feeling place of completion? Or, worse, what if your client, even after you’ve been working together for months, still doesn’t even know what ‘completion’ looks like. When will you ever be done? How to enforce your boundaries with someone who seems to feel you still owe them and who, as a result, doesn’t even want to compensate you for all the extra hours you’ve already put in – and will still have to put in. What do you do, pull the plug?


If this is you, then you’ve got two options:

  • Blame the client; he’s the parasite, right? So just wait for him to get it. Or,
  • Acknowledge that the client is indeed a complete jerk, but that if anything is going to change, you will have to make that happen.

I always try to choose the latter.

  • Firstly, because that’s where I can exert control.
  • And secondly, because I find that, on average, my dilemmas and situations actually have very little to do with the other person.

If someone is feeding off me, then I’m the one who’s allowing them to do so. I may feel powerless to stop it, but that’s still my sense of powerlessness!

Which means that from where I sit, the designer-issue has very little to do with this particular client.

And that’s a good thing!

If you want to resolve a situation like this, you have to step back and be willing to take ownership.

Because somewhere along the line, whether you meant to or not, you emitted the signal that this was okay. And even though you now deliver under protest and with extreme frustration, you are still honouring that signal: that, somehow, on some level, this is okay! It isn’t!

And the only question is: how deeply can you feel that?

The solution is easier than you think. It doesn’t take ‘forever’ to change your position. In fact, it only takes a moment. That moment in which you fully realise just how utterly ludicrous the situation is! It is resolved the moment you fully feel, all the way to your toes, that it’s beyond ridiculous! And in that moment is when you tell the universe: I’m done with the old way. I’m not having this anymore!

And then you step back and let the universe do what it does best: bring forth solutions.

You don’t have to do anything. You just take that decision. And then you go and have a cup of coffee with friends. And as long as you do not connect with a sensible, inspired action you don’t do anything at all. Or you do other things. Things you like! Things that make you feel good! The things you would be doing if this crappo-thing were out of the way! And then, when you do connect with that inspired action, when suddenly you know how to proceed, is when you’ll do what you’ve got to do.


And, just as a p.s.

If at any point you think that the inspiration for the inspired action is unreasonably long in presenting itself to you, then maybe you’re not convinced it’s coming.

That might be the case when you’re attached to ‘efforting’, which basically means that you’re used to the thought that things have to take time and/or that they tend to be a struggle.

If that’s you, then just sit with that thought and feel into it, play with it.