Boundaries with Friends/Clients

I have written about boundaries a few times on here and each time I have had people talk to me in a variety of public and private ways about some of their struggles with boundaries... in the work place.

We are not talking about sexual harassment and similar types of boundary violations.

They mention how hard it is for them to stay firm in their boundaries when working with 'friends' or people who claim they are friends.

It is hard.

Separating friends and business is challenging. You do not want to ruin friendships or make business suffer.

And you don't have to do it by telling the person "I am putting my business hat on" or "Now my friend hat is on."

It is far simpler in theory and in practice... if we choose to let our minds and hearts get on the same page.

When we are in the midst of business, we should act as if we are the professional we are. We explain our business, our processes, our prices... without fear of being judged by our 'friends'.

When asked if you can do this for free - far less than what you usually charge - or other 'benefits for a friend'...

We should simply say... yes, no, or maybe.

Depending on what you CAN and WANT to do for our 'friends' for our business... while friends are awesome... friendships do not pay our bills. That is a hard truth...

When we are friends, we can put qualifiers on what we will do or won't do.

We should simply say... yes, no, or maybe.

If you do not feel comfortable with a request from a friend... we should be saying no... if we are excited to do something with a friend... we should be saying yes... you get the point... we should be honest with the friend.

It truly is that easy.

When we are a professional and we say yes, no or maybe... they client has to accept our answers. Friend or not.

But many struggle with saying no... or feeling like they have to say yes because they need the money despite not wanting to work with the client. Add a friend who is a friend but difficult to work with... and we agree to work with them under conditions we normally would not put up with... and we have to stop that... set some boundaries...

Our friends and family do not always understand or even know the state of our business or the motivation of our decisions. Even when a family member is a participant in the business. They may not understand what you have seen, heard, or learned and how that determines your answer... and when questioned as to why... we fear being honest with them.

How well would it go over... "I simply do not want to work with you because you tend to be overly negative, frustrating as you change your mind constantly, and nit pick everything as you demand to get a full refund and still keep the work."

You see, when you are friends with someone, you can overlook some things that do not directly apply to you, but when you are suddenly working with that friend... you can no longer overlook the negative... it is right there in your face all the time.

We as business owners, employees, and other titles within a business have an understanding of what our perspective is, our reasoning for our decisions, our responsibility for those decisions.

When we say yes, we do not tell a person why we said yes. The yes is simply accepted, often with glee that a yes was given.

However, we demand that we receive a reason for a no. And we argue the no as if that will get us what we want.

And often, a forced no does not get you or the other person what they want or more importantly, a happy relationship that is built on mutual respect. You may get what you demand, but you destroy the relationship in the midst.

When we blur the lines thinking that our clients must be friends and our friends must be our clients... we find that we are feeling a bit of unease or turmoil.

Most people are unable to separate the two. Most are unable to treat a friend like a business associate and a business associate like a friend in the appropriate manners at the appropriate times.

Saying no and setting boundaries become more difficult at these times and when this happens... yeah, we suffer from some serious boundary issues.

I am not a friend with either of my children on Facebook. They are nearly 23 and 26. I can text or call or talk to my boys face to face any time I want. We have a good relationship that allows us to communicate when we need about what we need and I do not need to read what they post on Facebook or them me... unless they choose too.

That is a boundary I appreciate and respect on both sides of the issue.

If a mom can have that boundary with her boys... then as a friend, I can have a boundary with them as well. And if that friend is a client, I am have a boundary in the business aspects as well.

It is something that I have to remind myself of when the client portion of the relationship starts to sour or starts to end. I can separate the two parts of the relationship... but this is where the problem with boundaries starts to blur.

A person is usually the same 'type' of person in their personal and professional life. They may have variations of themselves in different roles in their life... more intense on the family side or more intense on the work side or more assertive with work, more passive-aggressive with family... or vise versa. I hope you understand what I am saying... we are different in different situations but still the same person overall.

How do you reconcile with the fact that a business arrangement does not work out because of something the person did, said, or failed to do... and this is likely how the person is on their 'friend' side as well?

It is a great question and a difficult question.

We see this all the time and we have to ask ourselves, how do I resolve this?

You have to set boundaries to protect yourself.

You have to tell yourself that you need to have a boundary to protect your heart and soul when relationships happen to go sour. Work or personal.

This boundary is not to cut yourself off from others that may hurt you. Not at all.

One of the best lessons I learned was from reading the A Patchwork Heart: Deepening Your Love for Others
Book by Pam Mellskog. It talks about how beautiful a heart is that is filled with patches from others, not neatly placed or fully covering the open spots... but a heart that is filled with hurt, love, joy, pain, and all the rest of what we experience in life.

The point of that book is, life is messy and your heart will hurt... but take the lessons you learned, the memories you shared, and the joys you experienced and focus on those moments and not the fact that you were hurt because you cared. Because you loved. Because you tried to help.

When you realize this is who you are and you are not ashamed of the efforts you made to be a friend, be a professional and blurred the lines... you can set a boundary to move a bit slower, a bit more cautiously, a bit more... well, you can add whatever you have experienced here as the basis of your boundaries... and work towards setting that boundary in place.

I know it may seem like I am saying two different things and backtracking a bit on the boundaries issue... but I am not. I am telling you boundaries are challenging unless you understand why you need the boundary in place to begin with... and you do... to protect yourself.

The purpose of mentioning the patchwork heart is to allow you to understand why hurts happen and why it is not a bad thing... and here is where the two thoughts come together.

When you place a boundary into a relationship... where business is business and friends are friends and when you need to make it clear that while you cherish their friendship, you need money to live and cannot give away your services for free... and they leave in a huff because they thought their friendship entitled them to getting something for not much more than nothing on their part...

That is when you have a patchwork heart.

You put a boundary in place and they get upset... ask yourself before the hurt really takes over... 'Were they really a true friend?'

The answer is no. They were not a true friend.

What they were is a person who wanted to be your 'friend' to get what they wanted from you for whatever little bit they had to put forth to get the most from you.

Your heart may be broken to lose a friend and maybe more so to lose a paying client, but in a while you will realize that your heart has put a patch over 'their' hole and you will move on... and it will allow you to understand that boundaries are necessary and a true friend understands that and respect those boundaries.

A friends is awesome...

A client is awesome...

A friend and client is really awesome...

But a friend and client who appreciates the boundaries you set and respects them... PRICELESS.

I have had to and will continue to put in place boundaries with clients and friends and friend/clients and clients/friends.

It is necessary to at times, reinforce why you have boundaries and end the relationships if the boundaries are not respected.

On a much simpler level, it is sometimes important to say no - no to any more games played...

That is often the hardest to do.

Decide when you are done chasing a client or potential client who doesn't respect you, your time or your expertise.

If they do not respect you, why continue to deal with them.

Boundaries are good. Boundaries are simple to employ. As long as we get out of our own way once they are in place.

Dannie :)