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Making Time Online – Boundary Setting

For this Making Time Online session we were joined by clinical psychologist, author, trainer, speaker & humanitarian Dr Louise Hayes in a conversation around boundary setting and how we can better monitor ourselves, our time and project expectations when running community projects.

To understand boundary setting, Dr Hayes tells us, we must begin with an understanding of our values. Our values are those things that matter most to us. Our values guide us through life: they are at our centre.

If we recognize that we are losing sight of our values, then it is time to set some boundaries.

When approaching a project or working relationship, begin by establishing shared values. Ask:

  • What do you care about?
  • What do I care about?
  • What do WE care about?

As artists we bring our own values to a project. What if our values differ to that of the organization that is contracting us?

Rather than challenging someone on their values, know your own values and share them. Hold an open conversation, rather than a challenge: ‘this is what matters to me and this is what I want to bring to the project – how can we do that?’

Showing ourselves to be flexible can help. For example, ‘I’m happy to work with you and what you value – let’s share what WE value.’

Values allow us to create boundaries. If we know our values and what we care most about, we can decide when we need to be firm with our boundaries and when we are prepared to be more flexible. Knowing what matters most enables us to manage challenges as they arise.

In times when we feel our boundary isn’t being respected, it is important to first acknowledge to ourselves how we are feeling. Then it is useful to think about the other person’s perspective and what they might value that has led to the situation. Next, we must let it go, to avoid taking it home with us, where it can turn into resentment and impact on our home life and relationships.

If we feel that we need to address an issue, because it is important to us, we can do so in a clear and non-confrontational way by seeking out the space of shared values. Start the conversation from this point.

The reality is that there are often time and resource constraints within projects, with limited opportunities for conversation and reflection around values. So what can we do to ensure we retain our values when it really counts, and maintain healthy boundaries?

Peer support is vital. Sharing our experiences with our peers builds on our knowledge and is an important way of gaining information about how our colleagues deal with a variety of challenges and conflicting demands.
Having conversations like these (in Making Time Online) builds our levels of confidence and experience and helps us to begin to appreciate and know our worth as arts professionals.

Where possible, declare our boundaries at the outset. Provide advanced notice of our availability and reinforce in our communications with others the scope of our commitment.

Pause before answering. Take one slow breath before responding to a request. Consider what we are committing to. There is cultural conditioning at work here and it can take practice disrupting the habit of saying yes. We can start practicing now by role-playing with our peers and at home.

Remember that the quiet voice can be powerful. A non-threatening and flexible approach to resolving conflicts around boundaries is effective. Hold open conversations. When we share what we value, and ask what others value, we can find the space where our values meet and start from there.

Most importantly, know our selves. Know our own values and what matters most to us, so that when push comes to shove, we’ll know when we are willing to shift our boundary a little, and when we need to draw a line in the sand.

Learn more about Making Time Online here:


Image // Susie Blatchford

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