Setting boundaries is one of the most important things I’ve done to become a calmer business owner.
Of course it’s important to have a good relationship with your customers/clients as you want to be friendly…
…BUT in order to have a healthy relationship, you need to put boundaries in place. Consistent boundaries are essential for building trusting business relationships.
Set Your Working Hours
Decide when you’ll be available to your customers. Modern technology allows us to be at our customers’ beck and call around the clock but it’s unhealthy to be working all hours. Choose your “hours of operation” and add them to your website or Facebook page.
Decide How You’ll Communicate
Decide how you will communicate with customers. Email and social media are both appropriate for business communications but you might want to be careful about texting or chatting apps. These can sometimes feel too personal and invasive. Ask yourself whether you want clients contacting you there? Also, if you don’t habitually use these for business, there’s also the risk that messages might get lost.
Make Allowances for Urgent Issues
There may be some cases where you can bend the boundaries you’ve set. For example, you could tell clients they can reach you for urgent issues over the phone, or you might set Saturday mornings aside each check your business emails. In order for this to work effectively, establish guidelines about what’s urgent and what isn’t.
Define Your Services
Although you’d like to be there for anything your customers/clients need, you should define exactly what services you can and can’t offer. If they want you to do something outside your defined services, decide whether you’ll do it for an additional charge.
Keep Your Distance
Some people don’t understand or respect boundaries, and there’s a good chance some of your customers will fall into this group. Identify these people early on and put strategies in place for dealing with them. Above all, be clear and honest with them about what is possible.
Some strategies include:
- Divert conversations away from too-personal topics
- Make it clear exactly how long you can spend with them (“I’m sorry, I have to go now. I have a meeting in a few minutes”)
- Acknowledge that you’ve heard what they said; don’t ignore it (“I can hear it’s very frustrating for you.”)
- Propose something positive where possible (“I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do to help with this but what I can do is…..”)
Learn How to Say “No”
Ha ha a big one for me! #peoplepleaser We instinctively don’t like to say “no.” We all want to be helpful and don’t want to offend someone by rejecting their request. But it’s sometimes necessary to firmly decline, and you should have techniques in place for doing that.
- Suggest someone else who can help when you’re busy
- Arrange another time when you can do what the person is requesting
- Say “no” clearly and explain why
Remember this isn’t an issue of being “nice” or not!
Boundaries are the foundations of healthy relationships, so you’re defining the terms of your relationship. This helps to build trust and mutual respect.
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