EXERCISE: Name Your Expectations, Set Better Boundaries

To set boundaries, you need to know what your expectations of others are.

Before you dig into what your personal boundaries are, it can be very helpful to know what behaviours you expect from others. What’s interesting about this exercise is that what you expect from folks will be different than what I expect.

Our values will inform our expectations, and so will your levels of self-confidence and self-respect. Your expectations can change, so you’re not locked into this list. In fact, it would be interesting to go back to this list later in time to see how your expectations have changed.

A few words before you complete this exercise:

Find a quiet, comfortable spot during a time where you won’t be interrupted. Give yourself a good hour to mull this exercise over, and as with all the exercises in this workbook, you’ll likely add to your list later as you identify more expectations. 

My personal fave is giving my mind and body a change of scene and going to a café, plugging in my headphones and turning on some meditation music to drown out the noise. In this time of lockdowns and limited shop hours due to labour shortages (at least in my town), it sometimes isn’t possible to get out, so an outdoor spot or a quiet spot indoors, preferably when my kids and husband are out of the house, provides the quiet and focus I need.

Of course, as they say, you do you. Find a place where you feel safe and comfortable, and a time when you won’t feel rushed. 

Get Curious.

My coaching clients – and coaches – will tell you that one of my favourite sayings is “get curious” because it allows me and you to leave the judgment at the door and discover more about ourselves.

Get curious about your expectations!

If an expectation doesn’t feel right, trust that feeling. Ask yourself if it’s an old expectation that doesn’t serve you anymore. Sometimes the expectations we hold onto aren’t ours at all, but rather they belong to other people who influenced you, such as your parents, family members, friends, teachers and bosses.

You get to let those go.

You’re in your own space and no one is watching you. You don’t HAVE to do anything, AND you can allow yourself to “try on” expectations that are feeling right.

The examples I provide in each of the prompts are exactly that: Examples. Take them or leave them, and explore your own experiences to define your expectations.

A word about trauma:

Only go as deep as you feel comfortable going. This exercise is not meant to force you into a place where you are reliving traumatic events. If you feel that you are triggered or at risk of being re-traumatized, please reach out to a trauma therapist at your first opportunity.

Answer the following questions:

 

1. When I’m talking or writing with people, I expect them to:

e.g. Be respectful of my race, gender identity, sexuality, abilities, etc.; use direct and kind language; not be passive-aggressive or manipulative; use a normal tone; be honest; validate what I say; listen; pay attention; make kind observations about my appearance or activities; etc.

2. When I share physical space with people I know, I expect them to:

e.g. respect my personal space; speak in a comfortable tone; ask before they hug or touch me; not wear scents; not put me in an at-risk situation; etc.

3. When it comes to my physical property (home, car, personal items, money), I expect people to:

e.g. Refrain from causing damage; take off their shoes in my home; return borrowed items in the same or better condition; etc.

4.  At work and/or in my business, I expect my colleagues and clients to:

e.g. Respect my time; tell the truth; actively listen to my input; speak to me professionally; remain calm; share concerns in a respectful manner. 

5. Some other expectations I have of other people that I didn’t mention above include:

6. Summary: When I re-read what I wrote above, I can see that when I interact with other people, and when they initiate interactions with me, I expect people to:

7. Summary: What will I do when people don’t meet my expectations?

*Consider different relationships and situations, as your actions may be different in each.

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