The Importance of Boundaries

Boundaries

In last month’s post, “Telling Clients What They Don’t Want to Hear,” I mentioned the importance of maintaining proper boundaries when working with clients during and after divorce. Boundaries not only help us serve our clients more effectively, they protect us from allowing clients to invade our life outside of work.

I recently read a book called Boundaries: When to Say Yes and When to Say No and Take Control of your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. In this post I’m highlighting a few of the “Laws of Boundaries” outlined in the book that I find helpful in serving divorcing clients.

  • The Law of Power. The basic premise of this law is knowing what we control and what we don’t control. How many times have you told a client, “you can’t control the other person, you only control yourself.” Sometimes we need to listen to our own advice! We CAN control the advice we give our clients and how we deliver it, we CAN’T control whether or not they take it. We CAN control how we prepare how we prepare for a meeting or a trial but we CAN’T control the outcome.
  • The Law of Evaluation. This boundary pertains to setting and conveying your own boundaries to clients. Examples include whether or not you give out your cell phone number and your expected response time to “emergencies.” Setting and communicating your boundaries to clients, even if it makes them angry, is necessary to so they know what to expect from you.
  • The Law of Natural Consequences. As attorneys and therapists we naturally want to help our clients.  Helping is good; rescuing is harmful to ourselves and our clients.  This boundary clarifies the line between helping and rescuing. Here’s a summary:
Helpers Rescuers
Encourage independence Create dependency
Responsible only for yourself Feel responsible for other people
Don’t take things personally Feel badly when efforts not well received
Only help when asked Assume what other people need
Help without expectation Require appreciation and gratitude
Allow those who “commit the crime” to “do the time” Intervene and absorb the consequences for others’ behavior

I serve as a Guardian ad litem for Hennepin County and I have found these boundaries absolutely crucial in helping me do this important work. They also help in my work with clients in conflict during and after divorce. I hope you find them helpful in serving your clients as well.

Erin Kassebaum provides mediation, coaching and parenting consulting services.  She is located in Bloomington.  Please feel free to contact Erin with any comments or questions at 612.599.8366 or erin@resolutiondivorceservices.com.

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