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Listening Boundaries #2: Responding to Feedback Through a Healthy Filter


In my previous article, we discussed how to use an internal listening boundary to categorize and process incoming information. When we receive incoming data, we want to file it into one of three categories: true, untrue or questionable. We closed the article wondering how we respond when someone violates our listening boundaries. Maybe they have yelled, lied, ridiculed or disrespected us in some other way.

How do we respond as we stay connected to our value?

We might respond by saying, “I don’t appreciate it when you speak to me like this…”, “It really hurts my feelings when…. Please don’t…” or “It isn’t okay with me when you…. “ (For more ideas, see the attached worksheet). If the person refuses to accommodate our request and change their behavior, it is probably time to consider whether they are the melon in our lunch pack. For the sake of our own safety, it may be necessary to consider putting them in a separate container. We need to evaluate whether having any type of relationship with this person is a wise decision. If we determine we are unwilling or unable to end the relationship completely, we need to figure out a way to keep ourselves safe (maintain a strong internal listening boundary) when we are with them.

There are other instances in life when listening boundaries are very important even when the other person isn’t trying to be controlling or hurtful. Take for example the story in the previous article. The colleagues meant you no harm. They were simply expressing an opinion. With healthy boundaries, how might you respond?

You know based on my last article about self esteem, that their opinion of your work does not add or diminish your value. In fact, even if your work was novice level, it does not make you “less than” anyone else. Human value is inherent and equal.

When your self esteem is intact this could turn into an opportunity to hear about how they think your project could have been better. With an open mind, you may be able to learn and improve for your next project. With a healthy listening boundary, you do not have to believe everything they say is true or let it affect you emotionally. You can realize they are generating their own thoughts, feelings and opinions and these are not necessarily the ‘truth”. If you can listen without becoming defensive, it could become an incredible opportunity to learn.

Finally, what about when people say something nice about us? What do we do when the feedback is good?

We ask ourselves the same questions. Is it true? Is it untrue? Or do we need more information? The internal listening boundary is important whether the incoming information makes us feel good or bad because we also don’t want to become susceptible to “other” esteem. Should we do so and begin to receive our value from compliments, our self esteem would be affected. We could fall back into the trap of thinking we are “better than” or “less than” others, based on the type of data that is put in front of us, which is not self esteem.

In our next article, we will discuss the internal talking boundary. Until then, ponder:

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”

Brené Brown

What does this mean to you personally?

Attached is a worksheet that will help you define your boundaries with the difficult people in your life. Feel free to complete, and if you like, share with me via email.

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