Hey, I’m Canadian, what can I say? Even when we tell someone where to get off, we like to do it politely. And really, from a communications perspective, taking the high road and expressing yourself in a classy way is always the best. Want to know how?

It’s all about boundaries.

The first step is knowing what your boundaries are — what you’re prepared to do or put up with, and what are absolutely lines in the sand. This is true of your relationships, your work conditions, and how people treat you in any aspect of your life. What are you willing to tolerate or not?

As a professional speaker, I meet all types of people. In your job, perhaps you also have the chance and privilege of getting to know people from different companies and locations. I get to work with colleagues of various levels, from my wonderful support staff admin pros to the CEOs of major companies.

Generally, when someone reaches a certain level in a large international firm, one expects a certain savvy awareness of how to treat others. Not always the case. This point was really driven home to me recently.

Here’s an example of setting boundaries.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a webinar hosted by a national HR and media firm such that the attendees didn’t pay to attend and got an hour of some of my best material. The session was focused on personality types and how to connect with various different (read: “difficult”) people. The response was amazing. Participation by those online during the session was high. The post-session comments received were all positive. Overall, the attendees got a lot out of the session and were moving what they had learned to action. Bravo, right?

Then later that same day, I get this email from a senior consultant at a BIG consulting firm. You’d recognize the name of this high-end company, I assure you. Here’s what she said:

Hi Marion,

I attended your webinar today for “Communicate to Connect” and enjoyed it very much. Would it be possible to receive a copy of the slide presentation – would love to use it in training sessions and lunch and learns.

Thank you and I appreciate this…

Many thanks..
Jane Doe
Senior Consultant

Imagine for a moment that you’re in my shoes. You’re a professional speaker who has invested in a university degree, college diploma, “Personality” (True Colors and Personality Dimensions) certification, along with 35 years of communications and management experience — all so you have credibility in sharing expertise about personality type and communication styles in the workplace. You’ve spent weeks preparing each presentation you deliver. You constantly update your sessions with new information, exercises, and research. These “slides” are your livelihood and capture highlights of the expertise you bring to your clients. Their magic is in, not just the content of the slides, but how they’re presented and most importantly, how they’re interpreted.

Given all that, let me ask you … how would YOU have responded to this request?

Are you in a difficult situation with someone asking you for something that you just don’t feel comfortable doing or giving? Here are the steps you can take to say “no” politely and professionally:

Thank them for their interest.

Be blatant that you don’t “do” what they’re asking (draw the line in the sand);

Offer an explanation.

Explain the impact on you and how it looks and feels from your perspective;

Give an option

Offer a solution or point out one that you’ve already given that might meet their needs;

Thank again.

Now, let’s take a look at how these steps look when put to action, the words that you can use around this framework. Below is my verbatim email response in its entirety. See how you can apply what I did to YOUR situation.

Here’s how I responded.

Hey “Jane”, so glad you could join us today. Thanks for your comments and positive feedback. What part of the session was YOUR aha moment? What piece are you moving to action?

Re: my slides, apologies — I don’t share my slides with anyone. Those are my bread and butter, years in the making and what I use when I present live workshops to my clients. If I can ever be of service that way, in doing presentations to your organization or any of your clients, please let me know. I’d be delighted to submit a proposal.

In the meantime, please know that the handout I provided includes all the highlights of the slides. And if you have any specific questions, feel free to give me a shout.

PS: Jane, in the way of staying in touch, did you want to receive “Marion’s Communication Tips”? It’s a bi-weekly, quick read (or video) with hands-on workplace communication tips you can easily put to use. Interested? Just reply to this email with “opt me in” in the subject line and I’ll take care of it. Welcome to the MarionSpeaks community!

It’s never easy setting boundaries. Let me assure you — it becomes easier the more you do it. And the more outlandish the request, the easier it is.

Next time you’re met with a difficult request, put these steps to work for you. Let me know how it goes, and don’t be surprised if not everyone is pleased with you asserting yourself. You’re changing the “communication dance”, and redefining your relationship with that person.

In the final analysis, do what feels right for you, respect your boundaries, and you know you can live with. It might not work for everyone — but it will always work for you.

Until next time,
Here’s to better communication, better business, better life,
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Helping biz people find solutions to workplace communication challenges.
Better communication, better business, better life.
Recipient of APEX “Award for Leadership in Service Innovation”

© 2014 Marion Grobb Finkelstein

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete tagline with it:

Communication catalyst, author, professional speaker Marion Grobb Finkelstein Marion@MarionSpeaks.com teaches individuals and organizations across Canada and beyond, how to connect with clients, colleagues, employees, and bosses, and how to handle workplace communication challenges to improve morale, confidence, and productivity. Chat with her at www.facebook.com/MarionSpeaks and sign up for her FREE weekly “Marion’s Communication Tips” at www.MarionSpeaks.com

Marion Grobb Finkelstein

Marion Grobb Finkelstein helps leaders use their natural communication strengths to build resilient teams that talk.

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