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Boundaries are a crucial part of life as an introvert. They’re also a critical aspect of anyone navigating the workplace. When you’re operating as an introverted employee, the importance of boundaries skyrockets.
Here are a few considerations for setting boundaries as well as how introverts can do so both at work and in their personal lives.
The Importance of Boundaries for Introverts
Boundaries can manifest in a variety of ways. Sometimes they’re physical, like using a space for a particular activity. At other times they’re time-based, such as keeping a schedule. Still, other boundaries are emotional, like limiting the time you spend pouring into other’s lives or helping them process their own thoughts and struggles.
Everyone needs boundaries in some form or another. However, they are particularly essential tools for introverts. Why? Because boundaries provide a way to preserve your energy and protect your inner dialogue. They can help you avoid slipping into harmful patterns of thinking. They can also give you opportunities to recuperate from social interactions and professional responsibilities.
Establishing Boundaries in the Workplace
Boundaries can have a place in all areas of your life. However, they are particularly essential elements for the workplace where you must navigate deadlines, collaborations, communications, requests from peers, and expectations from bosses. These all jumble together into an oft-overwhelming sea of thoughts, experiences, and emotions.
When these pressures and stressors become too much, introverts need to have clear boundaries to fall back on. Here are three steps that go into setting boundaries in the professional world.
Start with Some Introspection
The first step in establishing boundaries has to be understanding who you are in the first place. Everyone’s needs are distinctly different — even amongst introverts. If you want to create boundaries that actually help you, you need to make sure that they align with your values and who you are as a person. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get an idea for your introverted needs at work:
- What settings particularly make you feel overwhelmed and withdrawn?
- Do you struggle with any larger mental health concerns, such as anxiety or depression?
- Is your workspace wearing down your physical body due to its toxic environment?
- What work-related functions do you find exhaust you the most?
- What recuperating activities can you bring with you to the office (if you don’t already work remotely, that is)?
By asking questions like these, you can begin to better understand your situation. This can help you separate raw emotions from practical, logical thinking. The latter is a much better mindset to be in when you go to create rational, effective boundaries.
Flesh Out Potential Boundaries
As you learn more about your particular needs within your work situation, you can begin to use this understanding to discover where boundaries need to be set. A few suggestions for common workplace boundaries include:
- Refusing to work overtime: If you find that your job often has the potential for working late or on weekends, you may need to limit your availability to do so. This will give you the time you need to rest outside of work.
- Saying no to taking on work from others: As an introvert, you may struggle with turning people down. If that’s the case, you may need to create a boundary when it comes to willingly taking on every task that is requested of you.
- Setting work hours: This is particularly important for remote workers — though it applies in the traditional workplace as well. When you find that work notifications and emails are chasing you around the clock, you may need to set specific hours of the day when you don’t check work apps or devices.
These are just a few examples. Each situation is unique — as are you. The boundaries will naturally vary as well.
Once you have boundaries outlined, it’s up to you to communicate those designations to others in your life. In Alexandra Baker’s article How to Ask for What You Want and Need (No It’s Not Selfish), the author points out that one of the key elements to establishing boundaries is communicating our position to those around us.
This is the action that truly establishes the boundary, and it is a key part of helping others understand what you need.
As any introvert will tell you, though, this isn’t any easy activity to partake in. Communicating personal needs and interests is a scary proposition.
This is especially true if you’re an introvert who also lives with anxiety. When that is the case, communicating your needs to others requires courage, authenticity, and trust. If you live with a mental health issue and you’re in any kind of relationship, personal or otherwise, you need others to understand your needs and reciprocate your communicative efforts.
Fortunately, communicating boundaries can be a process. As you develop and understand the various boundaries that you need, you can take the time to communicate them directly to those who need to hear them one person at a time.
While you can space things out, though, try not to beat around the bush. Don’t ask permission or use awkward phrasing. Instead, be straightforward (and polite, of course).
Establishing Boundaries in the Workplace
The word boundaries often has a negative connotation, especially in our fiercely independent modern society. However, when it comes to workplace boundaries, in particular, it’s important to see them as a positive tool. They can help you overcome exhaustion, burnout, and anxiety. They also provide a temporary escape when you’re overwhelmed.
So consider your current work situation. Do you need new boundaries? Start with sizing up your own needs, develop some boundaries, and then brainstorm how to communicate them to your coworkers. The results should speak for themselves.
This is a guest post from Luke Smith. Luke is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but relationship topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.