Respecting Boundaries – Let’s Not Get So Familiar So Fast

The Internet is a wondrous place, especially for those of us who grew up long before it was even thought of, let alone something that rules so much of our lives.

We can “talk” for free to someone on the other side of the world. Of course, we can also ignore someone right in front of us who is glued to his/her device.

We can learn about others and their lives, their cultures, their likes and dislikes with an ease I couldn’t have imagined 50+ (60+?) years ago.

We can also be attacked by trolls who don’t like what we write, we can become friends with those do like what we write, and we can be approached by a few who don’t get that there are still some boundaries we should observe.

My profile picture on several platforms shows me smiling broadly, largely because I do smile a lot (I honestly am one happy woman), and because it’s one of those rare pictures of me I’m willing to share. (Not everyone’s face works for the camera. Mine is a classic example of one that looks perfectly fine in person, but rarely so in a picture.)


I’m not smiling to invite you to ignore normal societal boundaries.

I’m not smiling so you’ll immediately jump up and tell me I’m beautiful and that you want to know me better.

I’m not smiling so you’ll tell me you can’t wait to get to know a lot more about me like where I’m from, where I grew up, whether I’m single or married, and other personal info you have no right to ask about.

Please, guys. Show some respect. Actually, show a lot of respect and grown-upness. Even if we were on a dating site, questions that personal so quickly would be a no-no.

But here on professional platforms, it’s even worse. Yes, sometimes we write about personal topics, but they’re not an invitation to suddenly act as though we’re besties … and with that quick invasion of our personal space, it’s unlikely that we ever will be besties.

Instant intimacy just doesn’t work.

All in all, I enjoy getting to know many of my connections better, but respecting boundaries just makes sense to me.

Does any of this sound familiar? I know it happens to women a lot, but I’m wondering if any male readers have experienced something similar.

I welcome your thoughts as always!


Susan Rooks
Susan Rooks
With nearly 30 years’ experience as an international workshop leader, Susan Rooks is uniquely positioned to help people master the communication skills they need to succeed. In 1995, Susan formed Grammar Goddess Communication, creating and leading workshops in three main areas – American grammar, business writing, and interpersonal skills – to help business pros enhance their communication skills. She also leads one-hour LinkedIn workshops (Master the LinkedIn Profile Basics) via Zoom to help business pros anywhere maximize their LinkedIn experience, offering it to Chambers of Commerce and other civic organizations free of charge. As an editor, Susan has worked on business blogs, award-winning children’s books, best-selling business books, website content, and even corporate annual reports (with clients from half a dozen countries), ensuring that all material is professionally presented.

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  1. Interesting article Susan, thank you. Like most situations, “It depends”. There are so many variables.

    I believe that we all have a six sense, one there to keep us safe. If we listen, this sense will tell us what we need to know.

    In much the same way, whether we meet a new person face to face or ‘meet’ them online, whether it is solicited or unsolicited, we know, we get a sense of, about this person.

    I can be very open in my responses to new people, yet I need to remain aware. So I may accept an unsolicited LinkedIn invitation, even if it has no message, equally, I may say no to one who writes a message. I often write before accepting to see what they may say. So many never answer.

    Equally, I can be fooled.

    For me, relationships are like a dance, you can’t dance too fast or too quickly unless you both know or the connection is just right.

    In the majority of cases, the way to build relationships is through trust. Trust takes time to build and can be lost in a moment. One factor in building trust is our intention. This intention has to be consistent otherwise it will be felt by the other person. We have all had the experience of saying, “there is something not right about this person, although I can’t quite put my finger on it.

    A big part of building relationships is by listening to the other person. Asking questions, being curious and interested in them. As in dancing, you are asking about their ‘step’. If they are a good dancer, they will ask you about your ‘step’ or will wait for you to join in by making your ‘step’. If the ‘steps’ match then more ‘steps’ will be taken together.

    Step by step, progress is made, until the place we are in starts to feel safe for both of us. At this point, we will relax more, although still remaining mindful of their intention. Once we relax, our thinking improves we are more at ease and things flow much better, with more ease.

    Business is much like dancing. Some you click with straightaway, some take a while, whilst others fall at the first meeting.


    • And I agree, Colin, that much in life depends on so much around us. Where we are. Who we’re with. Who we are — at that moment.

      Your response is a remarkable one, one I could imagine you turning into an article on its own. Thank you so much!

    • Thank you, for your thoughts, whoever you are 🙂 I much appreciate your idea for a blog post. Colin

  2. I am often brutally honest yet I am polite, I love people yet I am an introvert. The friends that I have I have known most of my life and have an would do anything to help them. I would rather listen than speak. If you ask me about myself I would give you an honest answer and would really rather hear about what a person has to say than to talk about me. i am happy as life has truly been good to me and most often if I help someone they will never know its me. What do I need in life , good bourbon, true friend, a Dirt Road to walk down , the person I love and my dog.

  3. I always find this topic interesting. I heard a radio show (maybe NPR) talking about something like this. What I found interesting was when the hosts simply said, “It’s obvious what’s OK and what’s not” or something to that affect. People have different ideas of what’s OK and what’s not.

    I know a lady, does a lot of networking, who posted on FB saying don’t expect a hug from her. Ok…but I know she’s a hugger. She’s hugged me and never asked for permission. I don’t care. So, how do you set the boundary?

    This same lady teaches that your first 1-on-1/coffee meeting (she was also up set someone called it a coffee date, even though people make that joke constantly in networking circles) should be all personal, getting to know each other. Save business for the next meeting. Other are more to the point but still tend to teach get to know each other personally for 5-10 minutes. This would seem to go against what you’re saying. You might say there has been a connection established if you’re meeting in person or a 1-2-1 phone call, but many others I know don’t think you should mix business and personal. They find this uncomfortable. But we’re now taught that it’s important to establish a personal bond…

    “Of course there are some things we can all agree are past the line.” Unfortunately not or people wouldn’t do it. Kinda definition, right?

    I heard recently, “Don’t complement a woman on her looks.” Of course, only directed at men, and women aren’t told the opposite.

    I get people all the time who want to get too personal too quickly. But I know that the line of “too personal” is my own line and there is not a single line that everyone agrees on.

    I’m not trying to make a conclusion here. Simply point out that with so many humans, knowing the lines, staying inside the lines is a challenge.

    Not intended to argue, but give a more holistic view.

    On the other hand, some of the messages people receive? The sender should be shot, so there is that, lol!

    • And since I got your note directly in my email, Michael, you got the long version back. For me, less is more, especially with folks I don’t know. I think erring on the side of caution pays off; we can always find ways to become more personal if the situation warrants it. It’s just jumping in head-first with strangers that often falls so flat!

  4. That’s a massive topic and one I’ve had challenges with my entire life. My mother used to say “Johnny knows no stranger” in that I seem to adapt quickly to situations and have no problem speaking about my beliefs and/or convictions with most people regardless the topic. I also find political correctness to be a stranglehold on our ability to be true to ourselves and a place that causes psychological masks where we hide in order to falsely adapt which in the long run benefits no one because it cloaks honesty behind a desire to belong. Then again I am one of those who 10 years ago meet the love of my life on eharmony who I have now been married to for five years because we both were in the beginning honest about who we were, what our beliefs were and what our goals were in life.
    All this said I hope that maybe I have been able to shed a different perspective on how an open book can also be a positive if managed appropriately.

    • Johnny, one of my favorite men also knows NO strangers, and he has taught me a lot. But he comes across as friendly and nice, largely because he does it in public and doesn’t “cross lines.”

      The ones I’m referring to — that ask to connect on LI or other platforms — then immediately jump into something very personal without any reason to, without having mentioned something I wrote or something that’s on my platform profile, or something work- or business-related that we could use to talk about and get to know each other a little are the ones who seem a little off.

      You actually summed up my intent with your last few words, “…can also be a positive if managed appropriately.” It’s the appropriately part that is too often missing.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

    • Appropriate is the operative word. Social media is good for many things and when used appropriately it’s a powerful connector.

    • Agree 100%. Respect is key and this platform should produce intellectual conversations outside of a “social media” construct. Problem is that some have never been able to have a conversation at that level and hide behind their insecurities utilizing this as their mask. I guess I’ve been lucky as I have never encountered such an attack and if I did I probably wouldn’t know how to respond because I am such an open person that I would assume that they had made a mistake. Then again I just may have been to naive to realize I was being approached in such a way. In either case, I agree that its inappropriate and I would have no problem responding in a polite yet firm manner.

  5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I immediately block those types of connection requests. They are just plain creepy. I am most concerned about our young women and men, especially teens who may not have the maturity to recognize the reality and what’s behind those disgusting compliments.

    • And I hadn’t even thought of our younger folks, Jane, but you’re so right! It can seem flattering to many — Ooh! Look! He says he likes my beautiful smile! — but … I don’t usually see it that way. I’m usually way older than the guys; heck, I’m way older than 95% of those on social media, it seems! So for me, it’s even weirder.

      Thanks for weighing in!