In today’s society, norms are changing. Personal boundaries are constantly shifting. And most people think that “their” boundaries are right and everyone else should respect those boundaries. It seems fairly common sense.
I always find this topic interesting. I heard a show on NPR discussing a topic 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 effect). The reality is that people have different ideas of what’s appropriate behavior and what’s not.
I’m going to talk about business networking here, simply as an example since I have some experience and it might be considered less controversial. Also because it’s business and these days there is quite a bit of discussion around behavior in business settings.
I know a lady who does a lot of networking, who got upset that someone expected a hug from her. Ok… I know she’s a hugger. She’s hugged me and never asked for permission. I never expect a hug from anyone, but many people simply expect them from me. I don’t mind and tend to go with the flow. But, with that dichotomy, how do you set boundaries? How do you even know what a person’s boundaries are?
During a recent discussion on networking etiquette, it was discussed that some felt that during your first 1-on-1/coffee meeting you should spend most of the time discussing personal interests. Getting to know each other and save business for the next meeting. Other networkers I know are more to the point but still tend to teach that you should get to know each other personally for 5-10 minutes at the start of a meeting.
I’ve spent over a decade in academia and science until I left 5 years ago. Most of my interactions were 100% business. I never knew much personal information about people. As I got started networking, I was told, often by people who say it’s OK to establish boundaries, that I need to change my boundaries.
So, which is it? I have yet to have anyone ask my opinion on how we should handle personal discussions. “Would you like to spend some time getting to know each other personally or should we get to business?” I don’t ask either and simply go with what I think the other person is doing. I try to match them.
“Of course, there are some things we can all agree are past the line.” Not really. If this were true, people would not cross “that line,” would they? Kind of a definition, right?
I get people all the time who want to get too personal too quickly for my preference. But I know that line of “too personal” is my own 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, and staying inside the lines is a challenge. There are as many lines as there are people on the planet. In fact, most people have a variety of lines depending on many factors. So, it is actually 7.5 billion * [some number].
My simple point is, try not to take things too personally if someone crosses your line. Sure, there are some generally accepted lines. Remember, though, that those change “daily” and are different in different circumstances, different cultures, different parts of the country, etc.
I guess the one line we should try to agree upon as unalterable is a simple, firm, but polite, “I’m not comfortable [saying/discussing/doing/etc] that. Thanks anyway.” And having that line be respected
I’d love to know your thoughts on this topic.