When you feel slighted or “wronged,” what is your response? Do you ever stop talking, stop sharing information, not include someone, or issue some other type of “penalty?”
Issuing your self-determined penalties basically involves sentencing people. This may not always be fair to your relationship. It may also be out of alignment with your own personal values.
In both personal and professional conflicts, the way to address issues may involve “people sentencing people.” Business partners may barely say, “hello” to each other. Colleagues stop sharing information. Family members stop being included or no longer speak at all. Folks give each other the cold shoulder.
The sentencing comes from perceived rule violations. Unlike traffic codes and statutes, most of the rulebooks we have for each other stay in our own minds. We decide moment to moment what “sentence” to issue, without any warning or notification.
In criminal court, you might see someone convicted of crime sentenced to a certain number of months and years. Codes and statutes set forth the level of penalty. In these private conflicts sometimes no one involved has any idea how long someone will be in “Jail”.
Unlike a criminal violation, it is unclear how long the sentence will last. Penalties may be issued without any, or much, forewarning. The sentencer may not even know why they issued the penalty or cut the person out of their life.
Where do you find yourself on the sentencing spectrum~ lenient, harsh, or somewhere in the middle? Would the folks around you agree?
This often occurs when boundaries remain unclear, unenforced, or both. This week I invite you to consider what personal penalties (or sentences) you give and receive. To bring clarity to your relationships, consider these five questions:
~ How do I let folks know what I find acceptable or unacceptable?
~ What notice do I give to someone who is getting close to infringing on or crossing a boundary?
~ When do I share my consequences for unacceptable or boundary-breaking behavior?
~ What do I say or do when someone’s behavior impacts me?
~ To what extent are my unwritten rules really fair?
If you need help clarifying your boundaries and other communication skills, register for on-line training or class, or sign up for individual coaching/consulting.
Creating boundaries and consequences creates clarity in relationships. However, when the folks around you do not know how you might respond or for how long, it often leads to disappointment, frustration, and long-term pain for everyone involved.
Where in your life are you sentencing people? At what level do these reflect your core values?