Boundaries and Needs

Boundaries and NeedsLearning to develop and hold healthy boundaries is at the heart of all of our relationships. Understanding our own needs is also critical to navigating our relationships, where we understand our own needs in balance with the needs of others. Relationships are about giving and receiving, about enriching our life experiences together. Boundaries help us define “me” versus “the other”. They are not walls and it is not merging with the other.

Boundaries and Needs in Our Support Roles

These things are true when we are working to support another, either through a formal role such as leader, coach, healer, etc, or in the normal course of being in relationship. When it comes to working with others as “helpers” this dynamic of balancing boundaries and needs is even more crucial. We are primarily focused on the experience of the other. In the context of a professional relationship with our clients and in work relationships, we have ethical, moral and professional reasons to hold strong boundaries around relationships.

Some advocate that helpers should “put away” their needs and maintain focus on the client at all times. Is this really realistic? In the moment, it can be but make sure you give yourself time and space to reflect on what was happening in that moment. This reflection (and / or with the support of a coach or other) can help you identify what inner dynamics were at play for you, and help you strengthen trust in the relationship.

Working with Support

Recently, I was conducting a supervision session with a coach and the coach was asking for help with boundaries. As we progressed in the conversation, we talked about a specific instance where her client asked to hold a stronger boundary and the coach was struggling with this request. The coach wanted and felt that she needed more contact to be in fuller service to her client.

Earlier in the conversation, she shared a childhood experience. There was an intuition to go back to that experience and explore that further and it turned out to be a fruitful exploration.

The insight that was eye opening for the coach was this:

When she was struggling with holding boundaries, there was an unacknowledged need that was lurking.

This may feel like a blinding flash of the obvious, but for someone who has this in his/her blind spot, this was shocking and embarrassing. She had competing commitments: her dedication to her client and her need for deeper contact with her client of which she was unaware. She started to talk about other examples with other clients, and this opened a door into her own behavior and awareness.

Boundary Challenges as Vital Clues

When I work with a client and there seem to be boundary issues, this is great territory to explore more with the person. In this case, asking a simple question: “Is there a need that you have in this situation?” was a great opening.

In all relationships, there is a symbiotic relationship between boundaries and needs. If you are routinely violating the boundaries of another, it may be a good opportunity to examine if you have unconscious, unmet needs at play. As a professional / helper, it is a good area to keep exploring with your own self or with support from a coach.

Asking a simple question “What do I need right now?” can help put you on the path to happier, more fruitful relationships.

Here is a chart that summarizes different boundary / need situations:

BoundaryStrong boundaryClearly defined boundary to support the client’s needs and build trustHealthy relationship boundary; understanding and respect for needs of self and otherWeak boundary
Degree of SeparationMay feel like a “wall”, very separate and alone / lonelyFocus is on the other and his/her experience; the helper is fully present and uses information to support the situation but does not disappearAbility to differentiate “me” versus “you”; exchange that feels supportive and fairFeels like there is little difference between the two
Needs Statements“I can take care of myself”; “You can take care of yourself”;“I am here to support you”; “My needs do not disappear but I can manage them with choice and awareness“I offer the opportunity for you to help me with my needs, as I can help you”“My needs and your needs are so alike / we have so much in common”; and/or “My needs are not important”

If you are a leader, coach or other professional support person and would like to work with a coach and receive additional support, I can help. Please click here and we can set up a time to discuss your particular situation.

Mindfulness and Travel

As a long time road warrior myself, I enjoyed the time alone and yet the stress of 20+ years of constant heavy travel eventually led me to complete burnout and a one year sabbatical to recover.I had some routines that helped me survive for that long.

In this post, my friend Scott Eblin offers some excellent advice to help you maintain balance and reduce stress.

Mindful Mondays: Travel Tips for the Mindful Road Warrior

by Scott Eblin

September 15, 2014

My work requires a lot of travel to meet with and present to clients. As the recent news stories about high altitude disputes over reclining seats on airplanes suggest, business travel can be stressful. That stress can eat you alive if you let it. Over the years, I’ve adopted some routines that have helped me stay healthy and sane when I travel for business. I thought I’d start to share some of them with you today. Let’s call them travel tips for the mindful road warrior.

As I discuss in my forthcoming book, Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative, I think being intentional about your routines in four big domains – physical, mental, relational and spiritual – can help you show up at your best most often than not.

Read more


“System Blindness” and New Innovations

farmingFor many years, I have facilitated large group consulting projects with 40-60 executive leaders and change agents in ongoing meetings. The goal was to redesign the customer experience and implement the customer vision and strategies with the cooperation of all key players. These were usually organizations with 30K+ employees. I thoroughly enjoyed the work.

Daniel Goleman describes a situation in his article “System Blindness: The Illusion of Understanding” concerning publishers and how they were “stuck” in their old model of operating until all the key stakeholders were brought together to solve this problem.

There are several key elements that are required in my experience to make this successful:

  • All the key stakeholders need to be present and willing to explore the exact nature and definition of the problem. This definition is through their own view of the system, and each needs to be able to broaden their view to look at the problem from a systems perspective.
  • Politics will come into play without a doubt. Increasing awareness and working with the political agenda directly is key to success. The various points of view need to be acknowledged and validated before people can move on to looking at the bigger picture.
  • Evaluate the current business model – where revenues and profits reside, and where there is waste and entropy in the system. And, understand how performance is evaluated for the organization, department and the person. Some of the “off line” work is to help the stakeholders renegotiate and re-evaluate how performance is measured, as in the example in the article where the publishers had to recalibrate ad rates for their customers.
  • Bring in new technology and develop a solid business case for implementation. As noted in the article, many organizations are still operating with decades old technology because the cost and understanding of the value of levering new technology is not clearly understood or explored. Many organizations are increasing productivity and cutting costs – and they are your competitors.
  • Cultivate a willingness to be open to new ideas and inquiry. Some people are naturally inquisitive and challenge the status quo and associated assumptions. New employees are particularly good at viewing a situation with fresh eyes, but don’t forget the long term employees. Many have dealt with systemic problems so long they have resigned to feelings of powerlessness. Re-energize them with your leadership, vision and most importantly, follow through.

As I worked with these groups, the path to go forward was not always clear. The willingness of the stakeholders to stay engaged during a chaotic stage – when old assumptions are being questioned, where certainty does not seem all that certain anymore, and people seem at odds with the way forward – this is the time when it is ripe for breakthroughs and innovation. It is out of this “messy” stage that new solutions have the space to arise and solidify.

Keep in mind: the first thing that the farmer does in the spring is till the soil, so that new seed can penetrate and grow. It is during this “turning over” process that new ideas can surface and stakeholders can start to visualize their responsibilities in a new way.

– Marijo Puleo, PhD. Make Change Positive

Equines and Leadership

george-washington-on-horse-age-47Horses are natural teachers for us, and especially about our leadership qualities. It is instinctual that they coordinate with each other and can teach us about our own relationships and how we tap into our own personal power.

Kate Ebner, the host of Visionary Leader, Extraordinary Life recently interviewed three people who use horses to teach teams and leaders in an episode called Horses as Leadership Teachers

  • Ariana Strozzi of Skyhorse Ranch and author of Horse Sense for the Leader Within
  • Linda Kohanov, owner of Eponaquest Worldwide and author of The Power of the Herd: A Nonpredatory Approach to Social Intelligence, Leadership, and Innovation
  • Mel Szarek, a Georgetown leadership coach who has taken profound lessons from her work with horses

It is well worth the 60 minutes to hear their experiences on how horses can teach us about our leadership style. They also note that some of the world’s greatest leaders – Alexander the Great, Buddha, Winston Churchill, George Washington, Napoleon and more – were also great horsemen.

For example, they understood the skills needed to move a horse: commitment + crescendo + immediate positive feedback = increasing motivation. This formula works as well with groups as with horses.

Horses offer many lessons and can teach us how to stay very present in the moment, understand our non-verbal communication, mindfulness, expand our awareness, and how to embody our leadership in experiential ways. They mirror for us our inner world and intentions.







Psychotherapy Trends

coachingPsychotherapy practice has changed over time. In this APA article, statistics show that fewer and fewer people are working with therapists. This article suggests that more people are using pharmacological solutions and skipping visits with therapists.

While medication is an appropriate part of a treatment plan for many mental health disorders, psychotherapy has been documented as the preferred treatment for many common psychological disorders. A growing body of literature demonstrates the efficacy of several forms of psychotherapy for these disorders….Overall there has been a decrease in the use of psychotherapy only, a decrease in the use of psychotherapy in conjunction with medication and a big increase in the use of medication only.”

Years ago, I was on the path to become a clinical psychologist but was dismayed by (what I thought) was the over emphasis on disorders and disease classifications. These are important structures that help identify and facilitate disorders and treatments. However, I felt like there were a lot of relatively healthy people who needed support and their options were limited.

Times have changed, and for better and for worse, there are a lot more options available to people who desire help and support (including coaching in many forms). There are many shades of gray now – a continuum of support available.

As a coach and energy worker, I do work with clients who are on medication to assist them in their daily living, and I insist that they are working with a therapist to assess and monitor their condition. I also request that my client share with their therapist that they are working with me and discuss the nature of our working relationship. We discuss boundaries of what is therapy and what is coaching or energy work and how they compliment each other. Every client who has done this has reported a positive discussion with their therapist about the full spectrum of their care.

therapyYoga as a treatment for PTSD and chronic PTSD and have come up with very good results, actually. As good as any drug we have studied.”  — Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD. NICABM series on Trauma 2013

It is worrisome that there is a dramatic increase in those who are medicating only. It is my belief that part of the process of healing is for clients to be actively engaged in their own process, and be empowered in their decisions affecting their health and well being. I wonder – is taking a pill enough? Does it equip the person with self regulation knowledge and resources to successfully navigate and enjoy the day and positively impact the rest of his/her life?

The good news is that there are many options available. Psychotherapy is grounded in continual research and discovery of new methods, and the field of coaching is applying more rigorous standards to increase the professionalism of this field. There are even more books, workshops and other means to help people more meaningfully navigate their lives, across a wide range of needs. Medication can be a great help to assist and support through difficult transitions as part of an overall approach.



Yogis In the Corporate World

office photoFor many years, I walked the halls of many corporations. I always decorated my office with a definite sense of “me”, which sometimes appeared to defy the corporate rules. Many coworkers tried to help me see the error in my ways and keep me out of “trouble”. I brought in lamps, my own artwork and pillows. I had a music player and in one office, I even had a coffeemaker.

In coaching my clients, I hear them struggle with some of the same issues and give him/her self permission to bring their own sense of self and unique identity while they avoid appearing that they are “too far out”.

It is refreshing to see that some things have changed. It is more acceptable to embrace diversity and allow our unique self to come through. Here is an article “Eight Ways To Stay a Yogi Even With a Corporate Job” that has some nice small suggestions to bring “all” of you to work. Enjoy the article and enjoy being YOU!


Dustin Hoffman and Gender

Here is an interview with Dustin Hoffman and his journey to make the movie “Tootsie”. He really “got” that beauty is not skin deep but deep within us. Beautiful vulnerability as he shares this insight.

“I think I am an interesting woman and I know that if I met myself at a party I know that I would never talk to myself… there are too many interesting women I have not had the experience to know in this life because I have been brainwashed…”

What does this have to do with leadership? I am offering this as an interesting way for one person (who happens to be a man) who was able to – in an unusual way – walk a mile in the shoes of another (while he happened to be dressing as a woman).

Effective leaders find ways to walk in the shoes of others (customers, employees). It also requires being open to new experiences that might transform… and allow these insights to help them with their decision making.  Sometimes, a little creativity may be required. Enjoy!


Holding Healthy Boundaries

One of the themes that comes up often in my coaching and healing work is around holding boundaries:

  • What are they?
  • What are healthy boundaries?
  • How do I define and hold a healthy boundary?

Boundaries are not walls. Boundaries are ways that we define “me” versus “you” and help us navigate and deepen our relationships. Setting healthy boundaries begins by acknowledging our own needs and recognizing the needs of others.

A friend of mine, Jamie Sussel Turner wrote an excellent blog post called “Boundaries: A Conversation that Works Magic” that suggests how to define and hold a healthy boundary and I hope you enjoy it. Thanks Jamie!


Living the Vision – a Frenchtown Vision Retreat Update

About 18 months ago, 15 women enjoyed 3 days in Frenchtown, NJ to work on our vision, share stories and inspire each other. On June 10, four of us participated in a talk show to share our visions, our updates and lessons learned. It was inspiring and a treat to participate. I hope you enjoy it!

Living the Vision: True Stories from the Frenchtown Vision Retreat with Guest Host Chris Wahl

June 10, 2013
Hosted by Kate Ebner

Is it really possible to create a vision and then bring it to life? Find out! Join host Kate Ebner and guest host Chris Wahl, founder of the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program, for a special interview with four women who are living their visions. In January of 2011, Donna Friedman Meir, Helene Richman, Marijo Puleo and Sheila Harding were among a group of successful professional women who gathered for a women’s visioning retreat in Frenchtown, New Jersey to answer the question, “What’s next?”

At the retreat, they reflected on where they had been and what they truly wanted out of life. The retreat, guided by Kate and Chris, culminated in the creation of their own personal visions of their futures. Now, more than two years later, you can hear their visions and discover what they’ve learned as by “living into” vision. You will be astounded and reassured by the wisdom and pragmatism of our guests — and by the way that visioning has changed their lives.

Learning Styles

We all have our own learning style and ways that we take in information. Karyn Greenstreet of Passion for Business recently took a survey and her results are based upon 2718 of her fans. The results are surprising in some ways.the most surprising (or maybe not) – we still love to hold a book in our hands. However, online / e-content is rising….

If you would like to read the report or participate (there is still time) go to her site

Her results sample how we learn. Could some of this be extrapolated to how people in business want to receive information / updates, etc? Is email king, or does this suggest for important messages, paper is better?

Enjoy! – Mj