Developing sound boundaries and expectations is a basic part of building relationships, whether personal or professional. The process doesn’t work well unless there’s open communication.
Confusion and frustration easily result when one party is operating by one set of rules and their peer is using another. Even ways of dissolving relationships like ghosting (disappearing without prior explanation) are a sign that parties aren’t working with the same set of boundaries or expectations of each other.
Perhaps there’s something else in play as well: our beliefs about fairness.
[Retributive] systems instill and reinforce the notion that when harm is done what’s most important is to find who’s at fault and punish them… Restorative justice rests on the notion that when harm is done what’s most important is to repair the harm as far as possible and to restore the community from the loss of trust that ensues when harm is inflicted.” –Miki Kashtan
Restoration can’t emerge in relationships that involve not only broken trust but also unilateral boundaries.
We get to talk through our thoughts, limits, and expectations with each other. This open communication doesn’t guarantee that all parties will understand or agree. But the act of sharing over time can yield a listening-learning relational space for people who might otherwise be tempted to enforce each other’s rule compliance or judge one another’s failures.
To thrive in relationships, we’ll often need the courage to simply acknowledge what we want rather than fail to share our positive values or or the boundaries we’re willing to live with. Anything less isn’t really fair, not to others, and not to us.