Networks, Relationships, & Boundaries

Assuming the best about people is inherently a selfish act because the life you change first is your own.  Brene Brown.

In high school I dog sat for UNC’s Women’s Golf Coach.  She connected me to free basketball tickets which was awesome.  But she knew that I wasn’t taking care of Goldie for the tickets. She thought better of me than that.

I guess you could say that Dot was part of a network I cultivated to bring tangible benefits into my life.  It’s good practice for adult success, right?

But actually, Dot was my friend.  I loved her.  And I loved Goldie.

Networking relationships are not the same as personal relationships. Networking is transactional.  I connect with you so that you can help me climb the ladder.  I socialize with you because you can get me into that group/club/circle of influence.

Personal relationships can be transactional too, but the benefits are intangible. They nourish our souls and build our character.

The best professional relationships – I believe – can be personal relationships if we have good boundaries.  Let me say that again:

We can have authentic personal relationships with people in our professional lives if we have good boundaries.

I’m moved by this short Brene Brown talk about boundaries, compassion, and empathy.  We can work professionally with personal friends if our boundaries are strong.  I tend to say, in the course of establishing boundaries, something like, “I’m putting my supervisor hat on now.”  It clarifies that – although we are friendly (or even close friends) we need to make changes, for example, for the sake of professional growth and health.

Some people believe it’s dangerous/impossible to have personal relationships with our co-workers, subordinates, or bosses.  But I believe we can have deep and lifelong friendships with colleagues.  Call me crazy, but good boundaries = good relationships, including personal ones.

Image is called Happy 2000 by James Fowler, author of Connected: How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do

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