My mother inundates me with emails. I can’t explain why, but it irritates me beyond belief. It isn’t just the forwards that get to me. Some of them are genuinely funny or cute, but it’s the frequency of them. I feel like I’m blowing this out of proportion, but it’s really getting to me. I can’t respond to them all and it gets in the way of my work. Even if I don’t read the email, just seeing it pop up sends me into a frenzy. I hold onto it and it distracts me. Then I get angry about being angry over an email. What’s this about?
This may seem hard to believe, but even innocent forwards of puppies playing can be a boundary violation. Most of us don’t realize this because we live in an overly-connected world. We need to get creative and learn how to set boundaries for things that never existed before. But first, let’s take a look at the issue of boundaries. There are two kinds of boundary violations:
- Intrusion violations which are a breach in an individual’s or entity’s boundaries.
- Gap violations which occur when one fails to act or respond when a situation is called for.
For our purposes, we’re going to talk about intrusion violations. Many of us are aware when our physical or emotional boundaries are crossed, but we don’t stop to look at the third intrusion violation, called a veiled violation. When we ascertain something exists by its effect, rather than by observing the thing itself, it is veiled. It’s a lot like how scientists know that unseen stars exist. Sure they can’t see them, but because of its gravitational pull, we know it is there. So despite the fact that your mother has great intentions with those inspirational quotes and cat videos, it’s creating a veiled boundary violation.
One option is to have a conversation with your mother and say, “Mom, you have great forwards, but I don’t have time for them. Each week, pick your favorite and send me that one on Sunday.” In an effort to make your question apply to more of your life and other readers, I’m going to expand on your question and address the issue of email boundaries as a whole.
We are inundated with email each day. It’s a veiled intrusion caused not by one person, but by the combined action of many people sending out email to sell us a million things we don’t need.
How to Set Email Boundaries:
1. Use an email program that identifies junk and either deletes it or separates it.
2. Choose a server that allows you to block specific senders.
3. Check to see if your email program allows you to set rules. This is the ability to automatically categorize things by keyword, whether that be emails from specific senders or emails selling you Viagra.
4. Notice whether most of your forwards are from particular people. Decide how many emails and what kind (AKA puppies, not kitties) you want from each person. Call or email those friends and set a boundary like the following:
- Choose your favorite and send one per week
- Only send me puppy videos. I’d prefer not to receive the others.
- Please don’t send me any forwards at all. I don’t have time for them and I’d rather save time for YOU.
5. Decide whether the sound of emails pinging in distracts you. If so, only open your email program when you’re ready to give it your full attention.
6. Notice what happens to your energy and focus after you check your email. If your energy decreases, you get scattered, or feel heated (indicating a boundary violation) wait to check your email until the end of your productive day.
7. Set the times you want to check your email and alert senders that you will only be checking it at that time. Let them know that if it is an urgent matter, they should call directly.
8. Check in with yourself as often as you do your email, text messages, and social media accounts. Your higher self knows when your boundary is breached.
Set yourself up for success. You can’t expect someone to respect a boundary you don’t set. In our overly-connected world we need to get creative to preserve our sanity and sense of self. Clue in to your higher self and you’ll be guided to have the conversations (and emails) you need.