Have you ever been seconds away from drifting into a sweet sleep only to be startled awake by a series of dings from a client texting or calling to book an appointment or order product?
Or how about receiving a message on your personal social media feeds with a comment of passive aggressive nature related to a photo or experience you shared or a message urgently asking why they haven’t received a response to their email/message/text (despite it being hours past your times of business operation)?
Whether it’s these online scenarios or having an uncomfortable experience inside your spa (i.e., the client who keeps talking far past closing time or the one who tries to convert you to their religion), the root cause is the same: a lack of boundaries.
As someone who has extensive experience working in various facets of the service industry (more on that in a bit), and has worked through “people-pleasing” tendencies, I’m here to be your boundaries BFF, because let’s face it, there will always be someone to test them, and you’re the only one who can enforce them.
So let’s get into it…
“Yes” and “No” Are Inextricably Intertwined
There’s something to be said about taking a leap of faith or following your gut and saying “yes” to certain opportunities and decisions without seeing the whole picture, but constantly being a “yes” woman isn’t doing your personal or mental well-being any favors.
Because by always saying “yes,” you’re likely wasting your most precious resource, which is time, on things that are better suited for someone else either because it’s not something you’re very passionate about or it’s not what you’re best at doing.
And every time you say “yes” to one of those decisions, you’re saying “no” to something else, and that something else could be the thing that would help you make tremendous progress in propelling you and your business forward.
The inverse is also true. Every time you say “no” to something that does not serve the best interest of your time or your business’ resources, you’re saying “yes” in the form of creating more space and time for the things that will help you grow.
So, how do you start saying “no” and stop wasting time while still cultivating a favorable response from those who are asking things of you?
You create standard protocols.
In my experience from working at high-end steak houses and five-star resort hotels, to day spas and alternative medicine clinics, to my very own solo skin care practice, to manufacturing and distribution, every single one of those businesses has standard protocols for how they handle business.
From the way services and products were created, to how they were sold, and how to handle the client or customer through their entire journey from pre-purchase to post-purchase.
Through those protocols, it was ingrained in my being to go above and beyond to make each customer feel special, cared for and valued.
These are all things that someone should feel when spending their hard-earned cash with you, right? Absolutely!
But should it be at the expense of your sleep, privacy, or inner peace? Absolutely not.
The way you can clearly define on whether a decision crosses that boundary of going above and beyond for a client versus putting your personal or business’ wellbeing at risk is by establishing and referencing your protocols and policies. (To see an example of these in action, you can view our policies for Herbal Skin Solutions here.)
When we do nice things for other people, they should come from the kindness of our hearts, not from guilt or a feeling of obligation.
Our protocols instead give us a guideline of what our clients and customers can expect and set the stage for an energetic exchange that doesn’t lead to resentment on either side due to expectations not being met.
Cut The Fluff
Having “the customer is always right” mentality drilled into my head at such an early age made it difficult to adopt this piece of advice but when I did, my life changed for the better.
It’s called the K.I.S.S. Method, short for: Keep it simple, sweetie.
Instead of having a long, drawn-out, and over-explained apology of why you can’t do something, cut out the fluff and keep your response short and to the point.
Not only does this protect your mental energy from unnecessary feelings of guilt and disappointment (something you shouldn’t feel when protecting boundaries you’ve intentionally put in place), but it shows respect to the person you’re responding to by showing respect for their time.
Will everyone be pleased with a short response? Perhaps they won’t, but with tact and politeness, you have a far greater chance of nipping the issue in the bud quickly, which also saves your crucial time.
The truth is, the customer is not always right, which is why you, as the professional, and educator are in the position to not simply correct, but teach your client about not just the skin, but how your business operates according to specific policies.
So don’t be afraid to be short in length because you don’t owe anyone an excuse or personal explanation.
As long as you’re not short in tone, you can’t be made to feel bad about following the set of expectations both you and your client or customer agreed to.
Focus On the Right Feelings
Speaking of feeling badly, the key to healthy boundary-setting and enforcing is to stop worrying about hurting someone’s feelings by giving an answer they may not want to hear and LOVE YOURSELF.
If you are reading this, I assume that you are a humble servant, as am I.
I would give my right arm to see a student or client of mine succeed, but later down the road, I might need my right arm to keep myself from drowning.
It all goes back to the biggest lesson we hear when flying in a plane, which is always to put your own oxygen mask on first.
Even if it’s something as seemingly stupid as going to your client’s sister’s Bingo night (the one you dread going to and complain about every time) when you know damn well and good that you have more important things to take care (even if it’s as simple as getting laundry done so you have clean work pants for the next day), then it’s time to grow a pair of lady balls and step into your #Bossbabe power.
I know that might feel like tough love, and you’re worried about hurting people’s feelings, but again, cut the fluff and don’t feel the need to make excuses.
Simply saying, “Thank you so much for the invitation, but I won’t be able to make it. Hope you guys have a blast at Bingo!” does what you need it to do in a way that isn’t hurtful to anyone.
The way people get hurt feelings is when you commit to something you know you should’ve said “no” to and then being miserable and then risking the host being able to see or hear that you’re miserable and feeling embarrassed or hurt.
Time to Take Action
Now that we’ve covered why having boundaries is so critical, it’s time to actually practice what I’m preaching and show you how it is we do this in business and how you can get started.
Costs rise to compensate team members for their time answering the same repeated questions that could be found in the FAQ, which is why responses to these repeated questions is often met with a kind, but concise redirect to these links.
Not only does this guard our time, but also our resources, which are better spent ensuring we are creating the best products, educational experiences, and community for our clients and customers, which also serves their business’ better as well.
To help you create these boundaries for yourself, I’d encourage you to list the biggest energy suckers that if you could eliminate, would free up your time and lift a weight off your chest.
Then consider ways you can cut the fluff and create, not a cold response, but a concise one that is direct, but doesn’t attach an excuse.
Once you’ve journaled out these ideas and responses, start by creating a list of your policies and rules that will help you to create black and white boundaries that are to be followed by your clients and enforced by you and your team.
Next, you’ll want to create a list of FAQs you already receive as well as questions you may anticipate based on new policies you’ve outlined.
In this document, you can elaborate on common scenarios and explain the reason behind your response to provide alternative solutions that help you to cultivate the “yes” response experience.
For example, here’s how these documents can benefit you with this scenario you may have encountered before: Your client reaches out to you an hour before her facial letting you know her babysitter canceled, and she will be bringing her five-year-old to her appointment with her.
Your policy clearly states your cancelation policy terms (must give 24 hours advance notice or be charged “X” fee to cancel an appointment). It also clearly states your rule for no unsupervised children under ten years old with the reason being liability, and possible disruption to other clients that are trying to relax in silence.
Instead of telling your client a cold “no,” you can tell her that won’t work according to your policies while also providing alternative solutions because like the resourceful boss babe you are, you have already listed the closest YMCA, daycare programs, and care.com types of app near your spa outlined on your FAQ page.
All you need to do is copy and paste that link or forward the document on.
Easy. Clear-cut. Boundaries politely enforced.
All this to say, if you are a “people-pleaser” or afraid to say no at the risk of hurting feelings or missing out on something, consider this your “permission slip” to GET REAL with yourself, your clients, family, friends, and anything, really, because the only thing you’re missing out on by not having or sticking to boundaries is your own mental, physical and spiritual health.
And when you put those things at risk, you put everything at risk.
Also, based on my experience, I think you’ll find that boundaries have a funny way of rubbing off on people and giving them a mirror to reflect and examine their own boundaries.
You may never confirm it, but by being fiercely clear on your boundaries, you may just help someone not only to respect yours, but enforce their own and create a ripple effect that can extend far beyond the limits of our worldly comprehension.
We’re all real people, trying to do our best and live and work as elegantly as possible.
Boundaries help us do that to the best of our abilities.