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5 boundaries to help you stay away from toxic people and businesses

Toxic people are everywhere and I’ve been dealing with them my whole life. And as soon as I started my freelance career, I discovered that there are toxic businesses too. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to set boundaries in relationships to protect my emotional and mental health.

And that’s what I did but only recently.

For such a long time I didn’t know what a boundary was or how to set one. I kept banging my head over and over again in the same situations, dealing with the same problems, leading to the same frustrations.

It was a toxic loop that I’m happy I got out of and today I’m sharing with you 5 of the boundaries I set recently, that are helping me keep away from my life the toxic people and businesses. These examples may also help you with defining boundaries.

  • Don't insist
  • Make it expensive
  • Define value
  • Be aware of hidden agendas
  • Leave if you’re not wanted
  • How to set boundaries for a relationship using standards
Don’t insist

1. Don’t insist

Around one year ago, I met someone and we became friends. She was a kind and friendly person and was always doing her best to say the right thing and not offend anyone. She was a great person.

But after a while, whenever we had conversations, she wasn’t paying attention to what I was saying and didn’t listen to whatever I was sharing with her. After that, for a short period of 1-2 months, we stopped speaking.

A few weeks later, we met randomly at some sort of party and she insisted on speaking with me. She told me she was sorry and she regrets the way she behaved in our conversations.

I accepted her apologies and then I started acting again like we were friends. Because besides that lack of listening that happened in the past, she was a great friend.

But now, things were different.

I invited her out for dinner and paid for everything. I was asking her out for short walks just so we could meet and have a chat. I was the one who was building the relationship and she wasn’t doing anything anymore.

In my mind, when she apologized, I thought she wanted to be friends. But it seemed it was only in my mind.

And that’s where I set new healthy boundaries: if we are friends and one of us does something unhealthy to the relationship, then it’s that person who negatively influenced the relationship who has to invest some extra effort to rebuild the relationship.

In this specific situation, it shouldn’t have been me – it should have been my friend.

Lesson learned and next time I’ll know what to do and what personal boundaries to set.

Make it expensive

2. Make it expensive

A few weeks ago, someone wrote me on WhatsApp, saying that he was interested in collaborating with me.

He sent me 1-page PDF brochure with information about the kind of people he was looking for and I said to myself that it’s not just another spam. Even more, considering that he wrote me directly on WhatsApp and not too many people have my phone number.

So I agree to have a conversation with him.

A few days later, we met on Zoom and he started telling me about his method of whatever he was doing (I’m doing my best to avoid what it was all about because it’s not relevant to the story). After 30 minutes of talking, he asks me if I agree with the method and if I’m curious to learn more about it – as in getting trained to properly know the method.

“Sure,” I said, actually believing the method was at least decent and I’m usually open to learning new things.

Then he started talking a bit more about the method and the business model and he “invited” me to a 3-hour workshop about something related to the method. But in order to attend the workshop, I had to pay around 200 euros.

That was the first red flag.

Then, we discussed for another 10 minutes just to understand that there was no opportunity for me to join the business. It was just him trying to sell his method and train more people in his method. And I didn’t ask for the fee, but it was at least 5000 thousand euros, as it usually is in the industry.

There was no certainty that after I would get trained, I would have joined the business. So, just another waste of time and money disguised as opportunity.

From that point on, I set myself a new set of professional boundaries: whoever wants to speak with me and I don’t know the person (it won’t even matter if it’s a recommendation), the fee will be 1000 euros/hour. Pay that and then we can talk about whatever you want.

It is a strict rule and its purpose is not to make myself rich, but to avoid all the spammy messages from people who want to take advantage of me. If you are a big company and you really want to work with me, then you’ll afford the thousand euros.

Define value for healthy boundaries

3. Define value

Last year, I discovered a community of freelancers and they did these events with a mix of learning and networking.

At first, it was great and it felt like the kind of events I was interested in. But after the first few events, the quality started getting poorer and poorer. Eventually, I decided to stop going.

But looking back at the whole experience, I started seeing red flags after the first two events. And even though I saw the red flags, I still decided to attend the events.

The first red flag was the low-quality speakers for the learning part of the events. After the first 3 events, they started getting speakers who didn’t care at all about education, but about promoting themselves and their business. That’s when I decided to stop.

The second red flag was the people present at the networking part of the events. I got to meet a few categories of people: (1) entrepreneurs who didn’t have time for small events and had enough clarity over their business journey that they didn’t really care about these small events, (2) freelancers who were not ethical at all and ended up ghosting me after we drafted a few things that we could do together, and (3) people with 9-to-5 jobs who wanted to switch to freelancing.

Looking back at the whole situation, I knew what I was looking for but I didn’t have any type of boundaries around it. I was tolerating too many things that had nothing to do with what I was looking for and, because of this, I eventually attended to many events.

But lesson learned. Next time I’ll be stricter when I decide to repeat the same experience a second time.

Be aware of hidden agendas

4. Be aware of hidden agendas

In the spring of 2022, I decided to get certified as an executive coach and I started my training journey with an international company.

One of the reasons I wanted to get certified as an executive coach was because I wanted to start working with big organizations and they need you to have the certification.

And since I didn’t really know how to approach the big organizations, I was looking for a company that I could join after becoming certified. I found it through a recommendation, or at least I thought I did.

After making the payment (over 5000 euros) and before getting the certification, the company that trained me started to tell me, slowly but steadily, that they were not really sure if we could continue after the training was done. Eventually, we didn’t.

Well, what the fuck?

They used my need to make a sale and nothing more. That was their hidden agenda.

The same thing happened with the second story I told you, but that time I didn’t really need any training and knew how to identify the hidden agendas.

But lesson learned: always pay attention to what people really want to get from your involvement and the hidden layers of their messages. In today’s world, almost everyone has hidden agendas and I’m doing my best to (1) stay away from them and (2) not become one of them.

To give you a parallel, whenever I meet people, I’m trying to be as honest as possible with my intentions. When I meet a woman I like, I tell her that I’m interested in her and I would like to know her better.

Having hidden agendas is a waste of time that requires lots of games and I simply don’t have the energy to engage with this bullshit. For me, it’s as simple as that.

Leave if you’re not wanted

5. Leave if you’re not wanted

When I moved to the city that I’m currently living in, one of the first things that I did was to enroll in salsa dancing classes.

For almost two years, I went to dancing classes and got closer to the instructors. They are great, as the school is the oldest latino dancing school (salsa & bachata) in the country.

But no matter how hard I tried and how much I told them, they didn’t want me in the advanced classes. They were always avoidant and told me that it was not for me yet.

I bet it wasn’t for me, as I wasn’t ready for advanced salsa. But nonetheless, I was (and still am) so passionate about dancing salsa that I could have put more effort into it.

What they taught in the advanced classes was more specific than the intermediate classes and I wanted to have access to more specific, in-depth, knowledge about salsa.

But it didn’t happen.

Even more than that, I tried to become friends with some of the people from the intermediate and advanced groups. I had no chance to be part of their community.

That school (and, as I discovered later, many other dancing schools) have so many small churches (groups of people who know each other really well) that you can’t really have access to.

Not to mention I’m the kind of person who really enjoys spending time with others and loves giving. So once every 2-3 months I baked some sweets and went with them to the dancing classes. That gesture didn’t seem to work at all.

I stopped going to dancing classes last year in December and I would only go back if I had a partner. Otherwise, it feels like a waste of time.

But lesson learned and one more personal boundary was set: if I’m not wanted somewhere, I shouldn’t say.

How to set boundaries for a relationship using standards

How to set boundaries for a relationship using standards

Looking back at my past two years, I realize that I tolerated lower standards more than should have just because I wanted to be part of some communities or make more friends.

But it didn’t work.

Instead, I decided to reconnect to my high standards and take out the thrash.

As a result, I have more space in my life for the kind of people and communities who can resonate with my high standards. And that’s where you should start if you want to set some healthy boundaries in your relationships.

For example, if you are always on time and being on time is important to you, then that’s probably a standard you have. When you meet people who are always late, say goodbye to them and make space for the people who value time as much as you do.

Setting healthy boundaries should be easy.

Even though staying true to your boundaries is not easy, you’ll eventually reach a situation where you’ll have to choose between your standards and your frustrations.

What’s more important to you?

With love and optimism,
David

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