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How to maintain personal/professional boundaries with fellow creatives

Sheila Chandra - Thursday, October 11, 2018

The very nature of creativity requires a certain openness and willingness to collaborate. This often spills over into sharing our personal lives to a certain extent with the communities that grow up around distinct creative disciplines. After all, you’re in high pressure situations working very closely, and feelings can run high. But how much is too much? If you find all your colleagues living in your house (for free!) it’s possible things have got out of hand…


It’s up to you to set the boundaries with your creative colleagues

Our fellow creatives often need us to keep alive the flame of the discipline we share, to be a shoulder to cry on, to share the triumphs as well as the challenges of working in a certain discipline. All of this is beautiful and good - it provides a haven from the outside world and a safe space for creativity to flourish.

But sometimes boundaries are necessary. We all know someone to whom the adage ‘give them an inch and they’ll take a mile’ applies. Do not let your creative colleagues take over your life (or your house) with their issues. You will create problems with your partner, lose control over your time and scare potential future romantic interests away. All a huge price to pay for not setting boundaries.

Be gentle but firm with your fellow creatives

If communicating your needs and boundaries is challenging for you, consider taking a course in assertiveness training or communication. Non-violent communication (established along Buddhist principles by Marshall Rosenberg) is a very useful tool for gently asserting yourself. If you’re in a sticky situation, the conversation may not work the first time – but you will gain useful information about how you’re being manipulated, so do be observant and gentle on yourself. Beware guilt trips! Untangle just how they've 'hooked' you so that you can keep being assertive. (For instance, are you accused of being 'selfish' when all you want to do is maintain some self care and personal space?).

When things get out of hand with fellow creatives

It’s nice to be able to give and return favours. But don’t fall into the trap of treating your fellow creatives as though they are more special than your other half! Make a distinction between your professional life and your personal life. Remember that there’ll always be some element of competition or loyalty to others in your industry, with colleagues in the same genre. None of us can help that. And only let people into your home who are genuine friends – people you can afford to genuinely let your hair down with. Everyone else should be dealt with amicably in the professional sphere. Consider running get-togethers outside your home if you need to create a networking space for your discipline. The odd dinner party to socialise with colleagues is fine – providing you have your boundaries up and don’t drink so much that you let yourself say too much.

Personal relationships with fellow creatives

Of course, sometimes things get serious or you’re attracted to someone you work with. Bear in mind, that if you sleep with someone in your industry, and it’s just for fun, things will get shared that probably shouldn’t be. If you find yourself falling for someone in the same field you need to be even more careful. Because you have to plan for if/when the whole thing goes wrong.

Choosing a partner is, in part, a career decision when you’re an artist. Pick someone unsupportive, openly jealous, incredulous about the way you work, or bad mannered and it will seriously set your career back. It will either scare people off working with you or you’ll feel undermined or both (disastrous in an industry that runs so much on ‘vibes’…) The dangers are all the more when that person has seen all your personal meltdowns and weaknesses and will be working with people you know.

My advice is – don’t. Don’t have relationships with people in your own industry. However if you’re going to, make them pass the test. Is the person concerned truthful? Mature? Unselfish? Loyal? Because if you break up, it’s those qualities that are going to ensure that it isn’t a career disaster as well….

 

Lots of clients come to me confused about professional boundaries. If boundary issues are taking up your time and getting in the way of your work, let me help you to assess what’s going on and get on track to setting proper personal/professional boundaries in place within your creative community. Email me at sheila@sheilachandra.com for a free 30 minute coaching consultation today!

 

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