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Setting effective boundaries with men is a common problem for many women. One of the primary problems is dealing with unwanted sexual attention. This attention comes in many different forms from unwanted comments to inappropriate touches to physical violations. These incidents are boundary setting and boundary violation issues. A look a #MeToo shows how widespread this problem is.
Generally, women have been socialized in society to “be nice”. The side effect of this “niceness” is women not standing up for themselves for fear of the consequences of not being nice. Therefore, many women deal with conflicts by engaging in passive and/or indirect speech. Assertiveness seen as “bitchy” and is associated with being angry. Many women are also physically intimidated men, leading them to not want to “make them mad”. There also exists a considerable percentage of men who are looking to take advantage of women. The result this combination is a long list of victims as exemplified by #MeToo.
In terms of Everyday Boundary Setting™, standing up for yourself means engaging effective boundary setting. In order to set boundaries, you must be willing to clearly Communicate and Enforce them. But before you can do so, you need to know what your boundaries are, and to what extent you are willing to insist they be respected (your Boundary Setting Paradigm). You must also recognize that many times women don’t stand up for themselves out of fear of creating a Backlash. They are afraid that their level of Enforcement will be perceived as Over-Enforcement. As a result, they undershoot and are silent or engage in Under-Enforcement.
A common conflict management strategy is to engage in Under-Communication and Under-Enforcement. When dealing with unwanted male attention, women tend to use ignoring/passive body language to send a message of “I don’t want to engage in you.” This method allows them (much of the time) to avoid undesired attention in social situations with generally respectful people. This socialization leads to minimal practice and experience with assertive Communication and Enforcement of their boundaries with disrespectful people.
Imagine the following scenarios:
- Your leaving public transportation, and you feel like you are being followed.
- You go shopping and the store clerk makes inappropriate comments.
- You are passing a bar, when a drunk man steps out and calls out menacingly to you.
- You are at a crowded restaurant, when you inadvertently bump a diner, who becomes immediately hostile.
- You are parking your car, when you are approached by an angry motorist who claims “you took his space”.
- You are standing in a crowded train, and a stranger purposely brushes up against you.
- You are at work, and a coworker corners you in a secluded area.
- You are working at the store counter when a customer becomes verbally abusive.
- You are waiting in line, when someone forcefully and deliberately cuts in front of you.
- You are returning from a social outing, and your date will not take “no” for an answer.
- You are at dancing at a club, and an aggressive dancer grabs your wrist, and starts grinding against you.
- You are walking down a deserted street at night, and a suspicious person you rapidly from behind.
In the above scenarios, passive body language alone is unlikely to work. These situations require the use of effective boundary setting.
An important aspect of Everyday Boundary Setting™ is to apply its tools in boundary setting situations. The Progressive Fence™ is an essential tool for effect boundary setting.
This below video is a “social experiment”. But regardless, the actions of the women (Bystanders) who intervene are not scripted. They provide examples of the use of the Progressive Fence. Notice that both women naturally use their hand/arm as a imposing physical barrier between themselves and the man as they make their verbal point about the rules of behavior. The Target of Harassment is role playing. As part of her act, she employs a Broken Fence. A Broken Fence is a fence that is not maintained and not backed up with further Enforcement. Her hand comes up then drops back inwardly as she retreats. She is signaling (Communicating) weakness. The women who intervene are responding to the combination of the man’s aggressive behavior and the woman’s passive behavior. They are engaging in boundary setting on a societal basis that is applied on a personal level.
It is probable than none of the people in this video have formally trained in the use of the Progressive Fence. They are responding with natural actions that they have likely learned from life experience. The Progressive Fence is a natural behavior byproduct of assertiveness. The Broken Fence is a natural byproduct of passivity and submission.
This photo below shows the Target of Harassment using a Broken Fence which conveys weakness.
This photo below shows the women using two versions of the Progressive Fence. The woman on the right is using it more aggressively than the woman on the left. Her arm is fully extended. Notice that the man is using a Broken Fence. He is conveying his compliance to the women’s boundary setting.
The above video clips depict the use of boundary setting to deal with a “rude” person (as opposed to awkward). He has knowingly violated the rules of behavior.
The use of the Progressive Fence™ is an important aspect of Everyday Boundary Setting™. In order to apply boundary setting in an reliable and effective manner, you need to train yourself in the use of the Progressive Fence and the disuse of the Broken Fence.
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