The more we understand and educate ourselves about conflict, the more comfortable we will be when faced with a potential conflict situation. This week's focus is on boundaries, so let's explore some related terms.
Boundary Structures: ways to control the risks that are inevitable when disclosing information about ourselves or others.
Ownership: an individual's perception of having the "right" to control who has access to information.
Permeability: the measure of how freely someone might allow others to share information that they disclose about themselves.
These are terms that help us make sense of one of my favorite theories, Communication Privacy Management Theory. This theory helps us understand how individuals maintain their privacy boundaries. Because of the risks that are associated with opening up to someone via self-disclosure, there are times when individuals decide to close the doors of their chatter box, creating boundary structures. Thus, in our definition of permeability, we might make the mistake of assuming that closer relationships and knowing a greater amount of personal information about someone grants us more flexibility with their information. The connection we have with our friend does not indicate that we should perceive ownership of that information, unless given permission.
Respect the boundaries of others. If trusted with information and asked to keep it private, you have not been given full ownership. Show gratitude. Respect that someone put their trust in you, and be a fearless communicator. How many ways can you politely redirect a question, decline a request for information that is too personal, or simply say no? What are your boundary structures? Share them with someone that you trust - it's a great conversation starter!