Your phone pings… you glance down… your chest deflates with a sigh… oh yeah, it’s that buyer again. You know the one I’m talking about, they think because they bought a puppy they can chat your ear off about anything and everything whenever they please? It’s really bad when your spouse gives you that look, “Was that so-and-so again?”
On the other hand… there are those times when you take that phone call or stop to answer that text and your kids are looking at you, frustrated, maybe they were in the middle of telling a great story or they really want to spend time with you, but they can’t because you’re preoccupied dealing with dogs.
It’s hard to strike a balance. People tell you to “set boundaries” like it’s some magic pixie dust you can sprinkle on yourself or your phone and magically everything is just perfect and buyers never have problems and you make perfect cooking-channel-worthy dinners every night.
When you hear the word boundaries…what comes to mind? Does it feel heavy? Does it feel good? For me, I found the term boundaries to be irritating and essentially that meant I was resisting it. I was resisting the idea that having boundaries would work for me.
I also found it really overwhelming if I’m honest. Boundaries seemed like this giant key that others knew how to use, but I didn’t. When I would entertain boundary setting in my mind, I would immediately be overwhelmed with anxiety, “How am I supposed to set boundaries, I need the money, I can’t say no, they won’t buy from me if I’m not available or if I can’t meet them at their convenience” then I started dabbling into what boundaries were, did they mean I needed to have strict hours? Did I need to set my phone to do-not-disturb at a certain time. Then I tried to figure out what I would say to people to set those boundaries, would I tell them I’m setting a boundary? It sounded so confrontational.
How can you be so casual about telling people no? Then my head would spin, holy cow, am I one of those people pleasers? Ugh, people pleasers are those people that everyone takes advantage of, I’m not one of those people… okay, so where is the balance? How do I set boundaries, have a thriving business, and still feel good about myself, like I’m not selfish, rude, or obnoxious?
Like so many things, not only is the situation not one-size-fits-all, but the situation is a combination of some understanding of yourself and the problem at hand, some mindset shifts, and then some practical tips.
UNDERSTANDING OURSELVES AND THE PROBLEM
Let’s look at understanding ourselves and the problem at hand. First off, have you ever listened to how you talk to yourself compared with how you talk to other people? When I screwed something up, I had the tendency to say something like this, “What the heck, Julie? You knew exactly what you needed to do, but didn’t do it, why do you always mess up like that? Why can’t you get yourself together, this is not difficult, what is wrong with you?” Sound familiar?
Now, imagine your friend did the same thing, they knew what they needed to do, didn’t do it, and then missed the deadline or failed the task because they didn’t get it done as they should.
Could you imagine if I said, “What the heck, Sally, you knew exactly what to do and you didn’t, you’re a failure, you mess everything up”? I’m pretty sure if I talked to my friends like that, I wouldn’t be able to call them friends for very long. Not only wouldn’t I say something like that to my friends, but I don’t even think that way in my head and then bite my tongue. More times than not we see our friend in pain and we just want to give them a hug and tell them it happens and it’s not the end of the world, people make mistakes, to make a few adjustments and try again.
Do you see the difference? When it comes to everyone else we are kind and gentle, but to ourselves, well, that’s a different story, some people are downright malicious toward themselves.
So what is that? Well, other than the human condition, it’s something to work with. It’s unrealistic to expect perfection from ourselves with everything. In fact, I can say from my own experience that the problems I had in my breeding program have brought me the success I have today, they challenged me to be better, to learn more, and to reflect and find a better way.
What does this have to do with boundaries? Well, interestingly, I found that when people set boundaries with me, it’s easy to respect them, I don’t feel offended by it most of the time, I just roll with it and accommodate as I can. Yet, somehow I think that other people won’t do me the same courtesy, that they’ll reject me for wanting to have a life beyond serving them. Silly, but that’s sometimes how it feels. It took me a long time, and it’s still a work in progress, to start to respect my time and needs as much as I respected others. I have to be with me 24/7, could you imagine being with someone 24/7 who didn’t respect your needs? It would be horrid. People get divorced over smaller things, but you can’t divorce yourself.
In learning how to set boundaries, I’ve found that the easiest way to start is not with yourself, that’s actually a pretty tough one to tackle, but start with your loved ones. Make your loved ones come first.
I’ve known for a long time that my kids have been so elemental in building my courage, encouraging me to change things and be better for them, because my love for them is stronger than my fear. So I channel that.
What does that actually look like? Well, think of a situation where your buyers call you in the evening, either during dinner or right before bed. For me, I found this very irritating because I’m working from home, I need a transition time to switch out of work mode and into relaxation and sleep mode. If I was talking to buyers at 8pm, that would really disrupt my ability to release work from my mind.
Before I had kids, I just dealt with these things, I took the call, was irritated when it was over, then went to bed grumpy. A few years into having kids I started to really see how much that affected them, toddlers getting to bed late is never a recipe for a pretty morning. They really needed a schedule so they had enough sleep and were fresh and ready for the next day, which, by the way, as you know, makes parenting WAY easier.
It was the kids that gave me the courage to quickly send a text message that said, “Hey I saw you called, I’ve got to put my kiddos to bed, can I call you in the morning?” I started doing that and 9/10 times they said no problem. In respecting my kids’ needs, I also got to respect my needs. I started to notice how I was more loving, nurturing, and supportive when I got my needs met, like a little evening relaxation time and a good night’s sleep.
Over time I was able to morph my mama bear protection of my kids’ needs into mama bear protection of my needs also.
Is it perfect? No, I love business, just talking about business energizes me, so, sometimes, like an addict, I will be messaging late with another breeder because I am excited to work with them, I want to help, I love seeing the results breeders get with just a few key tweaks in their program or mindset.
I used to get mad at myself for staying up late or not setting boundaries…there’s that word again…but now, I don’t judge myself, I just accept that I had a late night and I’ll be a little tired tomorrow. Sometimes I’ll see a pattern like too many late nights and late mornings and say, “Hmm, I need to make a shift, go to bed a little earlier, so I can get up earlier” but then I make the shift, I don’t harass myself in the process. I’ve noticed that since doing this I have more energy to work with in a productive manner.
You’ll notice that as you start to take care of yourself, the boundaries naturally come. Someone will ask you to stay later to watch one more episode of a show, and you’ll say, “Oh, that’d be fun, but I need to get some sleep.” You’ve set the boundary and it came off gentle.
I’ve made you a cheatsheet to give you some ways to set boundaries with buyers so you can more easily balance having a life and a breeding business. It has three levels, easy, moderate, and more effort or preparation, the idea is you start with the easy ones, then move into more difficult boundaries to set. You can get the cheatsheet using the form below.
Want to Get the 12 Techniques to Set Boundaries with Puppy Buyers Cheatsheet?
Once I started implementing these boundaries, little by little—and I really mean little, this was like a 4-5 year journey and it’s still not perfect—I found that I had more energy for me, which meant I had more energy to put in with my kids, with Bill, and with my buyers. I wasn’t spread so thin, so I could give incredible service and support when I chose to.
It’s interesting, I noticed that in my mind, when I didn’t have the boundaries I needed, I would often feel resentment. I would resent that my husband at the time didn’t understand where I needed help, I would feel resentment that my buyers would call late at night, why did everyone always think I was fine and super available?! Didn’t they see the sort of chaos and workload I was under?! How could they take advantage of me when I’m doing all these things for everyone!?
Then a realization sort of slapped me in the face when I was watching something one day: no one really knows I’m under this sort of stress and pressure because I hide it.
I have this ability to wipe my emotions off my face, put a smile on, and focus on another person. I know most people have this skill in one form or another, we can hide we are hurt by someone, we can hide we are falling behind. This is a handy skill, truly, I’m sure the military cemented this skill set for me, but it had started much earlier in my life. It paid off in spades when I worked at the gun shop, no one really tells you in retail that you’re supposed to be in a good mood everyday, that one was hard.
In using that skill, in an effort to be in a good mood with everyone, no one ever really knew I was overwhelmed and stressed. In some sense, I didn’t even fully acknowledge it. If you’re going to ask something of your friend, like to help you do something at your house, and just before you ask, they tell you how stressful their week has been, how they just need to crash and watch some Netflix over the weekend, well, you’re probably not going to ask them to come over and help you move rocks around your garden, that wouldn’t be too cool of you.
Well, what if that friend didn’t tell you they were stressed? What if after that crazy week they had, they just put on a smile and said, “My week was great! How was yours?” You wouldn’t know they needed to relax, so you’d probably ask them to help move rocks.
See how there was nothing malicious in your ask? Rather, your friend didn’t let you know how they were, so you couldn’t know to wait on that ask, you didn’t know they really needed you to offer for them to come over for some good iced coffee on the back porch and to vent and relax.
I was so guilty of hiding this stress and then feeling resentful because I felt people didn’t care about me, when in truth they definitely cared, well most of them, but they didn’t know I was stressed because I didn’t tell them, and worse, I hid it.
Okay, so that’s great with people you love and trust, people who care about all you, but what about buyers? What about people who call you in the middle of the most stressful day you’ve had in months? You can’t just be like, “Hey, what do you want? I’m in the middle of crazy day and I’m freaking out.” That won’t exactly sell dogs…
The key is to set boundaries…okay, just kidding, I wasn’t trying to get you mad giving you that clear-as-mud advice.
It comes down to structuring things in your favor. For example, maybe someone sends you a text on your phone or in social media and they’re interested in a dog, you don’t want to lose their business, BUT you also are in the middle of cooking dinner or driving and you can’t chat right then. Instead of trying to juggle and do it all, let them know you’re looking forward to chatting with them, but you’re in the middle of something and can’t step away. Then offer to schedule a chat later, it helps if you suggest a time, something like “I’d love to chat, would tomorrow around 10 work?”
As a side note…as you get better with everything…you’ll want to have certain times of day or the week that you try and keep open just for buyers or at least to work on your breeding program if you’re not yet continually working with buyers, this gives you more or less “safe” times that you can schedule people. In a very loose way, this is similar to a doctor having a schedule their assistant can book people without their approval, since they just know they’ll be there at that time.
A way to upgrade this concept even further would be to use a scheduler app that allows people to book a time with you, especially if you do initial interviews, but often that’s a bit hefty for first-time callers. You could also set up a few keyboard shortcuts on your phone that create a nice message to send them with a link to a page on your website.
If you aren’t familiar with these shortcuts, they’re called text replacement shortcuts, at least on iPhone. The main one that comes preinstalled on an iPhone is “OMW” and that automagically turns into “On my way!” You can set up more shortcuts and they can be long, like paragraphs long, add hyperlinks and such. When you type in the shortcut you created, then the text will pop up in the suggested texts above your keyboard.
This is a great way to curate a great response, that’s thorough and how you want to say it, but to have it readily available at a moment’s notice. Again, these things take a little planning, but they make it easier on you in the long run.
To sum it up, setting boundaries starts with respecting your needs and the needs of your loved ones. Remember that if you never say no, nor express that you’re stressed, people will often think you’re more free and flexible than you are, so convey your needs. Lastly, know that success on this journey isn’t always fast nor smooth, so be patient and kind to yourself as you work through it. A little planning can help you give the service you want to give and works to set boundaries. I know you can do it, I did, so pretty much anyone can.
I hope you enjoyed this episode. A lot of entrepreneurship is the mental game that accompanies the business, as well as finding techniques that help to find some semblance of balance between working and living in the same place.
For more tips on boundary setting, and techniques to make it happen, grab your free cheat sheet using the form below.