Why You Need to Set Boundaries

February 12, 2022

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This is for all of you who have a hard time saying that word.

The one you want to say but find you can’t.

The word that’s supposed to be a complete sentence in and of itself but so often is difficult to utter.


We’re told that “no” requires no explanation, but for many of us (especially those who need to fire their inner People-Pleasing narrator!), it comes with a side of guilt.

People pleasing narrator why you need to set boundaries

We feel bad saying no.

So we agree to stay late at the office or volunteer for that PTA committee or have drinks with a friend even though we said we were committing to Dry January (whoops).

Or we turn the Dairy Queen Blizzard upside down and watch as a carefully mixed swirl of chocolate soft serve and Butterfingers pieces comes flying out.

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Wait… what? Who does that?

Apparently, the Dairy Queen franchise in Winsted, Connecticut, had such an issue with its parent company’s promotion that it put down its foot and said no.

Let me set the scene:

I’m driving my daughter back from visiting a friend and we drive by a Dairy Queen. There isn’t one close to our house so it’s not a treat we get often. I suggest we stop for one, even though it was close to dinnertime, because, you know, I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom.

Also, I really like ice cream.

I even got a “You’re a cool mom,” from my daughter and we bonded briefly over our treats before she went back to ignoring me. (She’s 15).

While ordering, we notice this sign in the window.

Dairy queen why you need to set boundaries

I had seen the Dairy Queen commercials which insisted their Blizzards are SO THICK they can be held upside down without falling out of the cup.

They were so confident of the Blizzard consistency that Dairy Queen ran a promotion: Ask your server to turn your Blizzard upside down and if it falls out, it’s on them. (Well, presumably, it’s all over the counter or the floor and they’ll make another one at no charge).

Except for this location in Winsted, Connecticut.

They were NOT participating in the upside-down free Blizzard promotion.

Because I’m a storyteller who sees and writes about the story in everything (have you read “Why are Running for Someone Else’s Hot Dog?”), I was naturally curious about what preceded the posting of this sign.

How many mishaps had to occur before this franchise location opted out?

How insistent were customers that they oblige?

And… why? Do we hold other types of foods to the upside-down-or-it’s-free standard?

Was one particular flavor combination a more egregious failure than the others?

Was anyone fired over the failure?

I could envision dozens of storylines that led to this sign. And I was hungry for answers.

But mostly, I was impressed.

I was impressed by this Dairy Queen location and its creation of boundaries.

For whatever reason, the person in charge determined this company-wide promotion would not work for them. And they declined to participate.

They WILL NOT (note the use of all caps and underlining for emphasis) participate in the promotion.

They put up a sign. No, ifs, ands, buts, or Blizzards about it.

It got me thinking about my own difficulty in setting up boundaries and maintaining them.

I often say “yes” to work or other commitments when I want to say “no”, or I say “no”, but then feel guilty or selfish so I open up the door again with a “well maybe if…”

And then I feel angry and put upon even though I put the problem on myself.

How about you? When do you fail to set up boundaries?

What type of blizzard of work and emotion does that create in your life?

How might you better signal that you are not open to that kind of business?

There’s no point in turning yourself upside down for someone else if doing so is going to make you fall apart.

Or, in the case of Dairy Queen, out of the cup and onto the counter.

We brought our right-side-up Blizzards back to the car and ate them while listening to Rex Orange County and Clairo and for a few minutes I was the cool mom even though I have no idea who those artists are and wanted to change the station to something more my speed, like the Big ’80s, except that I knew I’d feel guilty if I made her turn off her music in favor of mine.

Then we came home and weren’t hungry for the dinner I made.

Clearly, I need to set up better boundaries around snacking before mealtime.

Valerie gordon web3 why you need to set boundaries Valerie Gordon is a lifelong storyteller, an Emmy-winning television producer, and the founder of career and communications strategy firm The Storytelling Strategist. She uses the power of storytelling in her keynotes and workshops, helping high-achievers build satisfying and successful careers and blogs about work, life, and storytelling.




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