The Need For Boundaries

I have always been a pretty shy person. Less so today than most of my life, but still more than I probably should be and more than most people realize. I admit it makes standing on a stage in front of thousands of people each year a rather strange career choice, but when seen as a means of control, I would say it makes perfect sense.

Over the years, I have met a fair number of writers, directors, musicians, and entertainers and found many to be as introverted as I am; drawn to their professions for the same reason as mine. Control. The helpless and uneasy feelings we have in normal social situations disappear when we are on a stage, behind a camera, playing an instrument, or typing words on a page. We control what people hear, see, feel, and do and have the ability to reveal only a small and far more interesting snapshot of who we really are.

That insecurity and desire for control comes with responsibility, however. I am in charge of the presentations I give and for a little more than an hour, I control the conversation that takes place. I can decide what I want to say or do and frankly, never have to give a second thought to what my audience needs, hopes for, or expects.

I can, but I don’t.

My responsibility to the people sitting in those seats in front of me is to respect their time and their intelligence and to offer them something of value in exchange for their attention.

I have been thinking about this a lot recently because of a decision I made to unfollow two people on Twitter and disconnect from one person on LinkedIn. The reason was simple: they talk too much. They talk too often and for too long and I just couldn’t take it anymore. It drove me crazy that every time I visited either site, there they were posting something. Anything. Nearly every minute of every hour. All the time. They crowded out the tweets and posts of others and dominated the conversations taking place.

Maybe that was intentional. Maybe they read somewhere that to get attention on social media you need to be prolific. I just saw it as a lack of respect for their audience. More likely, they never even considered their followers to be their audience. To them, social media is an empty stage, a blank canvas, or a clean sheet of paper where they can say and do whatever they want. They have control.

Having control doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have boundaries, though. There is a good reason why most speeches are no longer than an hour, why most books are no longer than 300 pages, why most songs are no longer than 3 minutes, and why most movies are no longer than 2 hours. It’s all most people can take. It’s also as much as most people can give. They aren’t interesting, talented, inspiring, or engaging enough to hold our attention for any longer. Unfortunately, this is lost on a lot of leaders, managers and users of social media.


I realize this sounds like criticism, but I mean it as advice. We all know those posters, tweeters, managers and leaders who have too much too sayand no boundaries to work within. They see an opportunity to take control and say whatever they want for as long as they want. They forget about their audience - their clients, customers, patients, employees. They forget that with control comes responsibility and an awareness of what others need, hope for, or expect.

Twitter had the right idea of boundaries when limiting users to 150 characters per tweet. If they can somehow set the limit of characters per day, now that would be an improvement.

James Kane