How are you using Boundaries to build your MLM business?

Good fences make good neighbors, but do good personal boundaries make good Networkers?


While many  Network Marketers have been conditioned to get “close” to the prospect, the real goal is to build strong, lasting relationships. The more distinct the boundaries of a relationship, the easier it is for upline and downline to know, like, and trust each other — which is essential to starting and building a business together. Boundaries are key to maintaining both strong relationships and individual strength through the inevitable ups and downs of our business.

What exactly is a Boundary and How can You Use One?

In simplest terms, a boundary sets limits, makes distinctions, informs you as to what is you and what is not you. A boundary makes clear the distinction between you and others, and tells you where one thing ends and another begins. It lets you know that another’s ideas, values, and feelings are not necessarily yours. A boundary is flexible and permeable, letting information flow back and forth.  It allows you to actively listen without having judgments.

When Karen called her mother on the phone to tell her that she had signed on with a Network Marketing company, she was filled with excitement and hope for her future. She eagerly started talking about her plans for marketing and the wonderful vitamins the company sold. She was sure these vitamins would be helpful to her mother and that this would be an easy sale. Instead of encouraging her or giving her an order, her mother launched into a long tirade about how she herself had dedicated all her time to raising her children. “You haven’t got time to spend on this nonsense after working all day. Your children need you. You better get your priorities straight,” her mother said.

After Karen hung up, she found herself feeling guilty and discouraged rather than charged and ready to go. Unwittingly, Karen had taken on her mother’s point of view. She needs to build a boundary between her mother’s opinions and values and her own. With a healthy boundary, she could listen to her mother and realize that while her mother is entitled to her opinions, her mother’s opinions don’t have to be her own.

Tom is a committed Networker. He is dedicated and works consistently to build his business. On the days and weeks when it’s going well, he’s psyched. On the days when it’s not going well, he begins to doubt himself and feels a kind of free floating anxiety. Tom needs to build a boundary between himself and his MLM business. He needs to remember that he has value over and above each day’s results. He also needs to build a boundary between today and tomorrow, just because today didn’t work out doesn’t mean tomorrow won’t be great.

You Are NOT Your MLM Business

This may seem like an obvious statement, but I think when people forget it, they often quit the business (or think about it). A healthy boundary lets you know the difference between your business and yourself. You are more than your business! A boundary informs you that the results of one prospecting event are not to be confused with all of your prospecting. Boundaries maintain the difference between the past, the present, and the future.

If ten prospects have turned you down, it doesn’t mean the eleventh will. If nobody showed up for your home party, it doesn’t mean that your next one won’t be well attended. If you botched up a presentation, it doesn’t mean you’ll do it again. We learn and we go on. Each day is fresh and new. The past is over. The future is unrecorded.

A boundary lets you know which are your own values and emotions and which are those of another person. Never mistake another’s predicament for your own. Yes, you can be understanding, but your boundaries enable you to distinguish between your prospect’s, or any other person’s, emotions, and emotions that are truly your own. If a downline person is complaining about the MLM Company or the MLM product and how hard the business is, you can empathize without taking on their emotions and views. You can build a boundary. You can give that opinion right back to them because that is where it belongs.

A boundary lets you separate what you are feeling from what another is feeling. A healthy boundary lets you know the difference between your mother and yourself, your father and yourself, you and your children, you and your spouse. You are not your downline or your upline. We are separate beings with separate needs, beliefs, values, and feelings. With a healthy boundary, we can be separate and connected — individual and together.

Building Flexible Boundaries

Boundaries can be too extreme — while some people lack boundaries altogether, others seem to “put up” impenetrable walls.

Excessively diffused boundaries can create confusion and over-identification with another person or activity.

Weak boundaries can impair independent thinking and perception.

On the other hand, when boundaries are too rigid, it is almost impossible to share ideas or emotions. They have been blocked out. It’s difficult to learn and grow and evolve. Walls support rigid ideas about yourself, the world and the possibilities for your organization.

Healthy boundaries — the happy medium- make good partnerships and good Network Marketers.  “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” Robert Frost wrote. I agree, and would add, “Something there is that begs for a clear boundary.” It’s hardly different from knowing where your land ends and your neighbor’s begins.

Rigid boundaries can result in harmful consequences for your business. If you set up a wall between yourself and your upline, you have created more than a distinction, you have set up a barrier that closes out information; a wall between you and your prospect will prevent you from being able to listen without an agenda or empathize with her wants and needs. If you build a wall around an idea, no additional evidence or change of events will affect that idea. You will have isolated yourself with your conviction — separate from reality. Walls between yourself and other people inhibit your ability to fully experience intimacy, empathy, or genuine sharing.

Jack built a rigid wall between himself and prospects to protect himself from rejection. While that wall protects him from negative feelings — and it does seem true that no number of “No’s” can phase him — it also keeps him from understanding what his prospects desire and need. He comes across as slick and indifferent. He’s rigid in his approach, and seems unable to turn objections into opportunities to show more value. If he would change that wall into a flexible boundary, he could relate to his prospects, be more responsive and spontaneous in his presentation, and, consequently, be more successful.

On the other hand, Karen and Tom, in the earlier examples, lacked boundaries. If you have no distinctions between yourself and others in your organization, you can lose your self esteem after being rejected by a single prospect or ignored by someone in your downline. Without boundaries between yourself and your MLM business, as in Tom’s case, you can lose your courage if your business isn’t going the way you hoped it would. You can confuse the struggle of beginning an MLM organization with your probable future and lose belief in your vision of ultimately succeeding beyond your wildest dreams. Like Karen, you can take on another person’s emotions and mistake them for your own, or judge yourself with another’s values and feel inadequate — even though those values are not yours.

Boundaries free you to share and connect with others, be part of a team, and still be a strong individual making your own decisions.

There are, of course, times when it’s good to lose your boundaries — when you’re watching a sunset, listening to a great piece of music, bonding with a baby. Conversely, there are times when it’s also advisable to put up walls — times when outside events become overwhelming or someone becomes abusive. In those cases, it may be a necessary protection of the essential separation you need from the negativity.

How Do You Develop And Maintain Boundaries?

What skills and abilities do you need?

1. You need ego strength — a sense of yourself as an individual entity with your own values located inside, not outside, yourself. You are not your sponsor, prospects, friends, or family.

2. You need to have a sense of yourself as always in a growth process. A dynamic relationship with time allows you to experience yourself as everchanging instead of a static object. You change, you learn, you constantly improve. If you struggled unsuccessfully in the past to build your organization, you can make changes and do something differently.

3. You need to be able to notice differences as well as similarities between people, situations and information. How is this presentation different from the last one? How is it the same?

4. You need to be able to observe yourself objectively — be a fair witness. How do you look from the prospect’s point of view? How about from your sponsor’s, or your significant other’s?

5. You need to be able to identify with others. You can learn an incredible amount from “stepping into another’s shoes,” as they say, and trying to see the world from their perspective. Look at your presentation from the prospect’s point of view.

A Boundary-Building Exercise

The following exercise will help you practice establishing boundaries between yourself and others. Think of a situation with another person that happens frequently and is damaging to your self-esteem.

Become aware of yourself physically — your back against a chair, your feet on the floor, your breathing — as you remember that situation. Watch that remembered movie through your own eyes, but as you do so, notice the background behind the other person, and be aware of your peripheral vision. If you’re having trouble, practice focusing on an image and consciously noticing how much you can see around that one image. This way you get a sense of the bigger picture.

In your imagination, listen not only to both your voices but to the background sounds as well. Notice what similarities and differences there are between you. After you’ve played this damaging scene through your mind a few times with all your senses simultaneously alert, ask yourself, “Whose values am I using?”

If the values are those of another, relive the experience in your imagination using your own values. If the values are your own, ask yourself, “How can I be different in the future?”

Then practice reliving the experience, as fully as before, having made these changes. Next time you’re in this situation or with this person, you may be surprised and delighted with the difference.

As you go through your day, practice being aware of when you build walls, lose boundaries, or use them successfully. As you develop these skills, you develop choice. That choice will improve your relationships, your MLM business, and your personal life.

Boundaries can be your ultimate resource.

Boundaries create freedom.

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