How to set boundaries with therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab (Transcript)

ReThinking with Adam
How to set boundaries with therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab
August 22, 2023

[00:00:00] Adam Grant:
Hey everyone, it's Adam Grant. Welcome back to ReThinking, my podcast on the science of what makes us tick. I'm an organizational psychologist and I'm taking you inside the minds of fascinating people to explore new thoughts and new ways of thinking.

My guest today is Nedra Glover Tawwab. Nedra is a therapist and the New York Times bestselling author of the books Drama Free and Set Boundaries: Find Peace. She hosts the podcast You Need to Hear This. Nedra is a powerful voice on boundaries and self-care and one of my favorite thought leaders on mental health and relationships.

Hey, Nedra.

[00:00:45] Nedra Glover Tawwab:

[00:00:45] Adam Grant:
So excited to finally meet you. I have loved your content for as long as I've known about you, and I'm so excited to have a chance to learn from you today.

[00:00:56] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Wonderful. Well, I can't wait to get into it.

[00:00:59] Adam Grant:
I would love to hear a little bit about your origin story. How did you become a therapist?

[00:01:02] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Mm. Well, I didn't know it at the time, but apparently, I was becoming a therapist while listening to people talk a lot when I was a kid. You know, I would listen to my parents, my peers. I am the youngest grandchild of like 10 plus grandkids, so a lot of listening. When I started grad school, I had an internship working one-on-one with someone, and being a student therapist, that very first session, it was like, “This is the work I'm supposed to be doing.” I'm seeing light bulbs go off, and it's just from, you know, me asking more probing questions and being a listener. I can't believe that I'm paid to do this. It feels like such a easy transition for me to step into because I've always been doing it.

[00:01:54] Adam Grant:
I don't think there's a week that goes by without me sharing your posts with somebody who desperately needs your message. And I think probably the most frequent topic that I end up sharing on is boundaries, which I know is something you've been writing and talking a lot about. How did you get interested in boundaries? Are you somebody who struggles with them personally?

[00:02:14] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
I struggle with them, and I've seen many people struggle with boundary issues and talking about other people as these really big problem sources in their lives and how work is a problem and how social media is this, you know, demonic thing. And I think about, oh my gosh, you know who is involved in all of these things? It's us. We are the creator of how to use social media. We are the creator of how to show up in our relationships.

[00:02:44] Adam Grant:
Tell me about some of your favorite strategies for setting boundaries, and maybe to make this a little personal, what's a boundary that you've struggled with and how have you learned to navigate it?

[00:02:53] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Hmm. One that I always struggle with is when you're in relationships with people you really care about, say your partner or a close friend or you know, significant family members, it can be really challenging to say hard things, and we think sometimes the way that we say it, it should be immediately received.

When in actuality, we sometimes have to repeat ourselves. We sometimes have to adjust those boundaries depending on what's happening with the other person. And that can be very challenging. And so my biggest challenge is like, “I’ve said it. Now, go do it.” Right? And that's not real. You know, one of the things I've been thinking most about recently is how can I place boundaries for myself and not other people?

Because boundaries really are about what I am going to do, what I can do in the future. It's not always about “this person needs to…” because when we put it on the other person, it is really challenging to get people who wanna do their own thing to listen. I have two small kids and one of the things that I'm working through is the bedtime that they have is actually for me.

It's like so I can have more time in the evening. So the later I allow them to stay up, the more frustrated I become in my parenting and what I could just do is, you know, maybe send them to bed 30 minutes or an hour earlier so they're able to get the appropriate rest. You know, we've discovered if they go to bed later, it's a punishment to us because they're still up at the same time.

So it's like, why did we do that? What was the benefit? There is no benefit. It's like put them to bed. That's a wonderful boundary to have with your kids so you can have that, you know, that time to watch your rated-R movies and inappropriate kid-free movies and just these things that I want to do in the evening and I'm like, I don't wanna sneak to do them anymore. I want to eat candy too. And now I can eat more if you're not watching me.

[00:05:08] Adam Grant:
We love them. We wanna say yes to them. And it's really hard to stick with that boundary. So how do you, how do you motivate yourself to stay with it? I guess the first question, and then I also want to talk about how do you communicate and enforce that boundary. Especially when kids don't like to necessarily listen to it.

[00:05:26] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
I think about the last time that I was flexible with the boundary and how it turned out. I don't see this going in a new way. I see you staying up to 11, 11:30, still coming into my room at 2:00 AM and then you being up at 7:00 AM. So if I go ahead and commit to the boundary, I'll at least get a few more hours of rest and downtime.

I think about it that way. I think in my house with summer, you know, you get a little more flexible with your schedule when in actuality it's almost back to school time. So now we're going back to back-to-school hours.

[00:06:06] Adam Grant:
It's interesting that you say this because one of the things that I struggle with is I feel like letting our kids stay up, it's gonna be not only beneficial to them, but it's also fun for us.

Like, we like spending more time with our kids. And then I remember how miserable they are when they don't get enough rest, and the havoc that wreaks on the whole house. I need to think about the costs of breaking the boundary, not just the benefits of, of breaking it.

[00:06:32] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Yeah. Sometimes we do really get caught up in the benefit of, “Oh my gosh, I'm going to spend extra time with this person.” Or, “Oh, they'll be really pleased,”and we're not thinking about our schedules. What would be really good for us? We live in a culture where we are unfortunately taught that we should not think about ourselves. So like, just be uncomfortable and don't say this to a person. Just be uncomfortable and allow this person to do this thing.

There is so much guilt tripping around setting a boundary. It's like it's the worst thing ever. I've had instances where people have been maybe mean to me, and then you say something back like “That’s not nice.” “How dare you talk to me like that?” It's like, you just cursed at me in the email. I said, “That's not nice.”

Not equal. Not equal. Like so you know, there's this idea that we should be able to do things without consequence. And as you stated, ultimately, if you don't get enough sleep, most of us will be cranky.

[00:07:39] Adam Grant:
You just pointed out something that's, I guess it's bothered me for a long time, but I never had vocabulary for it. The idea that somebody else can cross a boundary and then get mad at you for just gently pointing out that they crossed a boundary.

[00:07:50] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Yes, yes. We forget that as we are advocating for ourselves, that other people can have a reaction to that as well. We can't determine how people respond, so sometimes people saying something to another person, it's like, oh my gosh, that was rude.

It's like, because they said something? Because they said no to you? I’m sure as a author you get a ton of requests for, “Hey, I'm writing this book. Can you read it? Hey, can you blurb this thing? Hey, I have this new thing.” And over time, I think your response to that gets a bit more firm. I find myself now that I am in this space of being a social media presence, advocating for people I assume to be very burnt out. Like actors, and “Oh my gosh, I met so-and-so and they were so mean.”

I'm like, “Do you know how many times they probably had someone come up to them at dinner? Is that a consideration?” I understand that this is your favorite person in the world, but what they said to you was, “Hey, I'm eating. Can you wait?” Like that's not, that’s not the worst thing to be told. You know, they really just wanted to finish their pasta.

I think it's fair to be able to eat while your food is hot. So if we could just be a little more considerate when someone is saying no, maybe they really can't do it. Maybe they really need to say no so they can have more time for themselves. Maybe this rule is in place because it's needed.

[00:09:33] Adam Grant:
I love the way you put that. We've all had the experience of either getting a little bit more senior in our careers or having a wider community of friends and colleagues and just having more and more requests fall on our plate. One of the things I guess I've had to learn to do is, is to set up personal rules. And I, I had to do that in part because I wanted to help whenever somebody would ask for anything.

And at some point there were just more requests than I could possibly say yes to. And so as a way of protecting me against myself, I, I felt like instead of saying, “Nope, I won't do that. Nope, I won't do this,” I would have to have rules—“I don't do that.” And that way I could, I could systematically have a consistent boundary as opposed to making all these one-off decisions. Felt sort of arbitrary.

So you mentioned book blurbs. Whenever somebody reaches out now, I let them know that based on the number of requests I get, I'm only able to get to about 5% of them, and I have to have at least two months’ notice so that I have time to read the book, cover to cover, and I'm gonna prioritize books by new authors that are in the realm of social science or psychology, where I actually think I might be able to help them spread their ideas.

And I felt so bad communicating that at first, and now I feel bad if I don't communicate it because I feel like I'm letting my family down. I feel like I'm letting myself down. And I also feel like I'm not being fair. Because I'm not sending a consistent message to everyone. Where do you stand on the idea of having a personal policy like that?

[00:11:03] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Personal policies are so self-honoring and good for your mental health. I think of it as a uniform for your well-being. It's just easier that way to just wake up, get your black pants, your white shirt, and there are so many areas in life, whether it's book blurbs or when you will help a friend move, the hours in which you're available for social activities, we need uniforms or rules or policies and procedures for so many different things just because it's helpful.

When we talk about a lot of these boundaries that we, we set around things, it’s really a self-protection of mental space and capacity, and that's what we forget sometimes. Like if you were to say yes to every single blurb, you wouldn't be able to do the other really important jobs that you have, like the things that actually pay you, right? Like you would have no time for that. And I don't know about you, but for me, when I say yes to something and it's coming due, and I realized like, “Gosh, why did I say yes to this?” It is the worst feeling ever. But it's also a very teachable moment because in that I am learning the things that I don't like to do, I am learning new ideas for criteria I may need to have in the future.

[00:12:33] Adam Grant:
I used to think that emotions had direct effects on behavior. So you know, you get angry and that leads you to protect yourself or attack someone else. You feel guilty and that leads you to try to right your wrong or repair a relationship. But I think psychologists have increasingly found that emotions have a greater influence on behavior, not by changing what we do in the moment, but by becoming teachable moments.

And just as you're saying, you regret not setting a boundary and then that becomes a lesson in how to make wiser decisions moving forward. And so I wonder if one of the big messages of your work is to say, when you have a strong, unpleasant emotional experience related to boundaries, think about, “What can I learn from that to reshape my policies moving forward?”

[00:13:23] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Yeah. Often people will say, how do I know I need a boundary? Well, how do you feel? When you do certain things, how do you feel? Because the feelings tell you when and where you need more boundaries. Like you don't have to do a boundaries inventory and go through all these areas of your life. Just think about the things you're currently doing. Which things are unpleasant? Which things cause you to feel anxious? Which things make you sad or frustrated? These are the areas where you wanna focus. Like what boundaries could make me feel a bit more relaxed, more free, more easeful?

Because sometimes we think it's like, if I keep doing the same thing, at some point, I should feel better about this. We don't want to make the, the change of boundaries. We want this magical thing to happen when you feel better, where more time becomes available to you, where you can allow your kids to do some of these things without the consequences, and that's not necessarily realistic. What's more real is you have to come up with some boundaries and actually stick to them, and that is the thing that will make you feel better. Not this magical thing that will never occur.

[00:14:39] Adam Grant:
I'm curious about how you think about navigating boundaries in relationships where they conflict. So I think about, for example, coworkers in different time zones where one person is a morning person says, “I don't take calls in the evenings,” and the other person is a night owl, says, “I don't take calls in the morning,” and there's literally no time where they overlap. Or you know, in a marriage where one person's boundary is never go to bed angry and the other's boundary is never, never try to resolve a conflict when you're still angry. What, what do you do when respecting each other's boundaries means you just are not gonna communicate?

I think like a lot of people say compromise. Figure out who the boundary is more important to, and defer to that person. Not always easy. And I sometimes feel like compromise is the art of making sure that both people are a little bit miserable.

[00:15:31] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Ooh, I like that. You know, that one is really tough, and those are such extreme examples, but here's what I think. How do we hold our own boundaries without imposing them on other people? My boundary is that I won't go to bed angry. I can't make you not go to bed angry. Right? So how do I hold my boundary for myself?

I will not talk to people in the morning. You can call all these other people. Hey, you can even call me. I won't answer. So, I think that's more about being responsible for your own boundary and not feeling like other people have to adhere to that same protocol for their life.

In the, in the area of work, I would wonder that's, you know, it might be important to compromise. What are some other ways to communicate with a person who doesn't wanna speak in the evening or, you know, that sort of thing? I think we have voice notes. We have emails. There are so many systems that we now have in place that could rectify that. But in terms of that old rule of “don't go to bed angry,” I think that can be your personal rule without it being the relationship rule.

[00:16:56] Adam Grant:
I guess the next challenge that a lot of people run into is communicating boundaries when they're not in a position of power. “I try not to work on nights and weekends; I have a personal policy of unplugging” is a common example, but my boss loves to give me assignments at 10:00 PM and on Saturdays and Sundays. It's really hard to assert a boundary when somebody else is in charge of you. What do you do then? Or how do you think about at least having that conversation?

[00:17:24] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Upfront boundaries at work are the best boundaries, and sometimes we are not very clear in the beginning of what our boundaries are. When you go on vacation, it is best to talk about, you know, how you want to be vacated from work, upfront. That, you know, whatever comes up, I am unreachable. So even if you try to reach me, I don't see it. Like, 'cause I am not available.

One of the most freeing things that I've done is take my work email off my phone. I'm able to work when I'm in front of my computer. If I'm being honest, I'm not sending anything well from my cell phone. I always say to people, “If I send you an email, you don't have to respond until your time to work.” So what could be really helpful for people who are bosses, who are leaders, who are in management positions is to allow people to have some boundaries and to not impose a constant work schedule on people.

Because what we know is having that time off creates better workers. People can focus more. They're more into it. So you don't want to take someone's vacation away. You don't want to disturb their family time or their time playing volleyball with their friends. You want them to do those things. So you have to be vocal in saying, “Hey, you know, I don't mind working on weekends, but you know, if you don't want to respond to an email, you don't have to.”

So there's a lot of communication needed to create a workspace where that is the case. And if you have people who are forceful about it, no matter what your position is, I think you have to speak up about that.

[00:19:15] Adam Grant:
It's well established that psychological well-being is important for job performance, and my colleague Nancy Rothbard has found that when people disconnect fully from work, they have higher well-being. It's up to people in power to not only, you know, encourage those boundaries, but even enforce them. Right? Require them.

[00:19:35] Nedra Glover Tawwab:

[00:19:35] Adam Grant:
You’re also spot on that being proactive about communicating your own boundaries is much easier and more helpful than trying to do it reactively. I can imagine even having a conversation with a boss about, you know, “This is the boundary I would love to set. I understand that there might be an emergency that could require my attention. Can we talk about what kinds of emergencies might come up? Can I figure out who might be able to cover for me in that time? And then, you know, if there's anything that truly would need me, you know, let's establish a protocol for how to reach me.”

[00:20:05] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
And I will give a further recommendation there. When you are away on vacation, please take the first day or two to adjust to being back to work. So change that date on those emails because what you will see is a flood of emails on the date that you said you'll be back, and you're already catching up on all the emails you missed while you were out. So please take some extra time just to check emails, reacclimate to being at work before you move into, okay, let me get back into all of these projects.

[00:20:42] Adam Grant:
A friend of mine wrote what I think is one of the best out-of-office messages ever. He says, “I'm currently outta the office on vacation. I know I'm supposed to say that I'll have limited access to email and won't be able to respond until I return. But that's not true. Like, I'll have a phone with me. I can respond if I need to. That said, I promised my wife that I'm gonna disconnect, get away and enjoy our vacation as much as possible. So, I'm gonna experiment with something new. I'm gonna leave the decision in your hands. If this is truly urgent and you need a response, please resend it to interrupt your vacation at my and I'll respond promptly if you think someone else might be able to help you email the following person who will point you in the right direction and otherwise I will respond when I return.” What do you make of that?

[00:21:28] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
I love it. You sent a newsletter a while ago about email etiquette. I shared it with so many people because—

[00:21:39] Adam Grant:
Thank you.

[00:21:39] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
I sometimes say like, “Oh my gosh, I wish I could be a full-fledged adult in 1992 before all of this technology. I will go back to the baggie jeans and everything. Please take me there.” Because in our current society, we have so many ways to contact people. It's messages on social media. It's email. It's you know, your personal phone, your work phone, all of the things, and we expect an immediate response.

There is not a lot of grace given to people having a life outside of their inbox or having a world outside of work. And so when people send these emails that are non-emergent, there's this expectation. “I emailed you 10 minutes ago, please email me back.” I'll get people that'll email me, and then they send me a direct message and say, “I emailed you.” I'm like, “Oh, okay.” So I'm like, “What?”

[00:22:47] Adam Grant:
Back off.

[00:22:48] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Now, could it be a nice courtesy to, you know, send a reply message and say, “Hey, I got your email. I'll respond as soon as I can”? Sometimes. But there are other times where that's not, you know, necessary. I think about… We don't do this with other things.

You know, like I get emails from Netflix, and I get emails from my cable company. I'm not like, “Thank you for this email you sent me today.” But we have this expectation that people will be like, you know, say something, say something as soon as you send it or say something back to me. And it's like sometimes an, an, a no response is a response. Like that is the reply. There wasn't one.

[00:23:32] Adam Grant:
Going back to the, the power topic for a second. One of the things I've noticed is that sometimes when you feel like you don't have the authority to assert a boundary, uh, you can sidestep a little bit by asking the person in power about their boundaries. When do you unplug? Uh, when are you unreachable? What kinds of requests are you unwilling to field? And then almost like this strong matcher instinct of wanting to reciprocate kicks in. And they'll say, “Well, huh. Like, what are your boundaries?” And that opens the door. Do you consider that a little bit passive-aggressive or sneaky, or do you think that's a reasonable way to start the conversation?

[00:24:10] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
I think it's a way to start the conversation. I think it can be helpful to know a person's boundaries and if you like some of those to maybe apply some of them to your life or to say, “Oh no, that sounds like maybe something I don't want to do.” Boundaries is really based on our personalities. Sometimes people will ask me, what boundaries should I have with work?

And it's like, well, it's really based on what you want to do. There are no, like, “These are the definite boundaries”. I know folks who take vacation just to work because they find it to be very peaceful and quiet, and they're uninterrupted. So to say, “You should never work on vacation,” that’s not a great boundary for everyone.

[00:24:55] Adam Grant:
On the flip side of this, there's also the question of sort of people's fear of unintentionally trampling on someone else's boundaries. There's a lot of research that people are reluctant to ask for help because they don't want to damage a relationship or hurt their reputation or their image in the eyes of the person that they're seeking help from.

This drives me crazy on two levels. One is that it creates an adverse selection problem where only then the shameless, presumptuous people are the ones asking, and those are the people I least want to help. The more you hesitate to ask, the more excited I am to hear from you.

But secondly, this really bothers me on the level of “don't manage my boundaries for me” is my reaction. I think in a relationship other people should be free to ask and you should be free to say no, and if you don't gimme the chance to consider your request, then I, I think that it's almost disrespectful because you're dictating what my boundaries should be before I've even had a chance to weigh in on it.

How do you think about this dynamic of wanting to respect other people's boundaries, but maybe not being presumptuous in assuming that you know what they are?

[00:26:07] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
There is a huge fear among us of being told no. It feels like the worst rejection ever, and for many of us, we won't ask. We will suffer in silence because the fear is greater than the reward.

I think a huge part of that is therapy, like figuring out why hearing no is so hard for us. Maybe there was something in your past, maybe there was a person who, you know, would never help you with stuff or, I don't know what your story is, but there's a story there that you are constantly relating to around being told no. We can say no. They can say no, and we have to get better at that direct communication and relationships because if people can't tell us no, what we're actually creating is an environment where people cannot be honest with us.

[00:27:09] Adam Grant:
I, I really am struck by how pervasive the fear of rejection is. I used to worry all the time about letting people down. Now that I've gotten in the habit of saying no, I want to tell anyone who gets a no that like, this doesn't mean I don't care about you. This doesn't mean I don't want to help you. It means. I just have too many requests. A colleague of mine, Ryan, kept getting Zoom bombed by his kids. He has five kids, and he would set a boundary and say, “I'm on a work call. Please don't come in unless it's an emergency.” And then inevitably one of them would wander in and finally he, he said to them, “Okay, you know what? You can come in whenever you want, but if you come in during the call, you have to stay for the whole meeting.” And the first offender was his seven-year-old daughter. She goes in, she sits through the meeting, she comes out and she warns her four siblings: “Don’t go in there. It's really boring.”

[00:28:02] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
It's good for us to process being told no earlier because the shock of it in adulthood, I, I don't think it would be as harsh. It's like some of us are just not used to not getting our way in certain relationships, and I think that's because people have been very kind to us when they probably should have said no.

[00:28:35] Adam Grant:
Let us go to a lightning round. Okay. First question, from one native Detroiter to another, what is your favorite thing about Detroit?

[00:28:44] Nedra Glover Tawwab:

[00:28:44] Adam Grant:
I was gonna say the sleeping bear sand dunes, but I'll take it. What is a book you think we should all read?

[00:28:55] Nedra Glover Tawwab:

[00:28:57] Adam Grant:
Worst advice you've ever gotten?

[00:29:00] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
There's so much advice in the world, and I can think of nothing. I probably don't listen to people. This is the problem, like I don't listen to any advice.

[00:29:13] Adam Grant:
I like that answer. I think we can go with it. That's actually you practicing your own advice about boundaries, like you're not assuming that somebody else knows what's best for you.

[00:29:22] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
I'm a skeptic about advice. I think. I'm like… Don’t go to bed angry. Like why not? Like what'll happen if you go to bed angry.

[00:29:30] Adam Grant:
I, I love this. A therapist who's skeptical about advice.

[00:29:34] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Yeah, generalized advice, because I think advice should be tailored to the person. So when you ask that question, I'm thinking about things like “everything happens for a reason”, like that sort of thing where I'm like, “Ah, that's not true.”

[00:29:51] Adam Grant:
What is an opinion you've recently rethought?

[00:29:55] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
That people should know how you feel about everything. Sometimes we over-communicate what we think and feel to the detriment of our relationships. There's a lot of internal processing that we need to do. Sometimes we need to journal, we need to talk to some friends, talk to a therapist before sharing everything that we think, because our perspective is not always the right perspective.

But when we are in our heads, we like, “I must tell them this thing about them, or I must tell them why, what they did to bother me.” But you know, what I've learned is sometimes we're just bothered because we're moody. You know, we just might be in the middle of a mood shift. It's not a, a thing that would always bother you. So sometimes pausing before letting a person know something can be really beneficial for your relationships.

[00:30:50] Adam Grant:
That really resonates. I've often thought about emotions a little bit like art. No artist frames their first draft and oftentimes the emotion I feel in a moment is like it's a rough draft and I haven't revised it yet.

So maybe I want to think about whether it aligns with my values, uh, and whether it means something important before I communicate it to somebody else.

[00:31:13] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Yeah. When you mentioned don't go to bed angry, I think about, I think there are some things we need to sleep on. You know, we need to sleep on some thoughts and some feelings before we share them with other people. Even the anger sometimes, because maybe after we get a, you know, a night of rest, we'll find that, you know, maybe I was really angry about this thing, but there were so many other things that happened in that day that made me feel angry. You know, like so, sometimes we need to consider why we are feeling a certain way and not just “This is how I feel, and they should know it”. Well, there are so many things that go into creating these emotional responses that we should just not let out immediately with other people.

[00:31:55] Adam Grant:
On that note, you have such a calming presence. It's not hard to see why you were drawn to becoming a therapist because you've clearly had this effect on people for a long time. I also know it's not all something you're born with. And this is a skill you've worked on in your training. What, what's your favorite tip for maintaining calm?

[00:32:17] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Hmm. Quiet? I think stepping away and finding, you know, some quiet weather outside, you know, I wake up super early because I wanna sit outside and I wanna hear the birds. There's a rooster; someone has a rooster. That's a new thing. But just sitting quietly with our thoughts, with our feelings. Not necessarily meditating. I don't think everyone needs to meditate, but I think just being quiet is a way of meditating, just allowing, you know, other noises to capture the environment can be a really wonderful way to center yourself.

[00:32:56] Adam Grant:
You just made the day of this introvert who doesn't do formal meditation. Nedra, what, what’s a question you have for me?

[00:33:05] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
What's your objection to meditation?

[00:33:08] Adam Grant:
I don't necessarily have an objection. I get the experience of meditation through other kinds of activities. I feel like I meditate when I exercise. I experience it when I read. I guess I've just never felt the need to follow a formal meditative practice. And then at some point I got annoyed that meditation evangelists were judging me for not meditating. And then I felt like I had to double down and not meditate.

[00:33:33] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
I believe that you're already meditating and it is the word that makes us think that meditation is one thing, and it's all of the things that you've already stated. It is the exercise, it is the walking nature. It is quiet, it is reading. It's doing a puzzle. It's also sitting and saying, “Hmm.” It’s all of those things.

[00:33:57] Adam Grant:
Well, that, that is a mark of mindfulness right there. So any closing words of wisdom on setting and maintaining boundaries?

[00:34:05] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Let your feelings be the guide. Sometimes we are searching for the tale, like how do I know? What is the thing? What is the thing that causes you to feel discomfort? What is the thing that causes you to feel guilt? What is the thing that causes you to feel frustrated? Those are the spaces and places that you need boundaries and your boundaries will reveal what they need to be.

You don't have to do a lot of work to figure out. “Oh my gosh, there's this big problem. I must figure it out.” It's like, you know the solution. It might be hard to admit, it might be hard to say, but it is the exact thing that you're more than likely already thinking about.

[00:34:51] Adam Grant:
This has been such a restorative conversation, and I think you're gonna, you're gonna help a lot of people set better boundaries. I really love the spillover effects of your work. The people who, who read your books and listen to your advice and follow you on Instagram, it's almost impossible to do that without knowing someone else who can benefit from it too. So, I love the fact that there's a butterfly effect of, of the wisdom you share.

[00:35:15] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Yeah. And hopefully in our relationships by following my content or reading these books, that we don't just feel like we are the only beings that can have boundaries, that it's also for other people. So hopefully it makes us more respectful of boundaries. That's how we get leaders and managers and parents, and, you know, everybody in the world to say, “Oh my gosh, like this person is stating a boundary. Like, maybe I should listen to that too.” The boundaries are not just for us, it's also for other people.

[00:35:49] Adam Grant:
Beautifully said, such a pleasure to have you on ReThinking. Thank you for joining us.

[00:35:54] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
You're welcome. Thank you for having me.

[00:36:00] Adam Grant:
What really hit home for me in this conversation is that we often hesitate to communicate our boundaries because we don't want to disrespect other people. But Nedra makes it clear that setting a boundary is not a display of disrespect. It's an act of self-respect. And if other people don't recognize that, they are not respecting you.

Rethinking is hosted by me, Adam Grant, and produced by TED with Cosmic Standard. Our team includes Colin Helms, Eliza Smith, Jacob Winik, Aja Simpson, Samiah Adams, Michelle Quint, BanBan Cheng, Hannah Kingsley-Ma, Julia Dickerson, and Whitney Pennington Rodgers. This episode was produced and mixed by Cosmic Standard. Our fact checker is Paul Durbin. Original music by Hans Dale Sue and Allison-Leyton Brown.

[00:36:51] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
If you want to be away, the email should say, “I am out of the office. I return on this date. In my absence, contact Adam. He will handle all requests until I return.” That's it.

[00:37:04] Adam Grant:
No, I won't. Nice try.

[00:37:07] Nedra Glover Tawwab:
Well, whoever it is.

[00:37:07] Adam Grant:
I'm not, I'm not fielding that request for you. Nope.