Comedian Jerry Seinfeld dedicated an entire episode of his television show reviling "close talkers." Close talkers are those friends, acquaintances or possibly the person you just met at a cocktail party who, while engaging you in conversation, stands too close, leans in a bit too far and speaks directly in your face.
It can feel invasive, and most of us will instinctively step back — only to have the close talker step in, yet again. People with this affliction seem to be completely oblivious to the invisible personal "boundaries" that most of us observe with regard to our physical space.
Dealing with close talkers can be challenging — a civilized society aspires to be polite, so most of us will usually accept the behavior and stand there graciously instead of telling the close talker to back off.
Equally invasive, and possibly worse, are those people in our social circles who either intentionally or in complete ignorance breach our emotional boundaries. Family and close friends seem to have the most emotional boundary failures. A mother may not realize her son, now 26, does not need her dropping by his house on a daily basis — unannounced. A friend to whom you have just shown your latest jewelry purchase asks, "How much did that cost?" A child or grandchild who, without invitation, attempts to insert themselves into your personal finances to "help you pay bills" or make sure everything is in order should you "begin to lose it."
The first rule of having healthy boundaries, whether physical or emotional, is to recognize your own and be aware that others also need their boundaries valued.
Remember that you have the right to be treated respectfully — whether it involves your spouse, sibling, child or grocery store clerk — but also assume that the violator does not realize they are being offensive. The close talker, for instance, may have poor eyesight and feel the need to get close to establish a connection. Your child who asks too many personal questions about your finances may be seriously concerned about your long-term welfare and is interested in helping.
So, while keeping a positive attitude, speak with the offender and state what you need and expect. Let the person know this is about you, not them. "When you ask me how much I spent for my new car it makes me feel defensive, like you will be making judgments about my financial standing or critical of my ability to negotiate a good deal," you may tell that friend who rudely asks what you paid. Then later, when she refrains from asking about something, make sure to let her know you appreciate the fact that she did not ask.
Finally, remember you will most likely get what you give. If you are aware and observant of others' needs and personal boundaries, they are more likely to be responsive and respectful to yours.
Liza Horvath has over 30 years' experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 646-5262.