Why you need to set limits

What happens if you don’t set any boundaries in your relationships? You wear yourself out doing everything for everybody. Here are some ways to say “no” to unreasonable requests. Read more.

Why you need to set limits

By Cathy Moore

What happens if you don’t set any boundaries in your relationships? You wear yourself out doing everything for everybody and the next thing you know, you’ve cursed everyone out, grabbed a couple of beers, and slid down the escape chute.

The same thing can happen to your course. If you don’t set any boundaries and try to cover everything for everybody, you end up with a stressed-out course that can’t do anything for anybody.

Just say no

It’s fun to say “no.” Try it!

  • “I’m sorry, but we can’t teach novices and experts simultaneously. We need to pick one or the other.”
  • “Let’s focus on people who need to do X in situation Y. If we try to reach ‘everyone who’s interested in X,’ we’ll just create an information dump.”
  • “Since widget sniffers and widget snarfers have very different jobs, we should create a separate module for each role.”

No one wants a lukewarm experience

An entrepreneur was convinced he had a great idea. “Some people like hot tea, and other people like cold tea,” he said. “Let’s sell lukewarm tea and dominate both markets!”

Is your course lukewarm?

Image © iStockPhoto: BijoyVerghese

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6 comments on “Why you need to set limits

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  1. Lori Atikinson, thanks for your question. The importance of clearly defining an audience has been established through lots of research in marketing and persuasive communication.

    For example, this Google Scholar search brings up several studies that show that writers who think of a specific person or clearly defined audience are more persuasive. Some terms to search for include “audience adaptation” and “market segmentation.”

    Also, I define elearning as instruction that’s intended to change behavior, not just to transfer information. If we want to change behavior, we need to first identify the behaviors that need to change. That step alone helps narrow the audience, because, for example, newbies and experts probably make different mistakes.

    Ideally, you’d be able to evaluate your elearning to see if it led to improved performance. Then you could point out that the information dump that your client required had no effect, which might give you the chance to create a more focused and activity-rich intervention next time.

  2. Exactly! People know they can’t do it in a classroom so why do they think it wil work in an e-learning module. Is it a lack of real understanding that e-learning should still focus on the LEARNING not the E?

  3. Cathy,
    Do you know of any “hard” evidence -are there any recent articles or studies that can support the “just say no”. I have attempted to say no many times with mixed success.

  4. Your email was perfectly timed. Your wisdom is, as usual, practical and focused on “content as king.” Thank you!

  5. Well said Cathy.

    Often we as training providers, who mostly sit within a cost centre structure, are overly eager to prove our value to our stakeholders or organisation, by meeting any request that is made.

    The irony is that when we do this, we are often shooting ourselves in the foot and setting ourselves up to fail, particularly when our stakeholders/clients don’t know what it is that they need, to begin with. This is not due to our clients being stupid, but rather it’s because we’re the L&D professionals and it’s our task to help identify skills gaps and provide solutions.

    The best part is if you use a consulting model or framework, you’ll know that you don’t necessarily need to say the word no. Instead you can provide a variety of options and distinctly communicate the benefits and disadvantages to each option whilst influencing, or guiding, the client to the best solution.

    This can be a work in progress, but give it a go, after all, practice means improvement!