Think of your relationships with the people in your life (at work, at home, even at the grocery store) as continuous lines of connection. Like a tether between you and them. A relationship tether. Negotiating relationships with those around you is about figuring out how close or how far you want to be to them on that tether connection. How close are you going to let them come to you? How close to them do you need and want to be?
Humans want to be safe. That is our innate need. It's baseline survival.
Each of us has determined by our past experiences what feels safe. And we are continually monitoring our current situation/environment/relationships to make sure that they feel safe to us. Growth requires us to break out of our comfort zones to expand our view of safety. We determine which direction to grow and how and when we feel safe enough to step out of our safe zone.
People are continuously stepping in and out of their comfort zones and continuously negotiating with their inner selves if they are safe. We are continuously drawing lines in the sand to mark our safe zones depending on each new situation, each new person we meet and each new environment we come into. We need to become more aware of this process of assessing safety and drawing lines in the sand.
If a boss comes up to you and yells at you in front of your coworkerss, you probably wouldn't feel safe. This is because they stepped over your line in the sand that stands to separate the two of you. Now you feel attacked. Invaded. First thing's first at this point, you need to repare yourself and redraw your boundary. Then you have the obligation to your self to let your boss know he overstepped his bounds and that you would like to draw his attention to that boundary. You need to push back on that tether to move him back to where you are safe again.
But let's say he doesn't "get it." Let's say he continues to cross the line and invade your side of the tether. What do you do then? Well, you can cut the tie or you can move your own self back on the tether. Create space or distance and erect a stronger boundary so you are further away and more secure from his attacks/advances.
We are continually negotiating the boundaries on our tether line between us and those around us. Being able to be aware of our own boundaries in the many different situations, with many different people, in different environments is challenging at best. But being aware that this process is going on, not only for you but also for them, and then being able to navigate the conversations that are required participate in this process is half the battle already won. Perfecting this is an art form and will take more than our lifetime...