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3 Things We Can Learn About Relationships From Professional Photographers

3 Things We Can Learn About Relationships From Professional Photographers

Like many professions, the things that can be learned or taught in a classroom are often not the most valuable skills a photographer will need to build the kind of career one needs to be able to support yourself on the proceeds from your art alone. Photographers frequently need to be dog whisperers, child psychology experts and a host of different kinds of therapists and counselors.

It’s easy to understand how this is true shooting family portraits; dogs just don’t understand the need to pee before you spend 20 minutes getting the two adults, two pre-teens, a toddler and an infant all perfectly posed; and that toddler – who loves posing momentarily for a random Facebook pic for mom – has no idea why she is being asked to sit still and smile again and again and again for a total stranger.  But what about the Bride on her wedding day who, when given some time to think about it while you are shooting her pre-wedding photos, suddenly decides that perhaps her soon-to-be groom sitting in a room just a few doors down is not actually “The One”? Or the High School Senior that suddenly blurts out that she’s 3 months pregnant in the middle of her senior photo shoot?

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Like hairstylists, photographers seem to have an interesting way of being made instant de-facto therapists by their clients. Perhaps it’s that photographers, like hairstylists, give people the one thing that deep down we might all want more than anything: to be seen. Not just glossed past visually, but really, truly seen as we are, and for who we are. With hairstylists, it might have something to do with actual physical space – it’s hard to imagine that anyone that close to us physically could not genuinely see us for who we are – and so we open up to them in ways we might not do with even our closest friends and family members.

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With photographers, the reasons may be somewhat different but the effect seems much the same. While a photographer might not invade a person’s physical space the way a hairstylist does, they do in fact quite literally shine a light and point a lens at people in such a way as to leave little doubt that they are genuinely seeing everything. But I think what really makes us open up to total strangers like photographers and hairstylists, is that unlike our friends and loved ones, we don’t feel judged by them. We feel evaluated by them, but somehow we know that when they evaluate it’s always for the purposes of helping us be better – which we know (or at least believe) they have the expertise to do. We almost never question our hairstylist’s desire to help us be beautiful or our photographer’s desire to look our very best in our photos.

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And maybe there are some life lesson in there for the rest of us. If people practically bend over backwards to open up to those they feel genuinely seen by and even more importantly accepted by, might that give us some key information that helps us in our own relationships? Here are a few things I think we can learn from photographers that might help us interact better from our fellow man:

1. Don’t make a suggestion…

…unless you genuinely have the skills necessary to help make an honest improvement.

2. Make sure the person you want to correct knows that they are genuinely seen and accepted

Before you try to help someone, let them know that what they’re already doing is good–and that you are trying to help them, not change them.

3. When you’re angry at someone or just not “feeling the love” – try and look at them the way a photographer would.

Try to create the very best possible light for them to stand in, and the best background for them to be shown against in a way that showcases and highlights their best features. Chances are good that when you choose to look at them that way, they will start to look better to you in a way that helps you “feel the love” once again.

Featured photo credit: epSos .de via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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