Fowl Play: An Exploration of Boundaries

When my husband and I bought our house, it came with typical yard stuff: grass, flowers, trees, zillions of weeds, basketball hoop. And it came with not-so-typical yard stuff: hot tub, raised garden beds, heated shed (previously used for growing marijuana), creepy gnomes in random places… and chickens.

Or so we thought.

Our first day there, we discovered an empty coop! And a wide open back gate! Someone STOLE OUR CHICKENS! (Who does that!?)

As the weeks went by, we became acquainted with some neighbors. One lady — we’ll call her Chicken Lady — talked incessantly about the chickens: They were mean. They weren’t good for kids. You should get chicks. Your girls would love chicks. I’ll get you chicks. You get the equipment and I’ll get the chicks. Do you have a heat lamp yet? Because I have some chicks. New chickens. Better chickens. Nicer chickens. I figured chicks were better for you so I TOOK YOUR HENS and GAVE THEM TO A FARM



In all fairness to her, she was trying to be nice, to do a good deed, to welcome us to the neighborhood. She so earnestly wanted us to have good chickens.

Yet — and this may come as a shock — my husband and I weren’t so receptive to her methods. We don’t think trespassing is nice. We don’t think stealing is a good deed. We don’t think forcefully taking charge of our poultry decisions is all that welcoming.

The more she tried to “help,” the less Permission she had.

When it comes to nonverbal communication, I define Permission as how receptive someone is to you and your message. When we accommodate a person’s communication style, permission increases. When we respect people’s boundaries (literal fences and gates are a good example, ahem), they gradually stretch those boundaries for us. We disclose our boundaries to others nonverbally. As people demonstrate that they understand and respect us, we feel safe, we open up, we invite people in — we give Permission.

But step on toes, ignore the “rules,” overstep boundaries … and receptivity instantly and dramatically drops.

For the record, our daughters loved the new chickies. They would often run outside first thing in the morning in pjs and bare feet to lovingly terrorize the poor birds. We never really warmed up to Chicken Lady, though. She continually overstepped her bounds by offering unsolicited advice and opinions, though she never did take anything else off our property.

That we know of…

I’m Rachel Beohm, a writer, speaker, and coach. Through nonverbal communication, I empower clients to show up as their biggest, boldest selves.