In personal or work relationships we’re interested in developing, we often build fences to separate ourselves from the other person.
We do it to protect ourselves from the need to be vulnerable and therefore hurt, and we rationalize our actions by convincing ourselves either that we didn’t build anything or that at least it’s not a wall.
These fences allow us to peer in from a distance. They grant us the space to judge without needing to be held responsible for our actions. They give us the false sense that, if we stand at certain angles, we can see without being seen.
In our personal lives, fences can lead to us confusing observation with meaningful connection and even friendship. At work, they can make us believe we’re collaborators even when we’re deep in our bubbles. Regardless of where we build them, they can lead to tension, confusion, and pain for those on both sides.
There may be occasions for fences, but we must not confuse them for walls or bridges. And we must not trick ourselves into believing that what we’re observing from the artificial distance we’ve created is as natural as we think it is.