There’s an upside and a downside from someone “crossing the line.”
The downside is the damage that can be done. Feelings get hurt, people get offended. Sometimes things can’t be taken back. The line has been crossed, never to be returned to again.
The upside is it initiates a conversation. Out of chaos comes… communication. This doesn’t happen automatically, but the mindset can be embraced. When a line has been crossed someone just has to ask “Now what? Can we talk?”
There’s also the option to notice a line without anyone crossing it. Noting a line is like opening a door. Once opened, we have to make a choice to either keep it open and talk or shut it and shut up.
Powerful statements occur around significant lines. These statements at those locations can invite deeper conversations. There’s always a risk, which is why we need to design with genuine intent in mind.
Purely confrontational with the intent to escalate, door-shutting, disengaging = crossing/noting a line poorly.
Bold, door-opening, inviting = crossing/noting a line well.
Our job is ultimately to communicate what we know. We do our job well when we convert our knowledge into applicable help for others. We can’t help unless we listen first. We can’t help if those we seek to serve aren’t talking.
Line crossing and line noting are two ways to open a door and get people to talk. We have to know the lines, or at least where to find and uncover them. We can engineer communication. We can create reasons for us to listen. Once they’re talking, we can start figuring out where we can add value.