Tips for setting boundaries
Setting boundaries can be a hard task to do. Especially when you have lacked or had loose boundaries with others. Have you ever felt mistreated when someone crossed the line with you? Do you feel at a loss when it comes to telling people “no?” Boundary setting can be one of the most important things you do for yourself and your relationships.
Here are some steps to take to start learning to set boundaries.
1. Know what your needs are.
a. In order to be able to tell someone no or yes, you need to know what your values are, where your priorities stand and what feels good or bad.
b. Also know what is NOT negotiable to you and what you can be flexible about.
i. Sometimes we don’t necessarily know all this until our boundaries are crossed. You will typically feel uncomfortable or uneasy when this happens.
2. Pay attention to your emotions/feelings.
a. What are you feeling and thinking during different situations? When there is discomfort or resentment after an interaction, you may have allowed someone to cross your boundaries. Check in with yourself after the situation and ask yourself: 1. When did this feeling start? 2. What could be some causes of it? 3. What would make you feel better?
i. When there are negative emotions present, it may be a sign that someone is crossing a boundary.
3. It’s okay to ask for what you need. (Repeat saying this over again).
a. You are allowed and have every right to say when something isn’t okay with you. Often times we say to ourselves, “Well, maybe I should be okay with what is going on…” If it doesn’t feel good to you, say something. You have the right!
i. Replace the should with could and see how different and freeing that sounds. Go ahead, do it!
b. When you aren’t getting something that you need, it’s okay to ask for that as well. Just putting up with that behavior will lead you to feeling burnt out and resentful.
i. Asking for what you need doesn’t mean that you will always get exactly that. However, there may be some compromising that needs to be done to come to an agreement that BOTH people are okay with.
4. Be direct/communicate assertively.
a. This applies to not only setting a boundary but also when dealing with a crossed boundary. You cannot assume someone knows what you need or how you feel (unless you have already expressed it to them). When you “skirt” around an issue, the other person may not get it at all. That is why it is so important to be direct.
i. For example, if you were to say, “I kind of don’t like it when you’re late, but it’s okay sometimes.” You are confusing the person. You haven’t really told them how you are feeling. Because you talked to them about the issue, you may feel like they now should know what you need.
Instead, you could say, “I get concerned when I think you’re coming home at a certain time and then you don’t show up for hours later. Can we figure out a way for me to know when you’ll be home so I can alleviate this worry?”
See how different that sounds?
5. Set consequences to the boundaries.
a. Yes, you need to have consequences or the other person could keep crossing them. You need to sit down and think about what you are willing to do if the boundary is crossed. Never, I repeat, NEVER set a consequence you aren’t able to follow through with. If the person crosses the boundary and then you allow it because the consequence you have in place, you don’t want to do, you have just told that person, “it’s okay to cross my boundaries, they don’t really matter anyway.”
i. It’s not enough to just set the boundaries, but be willing to follow through with what happens when they are crossed.
ii. An example of setting a consequence is. “You cannot continue to call me names. If you do so, I will end our conversation.”
6. Have good self care and seek support if you need to.
a. It’s okay to put yourself first and to do things that make you happy. Doing such things will lead to a more positive outlook, more energy and more awareness.
b. If you are struggling with setting boundaries, it’s acceptable to ask a friend to listen, talk to family or seek out counseling. All of which may help you with this process.