Setting boundaries for yourself and others is vital and about so much more than saying no. Healthy boundaries let you know where you stand and communicate effectively to others what is and isn’t okay. We’ve all had instances before where it was necessary for us to make an executive decision on something, but how much do we really know about boundary building? Watching others’ actions and picking up pointers here and there just won’t do. It is challenging and may come as something fairly new, but there is no better skill to learn. You need to know and understand your limits, hard or soft, and disallow others from persuading you to do anything that goes against them.
Know your limits and how they’ve come about:
To begin, name your limits. Tune into your feelings and past experiences, then draw on the situations you were in and the emotions that came up as a result. Think about what you believe in or can make peace with rather than what you’d simply tolerate or accept. Those sort of words have negative connotations and don’t suggest you are truly happy, but merely aiming to please or placate.
There are certain universal cues or red flags that suggest you are being too lenient with your boundaries- namely, anger and resentment. You can think of these feelings as a continuum- if too much negativity arises or you feel that you’re crossing into extreme levels, pause and step away. Sometimes the best thing you can do is leave- whether that’s in a literal sense or a mental/metaphorical checking out. You can always return later. In most cases we do not owe anybody else anything. It is safe to put your own wellbeing first. Resentment starts to arise when we feel taken advantage of or like we’re not being seen or heard. Everybody wants to feel validated and like their input matters. Feeling off or uncomfortable is another more subtle sign we’re giving more than we should. As people we are naturally very instinctive. It’s just a matter of tuning in and really listening.
Be direct and speak a mutually understood language:
The next step is to be direct and approach others in a way that’ll make sense to them. Use past experiences to illustrate a point. Shared experiences work especially well. Being an effective communicator is something we all need to master. There is no job or situation that doesn’t call for it- proper communication is heavily tied in with social skills. When addressing a situation or making a point, avoid using attack language. This might look like too many sentences that start with the words “You have” or “You’ve done.” There are always two sides to every story and some matters aren’t about blame at all. Saying “I feel” or “I’ve realised” works much better.
Give yourself permission and don’t self sabotage:
Remember self respect and give yourself permission to be clear and expressive. Others’ responses to us enforcing boundaries should not be feared. Consider yourself and the individual capabilities you have.
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to follow through- simply creating boundaries is only the start. Even people who know us well will sometimes fail to pick up on when they’ve crossed a line. There are no mind readers here, but most people try their best. That’s what counts. Boundary building, ultimately, is a skill like any other and requires working towards. It’s smart to start small and then increase incrementally so you don’t give up prematurely.
Always seek support and keep the lines of communication open. Setting boundaries is incredibly beneficial but does take courage.