Quick Boundary Tips | Counseling | Therapy

Quick Boundary Tips

Alex Robboy , CAS, MSW, ACSW, LCSW — Founder & executive director


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Quick Boundary Tips image

Once you have Identified Your Boundaries, you are ready to share them with others and express your feelings about the relationship and your boundaries for how you want others to interact with you. Remember people aren’t mind readers; so unless you communicate your boundaries to others, they won’t know you have them. Most of your friends, families, and partners don’t go around looking to try and break your boundaries; usually, it’s an accident. Once you make people aware of what they said or did that caused you to be upset, they will offer an apology and try to maintain your boundaries in the future. If you don’t convey to others how you want to be treated, you can’t expect their behavior to change. Your job is to set your boundaries and to maintain them. Some people choose to establish their boundaries in the midst’s of a conversation with a friend, family member, or partner.

However, there are times where this just isn’t necessary. If you already feel like you have a good relationship established with some healthy boundaries, you might just need to offer a refresher. In this case, simply stating your feeling in the moment will be more advisable than sitting down and having a drawn out conversation.
When you communicate your personal boundary requests to others, it is highly advised to do so in a firm but calm manner. In order to express your boundary, you can do or say a number of things. Try considering the following strategies for communicating boundaries. These tips are geared to be practical strategies/statements you can practice then use in the moment while expressing your boundaries.

  • Make a request. “Please do not raise your voice to me.”

  • Give instructions. “I need for you to give me a few minutes to think. I’d like to give a thoughtful response, what you are sharing with me is important and I want to have time to really think about what you are saying”

  • Set simple and concrete boundaries. “Please leave now.” Or “I’m leaving. We can continue this later in the week.” Letting someone know when they will see you next, or the conversation will continue can help calm the other person down enough that they can let you walk away and still feel connected to you.
  • Use I statements. “I feel like your tone is hurtful to me.” Or “I’m finding myself reacting to your tone, and I don’t want to be distracted from the actual message that you are trying to convey to me. Can you change your tone? This is a really difficult topic for me, and I can use all the help you are able to offer me. “
  • Be as positive as possible “I need to cancel our plans for Friday, but I want to spend time with you next week. What is your schedule like?”
  • Share your feelings “I am embarrassed that I have to cancel our plans for Friday. I hate it when people cancel on me last minute, and this was something I was really looking forward to doing with you? Is there any chance you are free next week? I don’t want to go too long without seeing you!”
  • Remind the person that setting your boundary is not a personal attack on them. “I need some time and space to deal with personal/work/family problems, this is not a function of you.”

  • Make the future of the relationship a priority. “I’m flattered you invited me to the party, but I have to study that night so I can’t make it. Let’s plan dinner after I’m done finals.”
  • Take responsibility for yourself. “I need you to give me alone time because I want to prevent my anxiety or depression form increasing.”
  • Give sugary sweet feedback and leave out the rationale. “I really enjoy the dinner parties you throw; I always have a great meal and a good time. But I’m sorry I just don’t have the time to help you plan this one.”
  • Acknowledge if you’re being too strict. “Maybe I need a shift in perspective here but I felt attacked by your criticism.”
  • Remember boundaries are a two way street. “I would like you not to discuss my relationship with my husband when we are socializing with others. I understand if there are any topics you feel are difficult to talk about too. Please let me know in advance so I can meet your expectations.”
  • Stick to an already established boundary. “Remember, I asked you not to call about work related issues after 9pm. I’ll address this during business hours tomorrow.”
  • Repeat to yourself the value of your boundary. “I need this time alone to get done work and have less stress. I will be a better friend/partner/family member if I do this for myself.”
  • Give yourself permission to have boundaries. “I have the right to say no! I let others say no to me. I don’t have to be over giving to have good relationships.”

With the provided guidelines, and the work you have done to develop your identity and boundaries, you are now ready to share your boundaries with others. Remember, good boundaries won’t provide any help or protection if you friends, family members, and partners don’t know about them. Here are a last few pointers to keep in mind when sharing boundaries with others. Tell yourself that you have a right to establish these boundaries for your own wellbeing. Know that as you start setting stronger boundaries, others will probably do the same with you. Be open to their boundaries and try your best to abide by those of others. Be flexible and open to hearing feedback about your boundaries. Know that how someone chooses to react to your boundary is not your responsibility, although you must be willing to accept consequences related to setting stricter boundaries, such as a friend not asking for your help anymore. Learn to say no to people that continually infringe on your time with requests for help or favors. Share your boundaries in all your important relationships. Continue to evaluate any emotional needs that change, and update your boundaries accordingly; sometimes you will need stricter boundaries and at other times you may be more flexible. Keeping people informed is key. Lastly, trust yourself to know that you have the right to establish and maintain good boundaries to suit your needs as long as you do your best to set them appropriately.

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