Boundaries are essential for healthy relationships, but rarely are we taught how to set them. Let’s explore how to set the boundaries you need and build healthier relationships in your life!
First and foremost, I want you to give yourself permission right here and now: you can set the boundaries you need whenever you need to.
Many of us never received this message early in our lives. In fact, we may have had a lot of experiences that taught us otherwise: that it’s not okay to ask for the boundaries we need, or that people won’t respect them even when we ask. It’s really important to remind yourself that it is absolutely okay and accessible to you to set the boundaries you need whenever you need them. It is truly the kindest thing you can do for yourself and others!
Now let’s walk through the 3 simple steps to set the boundaries you need:
Recognize when you need a boundary. Resentment is going to be the tell-tale sign that you need a boundary! I encourage you to get familiar with the feeling of resentment. What thought patterns happen for you when you feel resentment? What body sensations? What knee-jerk behaviors do you tend to do? The better you acquaint yourself with the feeling of resentment and recognize it as it’s happening, the faster you can catch the opportunities to set the boundaries you need.
Focus on the behavior you want, rather than the behavior you don’t want. When we recognize that a boundary has been crossed, the most automatic reaction is to point out the behavior we didn’t like. Yet oftentimes, people feel attacked when we do this! Plus, they don’t have any sense of the behavior we actually want to see instead. Clearly, this is not an effective way to get someone on your team around the boundary you need. The solution? Focus on the behavior that would be most meaningful to you—and be sure to include why that behavior would be meaningful to you. What deeper values would it support for you? What would it give you to have this boundary honored? The "why” behind your boundary is what’s really going to connect with the other person and help them partner with you to honor what you’re asking for.
Remove blame. This is much easier said than done, but such a worthwhile step! It’s really common when we set a boundary to have some level of blame for the person we need to set the boundary with. This is totally human, but it’s very problematic if we don’t catch it, because blame on the receiving end feels like an attack and is likely to stimulate defensiveness. And when defensiveness is present in an interaction, connection doesn’t happen easily. If we really want to have productive conversations around our boundaries, we need to remove blame from the interaction. My favorite coaching question for working with blame is “What would I have to feel right now if I let go of the blame?” Blame is the discharge of pain. Usually, hiding just underneath our blame are things like vulnerability, shame, or some tender feelings that want our loving attention. If we can uncover what’s underneath that urge to discharge our pain against other people and be present with those things in ourself, we can take more responsibility for it, offer ourselves some compassion, and have a much healthier interaction around our boundary.
Remember, you have unconditional permission to set the boundaries you need whenever you need them. Use resentment as your clue that a boundary is being crossed and that you need to look for a boundary to set. Focus on the behavior that you would love to see and why it matters to you and share that in a vulnerable way, and you will have a much better chance of getting the other person to partner with you in that conversation.
And finally, notice if you are holding any blame toward the other person and if you are, ask yourself, “what do I need to feel underneath my blame?” If you can take responsibility for those feelings and offer yourself compassion, you will create a much cleaner interaction with the other person and hopefully set up a boundary that both parties feel really good about.
Happy boundary setting!