The Secret To Setting Boundaries Revealed

Boundary setting is hard, but necessary in many facets of life. Learn how to set boundaries and be assertive, which is the key to establishing and maintaining these imaginary lines.

Setting boundaries is necessary for self-care. You may have a boss who you just cannot say “no” to (think Office Space). You may be newly divorced, and your ex-spouse is overstepping appropriate lines of communication.

One of your friends may constantly be seeking advice and unloading all of her feelings on you at inappropriate times.

How do you cope with these issues then, and set and enforce boundaries? The key to effectively doing so lies in assertiveness.

When this word is mentioned, we get a certain image in our minds. Assertiveness does not refer to loudness or abrasiveness. It does not involve colorful language or arguing.

Assertiveness is not about threatening body language. With respect to boundary setting, all of the aforementioned things will completely sabotage what you are trying to do.

There are several steps to effectively setting up imaginary lines in social situations, so that you can protect yourself.

Consider the situation and what goal you want to achieve

small woman screaming at big boss

What situation do you need to establish boundaries in? It is an unruly ex-spouse determined to walk over you? A domineering boss? You would handle these situations and individuals very differently.

It is also important to figure out exactly what you want to accomplish in the situation. If your ex is pestering you, for example, you may want the needless communication to end.

If your boss manipulates you into performing tasks you neither want to do nor have time for, you may want this activity to cease.

Figure out what you want to say ahead of time

Especially if you are the type of person who has trouble expressing what you want, it is important to establish exactly what you want to say ahead of time. Write it down and practice saying it ahead of time if you need to.

This will help to ensure confidence when the time comes to deliver it to the overstepping party.

Use clear, simple language in a firm way

Two Casually Dressed Businesswomen Working In Office

As mentioned before, if you are yelling, swearing or adding a bunch of unnecessary verbiage to what you are trying to say, the person will a) not listen to you, and b) not comprehend the point you are trying to get across.

It is important to be direct and get your point across as simply as possible. In the case of the ex, you could say something like, “Do not communicate with me by text any longer. If there is a need to contact me, an email is fine”.

If your boss asks you to work overtime, you can simply say, “No, that does not work for me”. When saying this, be firm. Do not let hesitation or lack of confidence show in what you are saying.

Imagine disciplining a child. If you do not have exude confidence in what you are telling them, they are not apt to take you seriously and will try to walk all over you.

At the same time, if you yell at a child, they definitely will not listen to what you are saying and may express the negative behavior even more. Handle adults, regardless of the circumstance, in a similar manner.

Don’t acknowledge disrespect

If the offending party treats you in a negative way, such as swearing, yelling or threatening, do not acknowledge this or let it get under your skin. They are just frustrated because they are not accustomed to NOT getting their own way.

Hold your ground, and do not let them cause you to waiver on your stand.

Repeat, repeat, repeat

Repeat this action as many times as necessary. In the example of the boss, if the need to manipulate you into more work or longer hours persists, simply express the same “no” statement every time.

They will eventually get the hint and understand your solid boundaries. You will be seen as an individual who stands up for themself, and will not be taken advantage of or pestered any longer.

Cut ties if necessary and possible

Casual couple having coffee together at the coffee shop 2

If the hint is not taken, however, you need to be able to cut ties in any way possible. If your boss persists in mistreating you, you should look for an opportunity elsewhere, or explore your options for filing a complaint with your HR department.

If your ex still communicates with you on an unnecessary level, but you still need to have an open line for contact, determine what this is and block them any other way possible. If they are calling or texting you, block the phone number(s).

If they are Facebook messaging you, delete them (if you don’t feel it will dangerously escalate things) or block them. They can still contact you by email. If you are able to cut ties with your ex completely, then do so. Install an alarm system in your home, if necessary, to ensure your safety.

Establishing boundaries is not an easy thing to do. Being assertive in an effective manner is also very difficult at times. Boundary setting is tricky, but once you get the hang of it, you will see how much easier and less stressful your relationships can be.

It is a really wonderful skill to have in your tool belt, and to be able to employ where necessary.

What do you think? Have you ever been in a situation where boundaries needed to be established? Were you able to assert yourself effectively? What was the outcome?

About the author

Lisa H.

Lisa is versatile, being a Psychology-trained addictions worker by day, writer by night. She enjoys traveling, dance, & can squat her body weight. Her dream is to integrate her education & love of writing into a sustaining career.

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