What is a boundary and why should we set them?
Just like we have physical boundaries of our homes (walls, windows, doors, fences, etc.), we also can create emotional boundaries for ourselves and our relationships. Boundaries are something we put in place as a means of protection and empowerment. To set a boundary, you basically use an if/then statement. More to come on shortly. However, first, it’s important to know there are actually two kinds of boundaries at work in our world: non-verbal boundaries and verbal boundaries.
Non-verbal boundaries are…you guessed it, non-verbal and don’t need to be spoken aloud. This is typically something that is based on societal norms. For example, when you meet a new person, you don’t announce to them that if they slap you, then you will slap them back. It’s a societal norm that we don’t slap people. We don’t need to go around saying this to everyone we meet.
Verbal boundaries are boundaries that we need to speak out loud as it may not be obvious to everyone. An example of this would be, “if you come over without calling first, I may not be able to answer the door.” Some people always answer the door when they are home; but some people don’t unless they know someone is coming.
How to set a boundary
I like to teach how to set a boundary in three parts:
● Request to change behavior
● Boundary – stating what your boundary is
● Consequence – what YOU will do or how YOU will react if your boundary is crossed or violated
For example, one of my personal boundaries is to not talk negatively about other people behind their backs. If I’m with a group of friends and they are talking negatively about someone or gossiping, I would say, “Hey, can we change the subject? I don’t want to talk negatively about people. If we don’t change the subject, that’s fine; but then I’ll just head out and do my own thing.”
Let’s break this example down into the three pieces:
● Request – “Hey, can we change the subject?”
● Boundary – “I don’t want to talk negatively about people.”
● Consequence – “If we don’t change the subject…I’ll head out and do my own thing.”
Do you see how that all comes together?
How are boundaries different from manipulation?
I LOVE this question! Boundaries are often misunderstood and misused. One of the main ways to tell whether it’s a boundary or manipulation is the intent. It usually starts with a demand instead of a request. Boundaries come from a place of love and acceptance for yourself and the other person/relationship; whereas manipulation is trying to change someone else’s behavior in order to make you feel better or get something for your personal gain. Manipulation is about the other person doing something rather than YOU doing something.
An example of this would be “if you don’t clean the kitchen, then I won’t go to the party with you later.” It follows the if/then statement; but notice the intent–does this come from a place of love? No, it’s manipulating someone into doing something so you will feel better. It’s basically punishing them if they don’t do it your way. Don’t be this person. It’s not a pretty color on anybody.
How do you know whether it’s appropriate or not to set a boundary?
The following are the four things to observe and discern on whether you should set a boundary:
1. You have a clear and defined boundary for yourself that has been violated/crossed
2. The other person is unaware of your boundary
3. You feel the boundary needs to be restated for emphasis in order to have a better relationship
4. You are in a calm and loving place (never set a boundary from anger–remember, intent is HUGE)
Why is setting boundaries so difficult?
Setting boundaries can be extremely difficult depending on your personality and the value you place on the relationship with the person you want to set a boundary with. The main reason it can be difficult is because we’re afraid of how the other person will feel or interpret our boundary. There is always a possibility of losing the relationship. I understand this can be scary, but at the end of the day, our emotional peace and self-love is what matters most. The main thing to remember is that you are setting the boundary from a place of love–for yourself, the other person, and the relationship.
Setting boundaries gives us the ability to create strong and genuine relationships with others. Boundaries empower us to create the kind of life that sets us up for success. If defining or setting boundaries is an area of your life that you struggle with, I can help. Please reach out or set-up a free call with me through my contact page. You don’t have to go through this journey alone.