Every relationship requires boundaries. Personal boundaries set limits on how others can behave in your presence and interact with you.
Certainly, your boundaries have been violated at some point in your life. Maybe a partner used language that was unacceptable toward you. Perhaps someone invaded your privacy by asking you a personal question you considered inappropriate.
What are your boundaries? How do you show others where you draw the line? Once your lines are clear, they benefit you and those around you.
Consider these areas in determining your personal boundaries:
Physical boundaries. Physical boundaries include space. There are certain people whom you feel
comfortable standing much closer to than others. Your partner can stand closer to you than a
friend, and a friend closer than a coworker. Maybe a coworker can stand closer than a stranger.
- There are certain people you allow to touch you, and others you do not. There are more people you’ll shake hands with or hug than you’ll allow to touch your face or an intimate part of your body.
Privacy. What are you willing to share with a particular person? Financial information? Health issues? Family issues? Your hopes and fears?
- There’s information that you’re willing to share with some people and not with others.
- There are also topics you don’t want to hear about from certain people. For example, you probably don’t want to hear about your mom’s sexual escapades or your boss’s bathroom habits.
- Do you expect your secrets to be respected? Do you respect the secrets and privacy of others?
Language. Does cursing bother you and if so, do you tolerate it from others? How do you allow others to speak to you? Do you allow them to criticize you? How much disrespect do you permit? Would you allow someone to yell at you?
These are just three types of boundaries. What other boundaries can you think of?
- How long will you wait for someone before you feel disrespected?
- Borrowing and sharing items. Would you loan someone your favorite book? Allow them to eat off your plate? Loan them money?
- Coming to your workplace. Do you allow your friends and family to come to your workplace?
- Other boundaries?
Making your boundaries clear to others:
Be patient and fair. It’s not fair to expect anyone to read your mind. At the same time, you
shouldn’t have to tell anyone that violence is off limits.
- You can state many of your boundaries up front. But some of your boundaries with a specific person won’t be identified until they’re crossed. Be patient. It will take time for the other person to discover all of your boundaries.
Be assertive when your boundaries are crossed. When someone crosses one of your boundaries, calmly and clearly explain what you expect from them in that situation. Remember, you write the rules for how people treat you.
Be willing to say, “no.” Let others know when you don’t have the interest or time to do something. It’s okay to decline offers. People respect someone who is willing to say “no” once in a while. Remember, “no” is a complete sentence. Don’t feel the need to justify or explain the reason why you said “no”.
Avoid feeling guilty. It’s rare that someone’s boundaries are too strict or are unreasonable. The opposite is usually true. There’s no reason to feel guilty about having whatever boundaries you choose to have. Others will adapt.
Be honest about what you need from others. What you need is another type of boundary. It’s the minimum you’re willing to tolerate in order to maintain the relationship. It’s a minimum boundary instead of a maximum boundary.
All relationships have boundaries, but all relationships and boundaries are unique. While some of your boundaries may apply to all relationships, other boundaries will vary greatly.
Your relationships fulfill a purpose in your life. The cost of having that purpose fulfilled is too great if it means sacrificing your boundaries in the process. Effective boundary setting sets the tone for respectful relationships.
Founder and CEO, The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute