Many people are confused about how to set boundaries. People commonly say they don’t like confrontation or they don’t want to hurt other people. It is a common experience that people are disrespectful when setting boundaries, get angry, start yelling, and people can feel scared, or embarrassed, and decide it’s just not worth it. The question to ask yourself is what happens for you when you don’t set limits with others? It usually means you don’t get your needs met.
Boundaries can be set in clear, calm, specific ways that make your limits clear and leave others responsible for choosing their response.
♦ Take the time to vent your emotions after something happens that you don’t like. Talk to someone else. Be calm when you approach the person. You might want to make notes and rehearse what you will say so you can stick to it without getting derailed by emotion.
♦ Make a decision about what you will and will not tolerate.
♦ Describe the behavior of the other person clearly without judgment or interpretation, so that everyone on the planet can agree that is what happened
For example: Jane, when you raised your voice and said “you’re an idiot…” then add “and I felt (how you felt not what you thought) hurt/angry/sad/whatever.
♦ Avoid interpretation and judgment because that invites anger and will escalate arguing.
For example: do not say “because you’re just insecure!”
♦ Be clear about the consequences you set and be prepared to follow through! Keep it short. Do not justify, defend, or explain. If you do, you tell the other person your boundaries are negotiable, and they are not.
For example: I want you to stop raising your voice and calling me names when we talk. If you don’t stop, I am going to end conversations, and walk away, when you do those things.
Finally, allow yourself to make mistakes. Learning new skills takes time and practice. Believe that you are worth setting limits with others. Asking for your needs to be met is an emotionally healthy act and you deserve it!