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4 Questions to Answer To Set Boundaries

4 Questions to Answer To Set Boundaries

Boundaries are easy to spot in the physical world: people put up fences, close the door, pull down the shades, and define their own space.  

Boundaries for personal space and emotions are more challenging to set and maintain.  Setting boundaries can be a tough lesson, especially if the following questions are running in the background:

1. Can I set limits and still be a nice person?
2. What if my limits make it hard on someone else?
3. Is it selfish to set limits?
4. If I am supposed to set limits, why do I feel so guilty?

Let’s go through each question and help you breakthrough the boundary barrier.

Are Boundaries Limits?

Let’s answer question #1 about limits. Contrary to what most people believe, boundaries are as much about what you let in as what you keep out. When you let people know how you want to be treated, you are taking care of yourself and you give others permission to do the same. This makes you, by definition, a nice person. You treat people the way you want to be treated.

When you fall into the trap of being manipulated (or if you are the one manipulating) you take over other people’s responsibility and you are depriving them of the opportunity to grow.

The second question is about the other person. To clarify, your boundaries are about you, not anyone else. If someone complains about your limits, it is their issue. They may be trying to manipulate or guilt you into doing what they want you to do.

This tends to happen in a family or a work culture that does not want people to have boundaries. When you exercise yours, there will be people who will object, that does not make them right, however.

Break the Habit of Being All Things to All People

The third question asks if it is selfish to set boundaries. You intuitively know this is not true, but you may have heard this from some one and are doubting your instincts.

When your internal GPS is sending out signals, which in this case is probably some anger, it is your responsibility to take action. To be caring and loving to others and not to yourself is a major problem that ultimately burns you out and destroys the relationship. If you constantly say yes to various demands from others, you are simply teaching people you do not matter and they will never seek out alternative ways to get their needs met.

Boundaries define what is you and not you.

Boundaries are the explanation for what you are responsible; it is a reminder you are not responsible for other people, even when they try to manipulate or guilt you into thinking you are. The guilt and manipulation work when you are out of touch with your own feelings.

Ways You Can Set Boundaries

Words, hand gestures, facial expressions, closing doors, not answering the phone or text are all ways you can set boundaries.

What is important to remember is to be consistent, otherwise people get confused about what you really mean. The fact is people will push the limits and “try” your boundaries, so if you tend to give in under pressure, you will end up frustrated.

It is not necessary to be mean when you exercise your boundaries. For example, if someone is chronically late which makes you late for your meeting, simply tell them, “Every time you are late it makes me look bad to my boss. I value our friendship and I value my reputation more, so I decided to drive myself to the meeting.

This takes practice and is a skill worth your time in developing. Check out the set of tools below that will help you develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence.


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