The Importance of Boundaries in Relationships: Strategies for Setting and Communicating Limits
We’ve all heard it: “You have to set boundaries if you want to succeed.” But what exactly are boundaries in relationships, and how do you set them?
Let’s take a closer look at what they are, how you can set them, and why they’re important in all of your relationships – professional or personal.
What are Boundaries?
When talking about boundaries, most people picture a physical structure, like a fence, that keeps someone, or something, out of or in a space. For example, a vegetable garden needs an enclosure to keep deer and rabbits away from what would be a tempting buffet.
Think of setting personal boundaries in the same light. They acknowledge that a particular space is reserved for just you. Personal boundaries can be mental, emotional, or physical.
Why are Boundaries Important?
The thoughts and feelings that you experience are yours alone. Establishing healthy boundaries establish clear guidelines for what makes you feel safe. They allow you to acknowledge how you feel and be true to yourself.
Boundaries also help others understand how to successfully interact with you. When expectations are successfully communicated, relationships have a higher chance of success.
Strategies for Setting Boundaries
It may seem like a straightforward path to set boundaries with others. After all, how hard is it to let someone know what they should not do or say around you? But a lot of people struggle with setting, and keeping, boundaries - especially with people who they are close to, like a spouse, parent, sibling, or co-worker. Here are some strategies that will help you set and keep your boundaries.
Validate Your Emotions
The first step in setting boundaries is not acknowledging others’ behavior towards you at all. Surprisingly, this starts with you!
To have healthy boundaries, it is imperative to recognize your emotions. As the only individual who can feel your feelings and think your thoughts, you must be able to understand what it is that makes you distressed. If you are not checking in on yourself about negative experiences, then you will not be able to communicate boundaries to others to eliminate these feelings.
We all know how to acknowledge big feelings, such as the frustration you might feel when your boss requires you to work late… again. However, more subtle feelings, like sadness when a friend cancels plans or happiness when someone surprises you with a morning coffee, must also be honored. Checking in regularly with yourself will ultimately help you establish boundaries for others.
Communicate with Others
There may be individuals in your life that you feel comfortable addressing boundaries with directly. For example, you might feel really comfortable telling your partner that you no longer want to be the only one doing a certain household chore or explaining to a friend that you need to set aside Saturday afternoons for a hobby. This is a perfectly acceptable way to let a boundary be known.
For those that may be more intimidating, such as an employer, come to the conversation with a solution to the boundary-crossing problem. For example, when you explain to your boss that you are no longer available to work on Friday evenings, offer up a different solution to get the work done during regular work hours. This helps you set your boundary without the other person getting defensive.
Don’t back down
ScienceofPeople.com encourages those setting boundaries to get comfortable with saying “no.” It is important to maintain consistency when setting boundaries so that you don’t slide back into a place of disregarding your feelings.
By clearly and consistently conveying expectations of how you would like to be treated, your confidence in establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries will only grow. Remember, only you can truly advocate for yourself and your feelings!
If you need help setting boundaries or are looking for more advice on how to keep them, send me a message. I’m happy to help!