6 Tips For Setting Healthy Boundaries
Tip #1: Check In With Your Feelings When Setting Healthy Boundaries
Think about any relationship in your life that you think might be in need of firmer boundaries and evaluate your level of “discomfort and resentment” toward that person. Rate it on a scale of 1-10. If your discomfort/resentment level is 6 or higher, then you need to stop resenting and start taking action to change the relationship.
Tip #2: Set Specific Limits
If you’ve been in a relationship (any kind, not just romantic) with someone who crosses your boundaries for a really long time, then you may not even be in touch with what you’d like your boundaries to be. Look around and take stock of what specific things you’d like to be different. Maybe for you this means the right to say “no” to a certain number of things per month. Maybe it means not having to act as a constant caregiver for someone who’s capable of taking care of themselves. The limit will vary depending on your situation, but if you can’t articulate specific goals then things aren’t going to magically change.
Tip #3: Adjust your thinking
Depending on the nature of the relationship that you want a stronger boundary in, it might seem cruel or irresponsible to you to set that boundary. Maybe for you it’s a work relationship and you feel like you’d be letting down the whole company or office if you set a stronger boundary. Maybe it’s a relationship with a partner who you think would fall apart if you changed your boundaries. But if you’re tempted to think things like this, remind yourself that you’re not actually doing that other person any favors. If it’s a work relationship, what’s going to happen when you eventually leave that job? Even if you never move to another job, you’ll at least retire someday. If it’s a romantic relationship, then how are you helping that person be the best, most fulfilled version of themselves by enabling their dependence?
Tip #4: Think About Communication Styles When Setting Healthy Boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries in a relationship can go differently depending on what kind of person you’re trying to get some distance from. Some people might get the hint just from your withdrawal. Others might need you to explicitly spell it out for them. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to approach setting up stronger boundaries. Consider the personality and communication style of the person you need to establish the boundary with, but when in doubt, lean toward being more direct so you can avoid awkward “Why aren’t you getting the hint?” conversations.
Tip #5: Plan Out Conversations
For the people that you will need to have a very direct conversation with, plan out what you’re going to say ahead of time. You don’t have to memorize a script word-for-word, but you do want to practice the gist of what you’re going to say. If you don’t, you might end up being more hurtful than you want to be or more timid than you want to be.
Tip #6: Think About Possible Reactions
Obviously, you can only do this to a certain extent. You can take an educated guess, but you don’t know for sure how the other person is going to react to the new, more assertive you. But try to think about the range of possibilities before the talk. What will you do if the person acts like you’re breaking their heart? If they get angry and start screaming at you? If they clam up and give you the silent treatment? Again, if you have a plan of action for how you’ll react in any scenario, then you’ll be less likely to walk back the new boundary you’ve just set up. Setting healthy boundaries with people can actually help to improve your relationships in the long run. The people you want to surround yourself with are those who will respect your boundaries, even if they initially feel upset or disappointed.
Deciding to set stronger personal boundaries in your life can seem like a difficult project.