How to communicate boundaries
As stated in the blog "Why Boundaries Matter," boundaries need to be communicated to the other person. Since each individual has different boundaries, we cannot assume that they automatically know our boundaries. Therefore, it is essential that we learn to communicate them healthily. Here are some strategies on how you can communicate your boundaries.
Strategies to communicate boundaries
Strategy 1: Say “no”
Using the word “no” is the easiest way to communicate your boundaries. You do not need to justify it or explain it. The word “no” is enough. If you choose to, you can also include your needs and feelings. For example, a friend wants to go to the cinema with you. You can say something like No, I don’t want to go tonight because I feel tired and want to go to bed early.
Strategy 2: Say "I don't know. I need more time."
I am not sure about you, but I sometimes don’t have a clear answer right away. If this also happens to you, you can say something like: “I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know tomorrow,” or “I need to think about it. I’ll come back to you in five days.”
Strategy 3: Say "Stop."
The word “stop” indicates to the other person that they should stop the behaviour they are currently doing. For example, if somebody yells at you and that is not ok for you, you can say, “stop yelling at me.”
Strategy 4: Setting a boundary if you disagree
Two different individuals are creating a relationship. Since each person is unique, it is likely (and to be expected) that we have different opinions and perspectives. In a healthy relationship, we learn about our differences and respect them. If we handle opposing views positively, we give our relationship room to grow. If we acknowledge the areas where we disagree with each other without the need to overpower the other person, we respect our boundaries. Other options to acknowledge disagreements are "I agree to disagree," “This is hard for me to say, but I see it differently than you," “I value your opinion. Mine’s different in this case," and “I hear what you say. I have a different opinion.’
Strategy 5: Communicating a boundary if you deal with projections
Sometimes, you may meet a person who is projecting onto you. While you cannot change their projections (they’d have to do this), you can use the following strategies to protect yourself from their projections: “I don’t see it this way.” “I don’t take responsibility for this.” “This is your opinion.” Remember you don’t need to explain your statement.
Strategy 6: Setting a boundary if you don't want to answering certain questions
Boundaries are also important if somebody asks you a question you do not want to answer. Remember, you do not need to answer any question a person is asking you. You have the right to choose what you want to disclose about yourself and what you do not want to disclose. You can use one of the following phrases if you don’t want to answer a question: “I want to keep it to myself. “I don’t feel like talking about this.” “That’s my business."
There are many options to communicate boundaries. Start with those options that are easy for you and choose more sophisticated options when your boundary setting skills improve. Have patience with yourself and celebrate the efforts you put into growing.
Possible responses if you set a boundary
Since setting a boundary is an interaction with another person, you may experience different responses from this person. If the person responds healthily, they will accept your boundary without discussing it and adapt their behaviour.
Unfortunately, this will not always happen and you may experience a wide range of responses. If you have never set boundaries before, people may resist the change. At this moment, stay persistent and repeat your boundary. Remember that you do not have to explain or justify your boundaries.
If the person ignores your boundary, set a consequence. A consequence is an action that you are willing and able to do if the person ignores your boundary. For example, you could say something like “if you do not stop yelling at me, I will leave the room and go for a walk.” The consequence you set must be an action you can take and not an action the other person has to take (since you cannot control the behaviour of another person).
Communication of boundaries - take away
- If you communicate a boundary, stay grounded, and have a firm tone of voice.
- State a consequence if the other person ignores your boundary. A consequence is ideally practical, actionable, and based on what you can control. Be consistent and do what you say you will do.
- Avoid setting consequences that are empty threats because they can damage the relationship
- Repeat your boundary when the other person ignores or blames you. Stay firm.
- Put yourself and your safety first. Remove yourself from the situation if needed.
Boundaries are not negotiable. A healthy response is that the person accepts your boundary and changes their behaviour. If a person ignores your boundary, there needs to be a consequence. Consequences are only effective if you are consistent.
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