Episode: Boundaries – Interconnections
In this episode, we will take a deep dive into the art of setting healthy boundaries. Listening to Boundaries – Interdependence, you’ll
- Learn about the myths & truths about boundaries
- Find out about easy strategies to communicate your boundaries
- Understand healthy and toxic responses
- Discover signs of entangled and healthy boundaries
Myth about boundaries
Myth 1: Boundaries push people away
Truth: Healthy boundaries are the foundation of a healthy relationship. They allow us to be closer together and increase safety in a relationship. As a result, they increase trust in a relationship and prevent resentment.
Myth 2: Love has no boundaries/ love is limitless
Truth: While love may be limitless, relationships need healthy boundaries.
Healthy love includes having a balance in loving the other person and respecting ourselves. If we do not set healthy boundaries, we are not respecting ourselves. Since respect is the foundation of love, we do not act loving towards ourselves if we don’t set healthy boundaries.
Myth 3: If I set boundaries, I am selfish.
Truth: If I put myself first, I can give my energy to more people.
Do you remember the safety procedures in an airplane in case of loss of cabin pressure? It says that you have to put on your mask first before you can help others. Why do they have this rule? If you help others first, you’ll run out of oxygen very quickly and won’t be able to help anybody. If you put on your mask first, you can help more people.
This is also true for our relationships. If you feel drained, resentful, and exhausted, you cannot help anybody. However, if you learn to put ourselves first, you have more energy to give to others.
Healthy boundaries allow us to feel safe in relationships and build more trust. They support us in having a healthy balance between loving the other person and loving ourselves. Last but not least, you can support people in a better way if you put yourself first and set healthy boundaries.
Communication of Boundaries
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.
If you don’t have an answer, communicate that you 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.”
If a behaviour is not ok for you, use the word “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.”
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.’
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.
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 to 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
Signs of Entangled Boundaries
As I already mentioned, having healthy boundaries is an art form that requires practice and self-reflection to practice it. The following list of signs of entangled boundaries gives you some indication in which areas your boundaries may need some improvement.
We have entangled boundaries if we:
- don’t say no out of fear, guilt, or need for approval
- feel angry, abandoned, or rejected if somebody says no to us
- are in relationships that have an imbalance of giving and receiving (either we constantly giving more or we constantly receive receiving more)
- spend our time and energy helping others and we neglect our own needs and wants.
- take on other people’s problems as our own.
- take responsibility for how others feel or we give others responsibility for how we feel
- have a high tolerance of boundary violations and disrespect
- have difficulty identifying and asking for what we want and need
- value other people’s opinion or feelings more than our own
- compromise our values and beliefs to please others or avoid conflict
- share intimate information before we have established a mutually trusting and sharing relationship
I am curious which symptoms that are mentioned on the list would you like to improve on? How could you take one step to do so?
Signs of Healthy Boundaries
While the previous list shows where our boundaries need some improvement, here’s a list of the signs that show that we have healthy boundaries.
We have healthy boundaries if we:
- feel comfortable saying no.
- are ok if others say no to us.
- have a strong sense of our identity.
- our relationships have a balance of giving and receiving and if there is reciprocity.
- feel comfortable putting ourselves first.
- can discern what issues are ours and what issues belong to the other person.
- listen to another person’s problem, have empathy but we don’t need to fix them.
- don’t tolerate boundary violation and disrespect.
- communicate our needs and wants assertively even if we recognize that we might be turned down. We can make requests and not demands.
- commit to exploring and nurturing our full potential.
- take responsibility for our happiness and our emotions. We realize that others are responsible for their emotions and happiness.
- value our opinion as much as the opinion of others. We can embrace our differences and able to agree to disagree. We share power and negotiate win-win solutions.
- don’t compromise our values or integrity even if we might risk rejection.
- share information slowly in a mutually trusting and sharing relationship.
On a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 meaning not at all and 10 meaning always, how would you score for each of these areas?
Learning to set healthy boundaries is a complex and gradual process. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Focus on one area you would like to improve upon. Revisit the list later on and re-evaluate your boundaries. Overtime, your boundaries will become stronger in every area.
If you are interested in working with me, check out my services.