Life Skills 101: How to Set Boundaries

April 19, 2023
This story took place in United States

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Setting boundaries – with your friends, family, peers, or coworkers – can be difficult, but it is indeed possible! We’ve compiled some tips to help you navigate setting your boundaries and hope they encourage you to take the necessary steps to get started! And remember, you have a right to your boundaries and you don’t owe anyone an explanation for them.

General Tips:

  • Use “I” statements. Make your boundary about you and not about someone else – that way the focus remains on what you need and the other person doesn’t interpret it as a personal attack.
  • Know that boundary setting is a practice. Try to rehearse to build confidence and be gentle with yourself as you set your boundaries into place.
  • If someone breaks a boundary, be kind in how you react + remind them of your boundaries.
  • Know that “No” is a full sentence. We all may feel pressure by friends or family to do an activity or attend an event, but remember that if you are uncomfortable doing it, it’s OK to say no.

For Friends:

  • Communicate your boundaries early on. Don’t assume your friends know your boundaries. If you’re open about how you feel early on in the friendship, there’s less likely to be any confusion later. However, that’s not to say you can’t communicate your boundaries at any time or years into a friendship! As soon as you recognize a need to relay a boundary, bring up the conversation! 
  • Emphasize the value of your friendship. When communicating a boundary, remind your friend why it’s so important for you to have that boundary – you love them, they mean a lot to you, and you want to continue to enjoy the friendship, yet you also need to prioritize yourself.
  • Take a beat before you agree to something. If you’re a people pleaser and afraid to say “no,” instead say, “I’ll get back to you,” and think things through before you provide an answer.
  • Offer alternatives. Try to see if you and your friend can come to a compromise. For example, if you need time alone to take care of yourself and your mental health; try having a standing phone date regularly with that friend to show them you’re still thinking about them. Just because you have a boundary doesn’t mean there can’t be a compromise that works for both of you! 

For Family:

  • Be clear and concise. With boundaries, sometimes the simplest statement is the easiest to understand. 
  • Show patience. Remember there’s a generational difference between you and your older family members, educators, or other adults in your life. Try to be patient with them as they take time to learn what you want.
  • Assume repair is possible. Even if the initial conversations don’t go as intended, there’s still hope to repair the relationship; sometimes it can just take time for the other person to understand what your boundaries are.
  • Practice the “broken record” technique. If someone pulls you into endless arguments that go nowhere, you can practice this technique. Like a broken record, use the same words repeatedly to convey your message. You can also excuse yourself or leave the room in a triggering situation if you don’t want to repeat yourself.

For Work:

  • Observe how your colleagues assert their boundaries. If you notice good examples of people working around you who can set boundaries well with their bosses or coworkers, adapt what works for you from their approach.
  • Know it’s OK to keep your private life private. That includes your love life, your friends, your family, and your social media. To help keep that separation between work and your private life, consider not connecting with coworkers on social media. 
  • Try out the “I statements” technique. One of the biggest boundaries to enforce at work are your work hours. To address it, you can share: “Because it’s important for me to have a clear separation between work and home life, I stop answering emails at 5pm. Having this separation means I can be fully present and productive when I am at work.”

Reinforce the boundary on your end. It’s easy to want to please people at work and break your own boundaries. To help reinforce your work/life boundary, try to delete the email app off your phone and mute your notifications after hours.

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