Setting Boundaries

An article by Ryan Grey

Personal boundaries are the limits and rules that we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries is able to assert their needs and rights. They are able to recognise when something doesn’t feel right and to say no when they need to.

There are three types of personal boundaries:

Rigid Boundary Type

Individuals with this type of boundary will tend to keep others at a distance. They will avoid intimacy and close relationships. They will be unlikely to ask others for help. They will have few close friendships. They will be very protective of personal information. They will seem detached, even from their intimate partners. They will keep others at a distance to avoid rejection.

Porous Boundary Type

Individuals with a porous boundary type will tend to get too involved with others. They will overshare personal information. They will find it hard to say no to the requests of others. They will become over involved with others’ problems. They will be dependent on the opinions of others. They will be accepting of abuse or disrespect. They will fear rejection if they do not comply with others.

Healthy Boundary Type

Individuals with a healthy boundary type will understand their own identity and know their rights. They will value their own opinions. They won’t compromise their values for others.They will share personal information in a balanced way without oversharing or under-sharing. They will know their own personal wants and needs and will be able to communicate them. They will accept others’ rights and boundaries and be alright with other people saying no to them.

For most people, their boundary types are a mixture of the above three. And it will depend on the situation that they are in at the time. People will act differently at home than at work, for example.

Knowing what is most important to you will enable you to start to set healthier boundaries. Reflect on what is really important in your life. What do you believe in and what do you care about the most?

Knowing what you do and don’t deserve will enable you to have a sense of when others are attempting to cross your boundaries. You always have a right to say no. When saying no, express yourself clearly and with no hesitation about what you want.

If you’re not comfortable then say “I’m not comfortable with this”. If you feel it is not acceptable then state it. Other examples might be; “Please don’t do that”, “I can’t do that for you”, or “I’ve decided not to”.

Don’t explain yourself. You don’t need to. You have the right to assert your rights and needs without any excuses or explanations.

When asserting your boundaries, use confident body language. Face the other person and make eye contact. Try to use a steady tone of voice at a volume that feels not too quiet or too loud.

Be respectful. Avoid shouting or putting down the other person. Simply be firm but fair. Your message will be better received if you remain respectful.

Plan ahead. Think about what you want to say and how you will say it. This will help you to feel prepared and more confident.

Compromise. If it feels right, consider the needs of the other person. It may be possible to reach a compromise, where you meet each other in the middle. You may feel that the compromise is a method of manipulation and if so, go with your instinctive feeling.

It is not easy to start to become more assertive and to set healthier boundaries. But you deserve to be treated with respect and to be able to express your rights and needs to others. It is your most basic human right.

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