Setting Boundaries in Relationships
Setting personal boundaries are like identifying the gates in our invisible fence lines which protects the precious heart and soul inside our bodies. Many people look at boundaries as walls, but rather when we establish healthy boundaries it provides a way to distinguish what we choose to let in and let out. They form flexible gates, not stationary walls It is important to learn about setting healthy boundaries so we can make decisions about what is and what isn’t permissible in all relationships.
Boundaries are valuable
All relationships work more harmoniously when the participants know what to expect and what is expected of them. Being kind, but firm when stating what you need from a relationship allows the other person to reciprocate. How other people act and think often has nothing to do with you, but rather with their own perceptions. You can only take care of yourself.
It doesn’t matter how elaborate the fencing and eloquent our statements are, if we don’t honor ourselves enough to draw the line and stick to it consistently. It is just as valuable to the other person that they learn how to be with you and what the guidelines are for the relationship.
Body Language and tone of voice
Verbal communication is the language of information and only 20 % is absorbed. Body language and tone of voice is the language of relationships and 80% is remembered. Make sure you appear confident and you speak with a neutral, calm and non-accusing tone when establishing your boundaries. Use “I” statements which reflect on how things affect you, rather than “you” statements which put people on the defensive.
4 Step model for setting boundaries
1. Calmly inform the other person by stating, “I feel uncomfortable and want to shut down when you yell at me.”
2. Request that they honor your boundary. “I ask that you talk to me without yelling.” Or ..For me to listen and hear what you are saying to me, I need to you speak to me in a calm voice without yelling.
3. Insist that they honor your boundary, again with a firm but kind voice, “I insist that when we are talking we talk in calm voices.”
4. Leave the situation. Now is not the time or place to continue communicating with someone who refuses to respect your boundaries. Leave the door open to talk later in a more respectful manner. Continue to maintain a calm but firm voice and say, “I will not continue this conversation in this way. I welcome an opportunity to talk with you without yelling or screaming at another time. Let me know if you decide to visit without raised voices.”
Don’t take it personally
You can not assume responsibility for other people’s feelings, agendas or methods of communication. You can only state how you desire to be treated in life. If there are old patterns, it may take some time to convince others that you are serious about sticking to your boundaries. Everyone has the right to be treated with respect and courtesy.
People you know may be surprised at first when you tell them they have crossed the line, but will respect you more in the end. Hopefully, they will model this communication style and it will make for more honest and open relationships for all.
© Judy H. Wright, Parent educator and Author