Set boundaries in relationships

Setting personal boundaries is like identifying the gates in our invisible fences that protect the precious heart and soul within our bodies. Many people see boundaries as walls, but when we set healthy boundaries, it provides a way to distinguish between what we choose to let in and to let out. They form flexible doors, not fixed walls. It is important to learn to set healthy boundaries so that we can make decisions about what is allowed and what is not in all relationships.

Limits are valuable

All relationships work more harmoniously when participants know what to expect and what is expected of them. Being polite but firm in saying what you need from a relationship allows the other person to reciprocate. The way 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 and eloquent our statements are, if we don’t honor ourselves enough to draw the line and stick to it consistently. It is equally 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 speak in a neutral, calm, and non-accusatory tone when setting your boundaries. Use “I” statements that reflect how things affect you, rather than “you” statements that put people on the defensive.

4-Step Model for Setting Limits

1. Calmly inform the other person by saying, “I feel uncomfortable and I want to shut up when you yell at me.”

2. Ask that they respect your limits. “I ask you to speak to me without yelling.” Or … For me to listen and listen to what you are saying to me, I need you to speak to me in a calm voice and without shouting.

3. Insist that they respect your boundary, again in a firm but kind voice, “I insist that when we speak we speak in a calm voice.”

4. Leave the situation. Now is not the time or place to keep communicating with someone who refuses to respect your boundaries. Leave the door open to speak later in a more respectful way. Continue to keep your voice calm but firm and say, “I will not continue this conversation in this manner. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you without yelling or yelling at another time. Please let me know if you decide to visit us without raising your voice.”

Don’t take it personally

You cannot take responsibility for other people’s feelings, agendas, or communication methods. You can only indicate how you want to be treated in life. If there are old patterns, it may take some time to convince others that you really want to stick to your limits. Everyone has the right to be treated with respect and courtesy.

People you know may be surprised at first when you tell them that they have crossed the line, but in the end they will respect you more. Hopefully, they will model this communication style and lead to more honest and open relationships for everyone.

© Judy H. Wright, parent educator and author

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