Setting personal boundaries is like identifying the gates in our invisible fences that protect the precious heart and soul within our bodies. Many people view boundaries as walls, but when we set healthy boundaries, it provides a way to distinguish what we choose to let in and what we choose to let out. They form flexible doors, not stationary walls. It is important to learn how to set healthy boundaries so that we can make decisions about what is and is not allowed in all relationships.
limits are valuable
All relationships work more harmoniously when the participants know what to expect and what is expected of them. Being kind 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 with their own perceptions. You can only take care of yourself.
It doesn’t matter how elaborate the billboards and how eloquent our statements, if we don’t honor ourselves enough to draw the line and stick to it consistently. It is just as valuable for the other person to learn how to be with you and what are the guidelines 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 is 80% remembered. Make sure you appear confident and speak in a neutral, calm, and non-accusing 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. Inform the other person calmly by saying, “I feel uncomfortable and want to shut up when you yell at me.”
2. Request that they respect your limit. “I ask you to speak to me without shouting.” Or ..In order for me to listen and listen to what you say to me, I need you to speak to me in a calm voice without shouting.
3. Insist that they respect your boundary, again in a firm but friendly voice, “I insist that when we speak we speak in a calm voice.”
4. Get out of 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 way. Continue to maintain a calm but firm voice and say, “I will not continue this conversation in this manner. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you without yelling or yelling at another time. Please let me know if you decide to visit without raising your voice.”
don’t take it personally
You cannot take responsibility for other people’s feelings, agendas, or methods of communication. 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 are serious about sticking to your limits. Everyone has the right to be treated with respect and courtesy.
The people you meet may be surprised at first when you tell them they’ve crossed the line, but in the end they’ll respect you more. Hopefully, they will model this style of communication and it will lead to more honest and open relationships for everyone.
© Judy H. Wright, parent educator and author