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How To Set Boundaries In Your Personal and Professional Relationships

Set healthy boundaries in your life and create a personal space in which you can grow and work toward achieving your most significant goals.

The meaning and importance of social boundaries or limits are closely linked to a person’s physical and mental well-being and their ability to create and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

It is a skill that proves itself effective in all types of relationships. You can set boundaries in your personal life – your family, parents, partner, and friends, and in your professional life – at work, with business partners, with collaborators, etc.

Depending on our culture, social background, and life experiences, the way we relate to others and how we build those relationships may differ greatly. This is why it becomes important to make sure that those relational building blocks are indeed meaningful to us at a personal level, and not just inherited social artifacts.

Identifying, setting, and maintaining boundaries is a set of skills that once activated allows us to live a mode independent, satisfying life.

Depending on our primary mindset – passive, aggressive, or assertive – we may find boundary setting a rather easy, manageable, or an extremely difficult task.

If you are not used to voicing what you need or want or, on the contrary, if you rather make sure your needs are met before anyone else’s, this skill activation may be a challenge, even if for different reasons.

The information below will show you how to assertively approach boundary-setting, in a non-passive, non-aggressive way.

Learn how to set boundaries and master your social interactions.

 

TYPES OF SOCIAL BOUNDARIES

There are different experiential levels at which boundaries work as relevant social modifiers. The type of social boundaries that we can set can be considered in the following contexts:

 

  • PHYSICAL BOUNDARIES may refer to:
    • Personal space.
      • The physical distance between yourself and others.
      • The right to solitude.
    • Intimacy level.
      • The right to decide for oneself what the different levels of intimacy are and in which conditions a relationship can move from one level to another.
    • Possessions.
      • The right to decide on the shared status of one’s belongings.
    • Resources.
      • The right to decide on the shared status of one’s resources.

 

  • EMOTIONAL BOUNDARIES may refer to:
    • Freedom regarding emotional expression.
    • Freedom from emotional manipulation.
    • Freedom from emotional abuse.

 

  • MENTAL BOUNDARIES may refer to:
    • The right to hold any personal values.
    • The right to hold any personal beliefs.
    • May include cultural, religious, spiritual, moral elements.
    • Resources such as time.
    • Freedom to pursue your goals.

 

WHY SETTING BOUNDARIES IS GOOD FOR YOU

If properly set, monitored, and maintained, social boundaries will allow you to live the better version of your life since they create a nurturing environment in which you can thrive as an individual while at the same time maintaining healthy relationships with others.

Among the benefits of boundary setting, we find the following:

  • Increased self-esteem.
  • Increased self-confidence.
  • Increased assertiveness level.
  • Healthy, non-toxic relationships.
  • More resources to help you pursue your goals.
  • Increased focus on your significant goals.
  • Increased independence.
  • Increased clarity – you will focus on what is meaningful, instead of wasting your resources on elements that are not relevant for your life.

 

Here is my 7-STEPS STRATEGY TO SET HEALTHY SOCIAL BOUNDARIES.

 

  1. IDENTIFY YOUR BOUNDARIES

You cannot set and maintain social boundaries unless you define and decide for yourself what they are. Here are a few suggestions about how you can identify the limits that may work for you in your personal and professional interactions.

  • Identify and list your values.
    • What life principles and moral traits do you consider important in your life?
    • Examples: Honesty, Integrity, Authenticity, Mastery, Security, Honor, Joy, Patience, Peace, etc.
  • Identify and list your goals.
  • Identify and write down your extended purpose.
    • Considering the bigger picture, what do you want to achieve in your life? What would your global impact be?
    • Make sure your goals subscribe to your purpose.
  • Learn and consider your social rights – both those with a legal basis, and those that are social conventions and signs of healthy interactions.
  • Verify whether any of your values, goals or even your purpose are socially inherited, rather than driven by inner, personal motivations.
    • The values your family holds may not be relevant for you.
    • The norms that are valued socially may not be things that you want to achieve in your life.
  • Consider each of the main contexts – physical, emotional, mental – and start building a more structured view on your boundaries.
    • What is comfortable/uncomfortable for you in social interactions?
    • What is acceptable/unacceptable for you in social interactions?
    • What are the important activities that you like to perform, in general, with others, or in solitude?
    • What are the deal-breakers in any of those contexts?
      • This is very important. Consider at which point – if all other negotiations fail in a social interaction, you would rather renounce that social connection?
      • Obviously, there are some instances where a single instance of boundary infringement is enough to cause a connection to break. Abusive contexts usually trigger that.
  • List your boundaries.
    • Make a list with your most important limits – this will give you a better understanding of the bigger picture and will make things easier to monitor later on.
    • Please consider the fact that each of our “boundary collections” will be different. You can discuss with others and ask for feedback regarding the topics that interest you, but your opinions must be prioritized.
    • Be reasonable. Your limits should ensure that your rights are respected without infringing on the rights of others.

2. COMMUNICATE AND SET SOCIAL BOUNDARIES

Don’t expect others to simply understand what your limits are and respect them from the get-go.

  • Be direct.
    • Talk openly about your limits with those with whom you share contexts in which those boundaries would have to be activated.
    • Be assertive and stand your ground if others try to dismiss your message or your feelings.
    • Name the boundaries.
    • Name the deal-breakers and other elements that regard the consequences of boundary infringement. This is not about dominance or a “my way or the highway” attitude. This is about conveying how important a certain aspect is for you and how it would modify your interest and engagement in the specific social interaction if that element would disappear.
  • Manage your emotions.
    • You should feel no guilt when asking for your rights to be respected. Do not allow others to make you see yourself as the bad guy simply because you are protecting yourself and creating an environment that works for you and your goals.
    • Don’t fear rejection. People who care about you will try to understand your perspective and will do their best to respect your boundaries, as well as communicate about their own.
    • Don’t fear the other person’s reactions. If you convey your message in a direct, non-aggressive manner, then you are entitled to openly express that message. The reactions of other people are not your responsibility. It is up to them to come to terms with what you’ve told them.
    • Beware of auto-injuctions. Some people may try to convince you to renounce your limits and your rights by making you think that you are being unreasonable or a bad person. Example: “Good sisters share their passwords with their siblings.” It is important that you identify these cognitive distortions and address them soon in the interaction.
  • Take responsibility.
    • Your limits may trigger a variety of results. Make sure that you are OK with the possible, reasonable outcome linked to each of your them.

 

3. MONITOR YOUR BOUNDARIES

  • Simply setting boundaries is not enough. Make sure that you constantly observe your interactions and verify whether they are respected.

 

4. MAINTAIN YOUR BOUNDARIES

  • Be consistent. If you want to benefit from this amazing skill, you need to make sure that you do not send mixed messages to your social contacts.
  • If you allow them to break a limit today but fully react in a negative way at the same infringement tomorrow, you are telling them indirectly that you yourself are not sure about the validity of that limit.
  • In the same fashion, if you state a certain consequence for a limit, but then fail to activate it in the specific context of infringement, you’re sending out the message that you are not serious about your rights.
  • The membrane should not be permeable. Should be flexible, I will address this later, but not permeable or breakable.

 

5. REASSESS AND MODIFY YOUR BOUNDARIES IF NECESSARY

  • What works for others, may not work for you.
  • What works for you in a context may not work for you in another environment.
  • What works for you today may not work for you tomorrow.
  • Boundaries are tools, not rigid laws.
  • Keep an open mind and be flexible about the way you build your relationships.
  • Reassess your boundaries and make the needed modifications, when needed.

 

6. ADD NEW RULES WHEN NEEDED

  • We continually learn and experience new things. Based on these new understandings, we may find ourselves in a position where we need to add new rules to shape our connections.
  • Don’t forget to communicate your new boundaries to those who may be affected by the context.

 

7. ELIMINATE RULES THAT NO LONGER WORK

  • Don’t drag elements that are inefficient, or even hurt your social interactions, from one relationship to the other.
  • Identify the boundaries that no longer work and eliminate them from your social connections.
  • Don’t forget to update your beliefs about those elements. Your verbal messages and your inner beliefs and expectations should be in sync.

BONUS. RESPECT OTHER PEOPLE’S BOUNDARIES

  • For harmonious interactions to take place, there needs to be a balance between your rights and the right of others.
  • If you respect the rights of others but never demand that your own boundaries be respected, then you are displaying a predominantly passive mindset and behavior.
  • If you want others to respect your rights, but refuse to respect their boundaries, then you are predominantly aggressive.
  • Primarily assertive individuals make sure that both their rights and the rights of others are equally considered and respected.
  • If you are not sure what the boundaries of the other person are, ask them directly. It helps to pay attention, listen, and consider cues, but direct communication is the best method to ensure the proper understanding of their needs and message.

EXAMPLES OF HEALTHY BOUNDARIES:

  • Keep some information to yourself. You are entitled to private thoughts and experiences. It is OK to not share everything about you with others.
  • Lock your meaningful belongings. Whether it is for privacy reasons or safekeeping, you can keep some things literally under lock to protect them.
  • Have passwords that you do not share with anyone, on your most important online accounts.
  • Ask people to verify time availability with you before assuming that you have the time or are willing to engage in a certain activity with them or offer them assistance.
  • Say NO more often. Protect your resources, time included. Learn to say NO and make time for the things that are important to you.
  • Schedule meetings and calls. If the other person does not respect the time interval you agreed on, walk away from the context when the agreed-upon waiting time is up.
  • Use “Do Not Disturb” statuses on social media and other environments when you need to protect your time.
  • Take time for yourself and do the things that make you happy, in solitude. No justification, no guilt.

Remember that Social Boundaries are not meant to isolate you from others or create a rigid social environment that makes it difficult for others to connect with you. They are tools that if you use in a reasonable fashion, will keep you linked only to the meaningful, significant, and nurturing contexts and relationships in your life.

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