Do you need to set some boundaries with someone and not sure how to do it without being offensive? I wanted to share some thoughts on boundary setting and how to do it in a healthy way. For many folks boundary setting is not easy. We all want to be loved or we want to protect our relationships. Setting a boundary can feel scary as we may worry about any upset that it may cause. Setting a boundary or limit or saying no can come off abrupt and sharp or it can be done in a way that is respectful and non offensive.
Boundary setting is something that can apply to lots of different kinds of situations. This is intended to share information in regard to the general idea of healthy, respectful boundaries for all relationships. And among that sometimes it may not be a relationship but a situation that is occurring.
If you care about yourself and want to do good self-care, boundary setting will be a necessary interaction that you will need to engage in from time to time or quite frequently depending on those you are in contact with. Here are my thoughts on setting healthy, respectful boundaries.
Healthy Boundary Setting
- Let’s first look at what Boundary Setting is. This is about self-protection and good self-care for your self OR if you are a parent setting a boundary with a child or teen, it may be about protecting them and caring about their well-being. Respecting and standing up for yourself is a part of boundary setting. Healthy boundary setting is also about being respectful of those you are setting a boundary with.
- What is the difference between Offensive Boundary Setting and Healthy Boundary Setting? Offensive boundary setting may come off as harsh or uncaring. Healthy boundary setting will be aiming toward a respectful dialog and a healthy relationship. Examples – Talking to your spouse: “I know you are upset with me, but I need you to tell me in a softer voice and without yelling” OR Talking to your teen: “I know you like talking to your friends late at night, but our family rule is no cell phones after 10:00 pm.”
- Healthy boundary setting involves you deciding what is best for you or as a parent of children at home for your children. It is about being in touch with your feelings and honoring what feels right to you. If someone is doing something that feels hurtful or abusive, then setting limits of how you are willing to interact is important. You cannot control another person, but you can choose to step away or disengage from someone who is being hurtful or disrespectful in an adult relationship.
- Arrange a time to talk with the person you need to have a conversation with that is a mutually good time. Or it may be that you need to have this conversation as the need arises in a more natural consequential way.
- Take some deep breaths and center yourself before you embark on a conversation about boundaries.
- When having a boundary setting conversation, start with letting the person know you desire a good relationship (if this is part of the issue) or that you need to let the person know your feelings on something.
- You can acknowledge the other person’s needs or feelings first before begin to express your own.
- Use respectful language about your feelings and what you can and cannot do, keeping your voice calm and using a low tone. You can ask for what you need. The important thing is that you express your feelings and needs. The person you are engaged with may or may not be willing to accommodate you. If not then you will need to decide what you need to do. This is not in retaliation, but in the stance of good self-care and respect for yourself.
- Stand your ground and keep with what you feel is best for you. Do reiterate if your boundaries are pushed again or if your initial request was ignored. But at the same time don’t push it in someone’s face if they are cooperating with you.
- Feel good about your self growth of being able to stand up for your self.
Boundary setting will involve you having a healthy self-esteem, knowing that you matter and how others treat you matters. It also involves having courage to have a potentially hard conversation with another. I recently read one of Rick Hanson’s articles in which he talked of “speaking from the heart”. That is really what we are talking about here – speaking from your heart and letting the real you express what is needed to be said to help you feel better.
Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact a local mental health professional. Strom Individual & Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.
Ever need to have a “conversation” with your loved one, but just don’t know how to do it. You just know they are going to shut down and not really talk with you about re-solving the issue when you bring it up. You are not alone. I see many clients who choose not tell their spouse or partner how they feel or that they are having a problem with something that is going on within the relationship.
So let’s look at some specifics as to how to talk to your sweetheart when you are upset or have a concern that will help keep them engaged and not withdraw.
How to Talk About A Problem Keeping Your Loved One Engaged And Without Withdrawing
- Share your feelings when they are low-level enough that you can talk without overpowering emotion. The longer you wait to share your feelings of upset, the more intense the discussion will be when you do have it. The more chance you will have of saying something in a way that you do not want to. When your feelings are manageable, so will the following discussion.
- On the other hand, let go of very small things that really do not matter that you can be ok with. Pointing out every small thing that occurs that you may not like or feels a bit irritating can lead your partner to feeling overwhelmed, which leads to them checking out or “feeling flooded” with too much.
- One thing at a time helps. Avoid a stream of upset. This helps with your loved one staying in the conversation and not leaving or withdrawing (either physically or emotionally). Not being engaged can be a sign of being flooded or overwhelmed. This is a basic form of protection. When we over share, it normally means we have just let things pile up instead of addressing things as we go. Or it could mean we are clumping our upset with something else into the relationship issue. This could be other stress going on in our life.
- Know your partner’s sensitivities or wounds and consider how they filter information. If you know that your husband was highly criticized growing up, then he will be sensitive to comments that have any feel of criticism. So you may choose to keep that in mind when you have an issue to address. It does not mean you do not share, it just means you are aware and use language that they can hear without being triggered.
- Use a “Gentle Startup” as the Gottman Institute would suggest. A harsh start-up or a highly charged, critical approach will not lead to a productive conversation.
- Admit your part in the issue at hand. By taking responsibility for what you have done that has not helped with this situation, you create a less accusatory conversation.
- Consider when you approach with a problem or concern. Most of us do not do well with facing a problem at the end of the day as we walk in the door. That is normally when we are tired and hungry and want to decompress from the day. This is not always easy as to finding a “good” time. It may be what is the best from what is available. One possibility is to set up a time to discuss an issue.
- Keep your voice at a low-level and avoid accusing. Instead voice your need and ask how you might work on this together. This would mean both of you offering up ways you can shift or adapt to makes things better.
I think one of the biggest keys to resolving issues is to keep everyone engaged and not going into “shut down” mode. This comes with engaging some of the suggestions above. I wish you the best as you engage your loved one in positive communication, one of the foundations for a good relationship.
Of all the things that I hear most about as a therapist that is folks feeling like they are not being listened to. I hear this from adults and children alike. From couples to parent-child relationships. We ALL want to feel listened to. It makes us feel safe and protected. It makes us feel LOVED. And who doesn’t want to feel this way when we are with our loved ones.
So if I had to pick out one thing that would be at the top of my list for good relationship building, it would be to LISTEN with your heart and soul. For seeming so simple, it can feel a bit elusive. Most of us have had experiences where some one says to us, “You are not listening!” Or it may be on the other side of the coin and we are feeling our loved one is really not hearing us or getting what we are trying to say. Let’s take a look at the HOW TO of REALLY GOOD LISTENING.
HOW TO LISTEN SO YOUR LOVED ONE FEELS LOVED
1. “Be There” if You Want it to Count. First up you have to BE THERE for good listening to take place. Of course, we have to be there physically, but we have to really be there on an emotional level as well.
- PHYSICALLY being in the same room, being fairly close, being turned toward, being eye to eye and being in a stance that indicates you are giving your full attention and focus. This would also mean we cannot be looking at our iPhones or on our laptops or watching tv, or face booking etc. We have all gotten a bit obsessed with being “plugged in”. We have to “unplug” to really hear each other.
- EMOTIONALLY being open to putting yourself on hold and hearing what your loved one has to say, being non-judgmental without seeing their feelings as “right” or “wrong”, but just feelings, being open to feeling what it might be like to be in their shoes.
2. Listen without Interrupting, Avoiding Advise Giving. This one is not easy. Many of us struggle with this one. What we have to remember is if we interrupt, it feels like we are not listening. And when we give advise, it might feel like we do not feel our loved one can figure it out on their own. Of it may feel we are discounting their feelings. In other cases, we may be asked for our thoughts and opinions and of course in this case we can share our thoughts for their consideration. Some folks really want this and if so enter in without being overbearing.
3. Acknowledge and Reflect What You Think They Have Said. Try to summarize what your loved one is talking about and to check out if you are getting what they are saying. This helps to do this fairly frequently along the way as it can be hard to reflect if too much is said. This is different from interrupting. Normally interrupting is to give our opinion. Reflecting is letting the person talking know you are really hearing them.
4. Ask How You Can Help. Doesn’t it feel great when someone asks how they can help. We know we are cared for and our loved one is there to support us. So by all means do ask.
- Not Able to Listen due to the environment, time or emotional state you are in. Be honest and open and let your loved one know you really want to hear what they have to say, but you are exhausted and want to give it your full attention when you are in a better state. Do follow-up as soon as possible. Your children are all around you and you feel distracted, so suggest a concrete time to sit and talk when it is more private. Maybe you are very upset with the issue at hand, so you ask for a break to cool down. The main thing is to be concrete with a set time for later if you must delay.
- Avoid Answering Your Phone or Getting Side Tracked with Other’s Interrupting. Doing this will show that your top priority is your loved one. This will go a long ways to a person really feeling listened to.
- Remember when you listen to your loved one, they will reciprocate. Thus the basis for healthy communication.
So LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. It is the foundation for all good relationships!
Which is more important loving yourself or loving others? That should cause some discussion. I think the other question is “Where does self-love start and does one need to love themselves to be able to love others in a healthy way?”
Love starts when we are infants. How we are raised and what messages we are given about ourselves has a profound affect on how we view ourselves and if we have a good self-esteem and if we truly love who we are. Our life experiences outside of our home also plays a part in how we feel about ourselves. This affects our relationships. How we feel about ourselves will affect our choice of partners and friends, etc. It will color our view of relationships. If you did not have an optimal childhood there are ways to work through all of this and have a healthy relationship. Being with a healthy person in your relationship can help with some of the reparative work.
To sum up some of the main ideas on the issue of self-love and love of others:
- Love starts with loving yourself. If you question whether you love yourself or even like yourself, then it is time to look at this and begin a love affair with yourself. This is something that cannot be taken away from you. It is the ultimate gift we can give our self. When we feel good about ourselves just the way we are. it opens up this wonderful space to be really HAPPY. If you have had a difficult childhood, this may mean getting some help to work through this. But it can be done.
- If you want others to show their love to you, starting with showing your love is a good way to get this two-way flow going. When we are open with our love and support for our loved ones, then this tends to flow back to us. If it is not flowing back, then it is ok to let folks know what you need. This may be different for different folks. Many of you are probably familiar with the Five Love Languages. The basic premise is that we have a dominant preference for what makes us feel loved. For some it may be receiving gifts. Others it may be acknowledgement and praise. For some it might be acts of service (ex. helping). Then there are those that feel loved most when they are physically touched. Some thrive on quality time. And then lastly, it may be that you are multi-faceted, like me – I like all of these! The main point of all of this is that we can lovingly and respectfully tell our loved ones what we need.
- Back to loving yourself. This is where it starts and ends. You must love yourself just as you are unconditionally to feel good about yourself. Plus. if for some reason others are not giving you the love you need you can not only communicate your needs, but you can have the basic foundation piece in place “LOVING YOURSELF” which will always serve you well. You might be wondering what does this really mean, loving yourself? For me loving my self is to live authentically, choosing my work and activities to match up with what I am passionate about and what I believe in. And it means good self-care along with caring about my happiness and those I love. You will have your own definition that fits for you.
Loving “from the inside out” is loving yourself first, thus allowing your love to then be given to others in a healthy way. Remember you are unique and lovable just the way you are!