Boundaries are those invisible lines around yourself that let people know the limits of what they can say or do around you. Make your boundaries too solid and you build walls, too weak and you allow others’ actions to harm you. This week I developed 11 questions to help you examine this topic. Take a few minutes to find out how well constructed your boundaries are.
1. I start statements with “I” rather than “you” or “we.” This lets me own what I say and is less defensive than “you,” and cleaner than “we.”
2. My boundaries are specific and clear: “I don’t accept phone calls after 10 p.m.,” rather than the vague and mushy: “Don’t call me too late.”
3. I’m consistent when I create boundaries. If I say “no phone calls after 10 p.m.,” I don’t make exceptions unless the situation is exceptional.
4. When people attempt to cross my boundaries, I don’t assume the worst (they don’t care, they weren’t paying attention, they’re selfish and inconsiderate); I simply restate my position.
5. As soon as I realize I’m in a situation that might be headed for trouble, I announce my boundary: “I won’t continue talking with you if you raise your voice at me.”
6. I try to avoid situations and people where I know my boundaries will be continually tested.
7. I don’t take responsibility for how others respond to my boundaries. If someone feels resentment because I didn’t wait when she was twenty minutes late for our appointment, I don’t try to make it okay for her.
8. I respect others’ boundaries and ask for clarification when I’m not certain of limits. “May I talk to you about business after hours?”
9. When people refuse to respect my boundaries, I walk away rather than get into a situation that could escalate. I say why I’m leaving.
10. I let people know when I have reconsidered a boundary. “It used to be okay for you to be late, but now…”
11. I believe that everyone has to create his or her own boundaries. What’s okay for me might not work for someone else.
Boundaries held firm can help make life easier, reduce conflict, and improve relationships. Plus, they’re a real self-esteem booster. If you answered true to fewer than 6 of these questions, you might need to examine how you might want to adjust how you are setting your boundaries.
Don’t forget to tune into our new podcast. Our latest podcast episode examines empathy and the possibility we are doing it wrong. You can find the latest episode here. Please feel free to pass it on to anyone whom you think might find it useful.