“Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously.” (Prentis Hemphill)
Boundaries are one of the most effective ways that we can protect and honor ourselves and others. Not only can they protect our physical space, but they can protect our mental space as well. By setting healthy boundaries, we come more in tune with who we are and what we need and are able to walk more freely in the world and connect with other human beings. Boundary setting can be hard though! As with most things, the most important tool is practice, and as you practice, you will learn what ways work best for you. However, to get started, check out our guidelines from our expert boundary setting instructors below.
The first step in setting a good boundary is understanding where your boundaries lie. Boundaries are fluid and can change in different situations with different people, but beginning to self-assess about what feels right and what doesn’t can help you when you need to set a boundary in the moment.
This may seem like a no brainer, but the power of breathing can help center us to deliver a more clear message. When we get stressed, we can hold our breath or only focus on the inhale. Our exhale is important in signaling to our body that we are in control. Try taking a deep breath and elongating your exhale before, during, and after setting your boundary.
Match your body language with your words:
Being congruent with your body language and words can help with the delivery of your message. Generally keeping neutral body language and facial expressions allows you to present an air of calm and can get your message across better.
Be clear, concise, and direct:
While it may be difficult at first, being honest about what you need is an important step in setting a boundary, and the best way to do that is to be as direct about it as possible. This will get easier to recognize as you get practice, but focusing on making your message as clear, concise, and direct will help minimize miscommunication. It is best to avoid using language that diminishes your boundary (“just”, “kind of”, “maybe”, etc.). Instead of “I kind of feel uncomfortable,” try saying “I feel uncomfortable when…”
BONUS: Assess what it means when your boundary isn’t being received:
No one can express your boundaries for you. They are deeply personal and ever evolving. While you are the best advocate for your boundaries, you are not at fault if someone refuses to hear or accept your boundary. It can be important to recognize when this is happening. This may tell you something deeper about the person you are engaging. Is your boundary non-negotiable? Is this person willing to discuss your boundaries? Do you want to be around someone who is unable to accept your boundaries? What is the boundary you set with yourself about who is worth your time? These are all questions you can ask yourself to gain a little more insight when you are having a hard time with your boundaries being received.
Your boundaries are yours to honor and protect, and we hope these steps will help you start your journey towards setting healthy boundaries because when we do, we reap the benefits in all areas of our lives. At IMPACT, we strive to give people the confidence to protect themselves, and boundary setting is one of the techniques we teach. In our classes, we will teach you our Magic Formula that will help you continue to set clear and effective boundaries. We would love to see you in class!