Do any of these things keep happening to you? Your best friend flakes on you for Sunday brunch that she has set. Your brother keeps borrowing money and keeps forgetting to pay it back. Your “friend” keeps poking fun at your “eclectic sense of style”. Your client keeps paying late and well past the deadline. Do you want to stop these things from happening? If you answered “Hell, yes!” then you, my friend, have to learn to set boundaries.
“But I’ve never had to set boundaries before!”, you say. Well, if you don’t want to spend the rest of your life as a doormat or an insufferable people pleaser, then follow these tips to setting better boundaries. Consider this your cheat sheet – a beginners guide to creating boundaries.
“Personal boundaries are the limits we set for ourselves as individuals in relationships,” psychotherapist Deborah Hecker writes. “They protect our sense of personal identity and help guard against being overwhelmed by the demands of others.”
It is often said that boundaries is where you stop and the other person begins. It is critical to establish boundaries to be able to differentiate yourself from another person. That said, here are the most important steps to creating boundaries:
Determine when you have to create boundaries
The key to this is to be self aware. This is a process of recognising AND acknowledging your own feelings. Take some time to learn about what you like and dislike. Most of the time, we learn too late. Those are the times we chalk up to experience. But moving forward, it is best to look inside yourself and spend time getting to know what makes you uncomfortable or what scares you – and know how you want to be treated during those situations.
For example, if your best friend flakes on you for Sunday brunch, ask yourself if this is a one time thing or if it’s becoming a habit. Ask yourself if this is something minor – a thing you can live with or if you have to create boundaries in this case.
Communicate your boundaries
People aren’t born with psychic abilities – well 100% at least of the people I know aren’t mind readers. Expecting other people to know what your boundaries are is unfair and unrealistic. You have to let them know how you expect to be treated.
For example, if your brother borrows money from you yet again, tell him that you won’t loan him anymore money unless the other loans have been paid. Being direct and clear about what you want is the way to go. If you can’t, then use the sandwich method – which is compliment, criticism, compliment. You can say “I love that you trust me enough to come to me for help. I can’t loan you money right now unless you pay me back what you owe. I’m happy to spot you some cash in the future.
The more specific you are in what you tell them, the better. That way there will be no confusion or miscommunication.
To that client who keeps paying late, you can say “Please make sure that you pay within 5 days after invoice. I would appreciate it if you paid on time. It inspires me to do more of the quality work I give you when I am rewarded for my efforts.”
There you have it! Three easy peasy steps to creating boundaries. Now go and practice it. Have fun with your new powers.