Boundaries are the practice of openly communicating, asserting personal values, wants, and needs in a relationship. Boundaries are not only a way to preserve and protect yourself as an individual with feelings and thoughts, but boundaries also serve as a way to protect relationships. Here are 5 steps for effectively opening up about boundaries with someone.
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1. Figure out what you want to open up about
Is there a part of the friendship or relationship that you would like to renegotiate or discuss, or is there something you’re going through personally that requires new boundaries?
2. Create a space and time
When it comes to boundaries, you should both break out at least an hour. Maybe you guys should go to lunch or just sit down at home. It should be a comfortable atmosphere and somewhere that does not feel super tense. You should also establish ground rules for the conversation. When the person responds to what you’ve expressed, let them finish their thoughts. Be civil. Let the other person speak their mind and feel comfortable enough to speak their mind. Even though talking about boundaries can be awkward, see what they have to say. Having a conversation on boundaries can be awkward because it’s possible for the other person to get triggered by what you’ve said.
3. Give understanding and clarity
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When there’s not a lot of understanding in regards to why you are setting a boundary, this can create tension or feelings of rejection within the other person. So, it’s easier to address life experiences that make you want a particular boundary. It’s better to say, “When you did this, it reminded me of an experience I didn’t like in the past” or “When you asked for this, I felt this way.” State what the person did, and express how it made you feel and why. That way they have a tangible idea of the reason and the moment you feel a certain way.
For example, you can say, “When we cook, we’ve finished eating, and all of the dishes are in the skin – but then, you head back up stairs, it makes me feel like I’m expected to clean it. And growing up, I faced things like this, but I don’t want that to continue. I don’t want to feel like cleaning up after my friends or partner is required of me, and I don’t want the people around me to give me this impression either.”
But at the same time, it has to be accepted that your statement could be triggering to the other person. They might have the visceral reaction of feeling accused. Nevertheless, if that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel. Just remember to accept whatever misunderstandings may arise and be prepared to move forward with the conversation.
Continuing the example, if the other person were to respond, “I don’t expect you to clean. It’s just that a lot of the time you do.” That’s when you would explain to the person, “I know I normally do those things. But, I don’t want to do them anymore.” Now, the person has a chance to understand where you’re coming from, and you’re preventing further miscommunication. You’re addressing a specific event and how it made you feel.
4. Set ground rules for the future.
If this situation arises again, is there a plan set in place to prevent conflict? For example, you can say, “Whenever food is cooked, can we both clean?” and agree on that.
5. Be consistent.
For any type of boundary, be consistent. Because if you continuously go back on the boundary that you’ve set, how can you rely on the person to adhere the boundary? When you confront or open up about a desired boundary, try not to get cold feet and go back on what you’ve said. Don’t express that you feel a certain way, and then two weeks later say, “It’s actually fine.” Maybe you’re going back on the boundary for a specific situation or because it’s irritating to remind the person, but no. You have to keep true to that boundary. Your thoughts and feelings are valuable so try not to overrun them even it feels convenient in the moment. Once you’ve expressed your feelings to another person, you have hold yourself accountable and stand by them. Don’t disregard your feelings. Go 100% because you deserve to.