Recap Lesson 4
Boundaries with intention
Visualising setting boundaries with feeling the outcome
The next step is to communicate your boundaries.
Effective communication is a skill that takes learning and practice. When the stakes are high and personal feelings are involved, it's common to feel intimidated and overwhelmed by the notion of telling someone what it is you don't want, or even what you do want. As we learned in the preceding lessons, this is where feelings like guilt, doubt, and fear come up, preventing us from taking action.
If you fear communicating your boundary, know that you can overcome this fear! Underneath your fear is something much stronger, your will to be happy, your desire to create a meaningful life.
When you can tap into that will and desire, you will muster the courage you need to go forward and speak your truth.
How to communicate your boundaries
When it comes to how you want to communicate your boundary, there is a spectrum of choices, from silence to a confrontational blow-up, and everything in between. The idea is to avoid the blow-up and seek a more compassionate way that feels right and works for you.
Silence, or physically distancing yourself, can be useful when it is best to avoid any contact with a person, especially someone who is toxic or even dangerous. Another option that allows you to maintain physical distance while communicating your boundary is writing a letter or email. The advantage of a letter is that you can take your time to write it, carefully choosing your words. If you know that there isn't a risk of aggression, and the other party is a levelheaded person, then having a candid conversation together may be the right choice, whether face-to-face or on the phone. Being able to talk in person invites the opportunity for a shared experience that can foster a deeper exchange.
What you say, what you don't say, and how you say it are all important to keep in mind as you decide how you want to communicate your boundary to another person. It helps to put yourself in that person's place, to empathise with them, so you can anticipate how they might react to the conversation. It's also beneficial to practice what you will say, rehearsing the scene on your own or with someone you trust.
Write down how you would like to communicate your boundaries.
What feels right to you?
Communicating healthy boundaries is a simple process, but not easy. It takes practice until it becomes second nature.
As you learned, the first step is to recognise if a boundary has been crossed.
Once you've identified that a boundary that needs to be set, it's time to define it.
This means articulating the boundary as clearly as possible to yourself: "I feel my privacy is being violated when my mum comes over to my house unexpectedly and without permission."
Now you need to decide what you will do (the consequence) if the boundary is crossed: "If you continue to invite yourself over to my place without an invitation, I will not answer the door."
Think about the actions you are willing to take and how flexible you want to be in order to maintain the quality of relationship you want.
After you've defined your boundary and the consequence for crossing it, it's time to communicate your request to the other party. Whether you choose to have a face-to-face conversation, write a letter, or have a phone call, be direct and firm. But remember, this isn't a confrontation, it's a conversation. The goal of the conversation is to find common ground and mutual acceptance.
Be firm and respectful with your words by using "I" statements rather than "you." Using "I" shows confidence and keeps the focus on you and your needs, while "you" can be interpreted as finger-pointing and threatening to the other person. For example, "I feel violated when you come to my house without warning or an invitation. My private space is important to me, and I appreciate you respecting it."
If an understanding can be reached, acknowledge that agreement together.
Other tips to consider about communicating boundaries:
Whichever method of communication you choose, it's helpful to practice beforehand with a trusted friend. Have a friend read your letter or practice the conversation with your friend until you feel comfortable and confident.
During your conversation, if the other side reacts with anger or withdraws, remember you are only responsible for yourself. If there's aggression, you have the right to stop the conversation and leave.
When you state your boundary, try to set aside negative emotions like blame or anger. Without over explaining, say why you need the boundary for your happiness and well-being. Let them know how honouring the boundary could benefit them as well.
Allow time for the other side to talk or reply to your request. Listen with openness and compassion.
Communicating your boundary takes courage. When you stand up for yourself, it can feel both frightening and empowering. Stay firm, calm, and steadfast.
If you successfully communicate your boundary and both parties are able to agree and respect each other, that's an achievement worth acknowledging, even celebrating! But when the other person reacts with defensiveness, disrespect, or anger, that doesn't necessarily mean defeat or that you should give up on setting your boundary.
What boundary do that you want to set?
Who do you need to communicate it to?
Write your boundary down in simple, direct language, so you can communicate it clearly to the other person.
Remember to use an "I" statement, such as:
I feel _________when ________ because___________________________________.
What I need is ________________________________________________________.
What will you do if your boundary is violated. Write down the consequences.
Decide if you will communicate to the other person face-to-face, by letter, or by phone call.
Write your letter or a script if you will be communicating verbally.