Tools for Boundary Setting

December 18, 2020

When thinking about healthy habits and healthy relationships, boundaries play a crucial part in maintaining sound mental health.  Boundaries help to establish healthy relationships that are rooted in respect and care for one another. They can help protect you from triggering or unwanted situations or conflict. Ultimately, they can help you maintain emotional and mental security by establishing for yourself what your needs are. 

In order to get started on your boundary setting journey, here are some steps towards setting and maintaining boundaries. 


1. Catalog your Limits 

When attempting boundary setting, it’s important to first catalog for yourself what your limits are. What are the situations that make you feel uncomfortable? What do you need in your relationships that make you feel safe? There are some good guiding questions when thinking about what your boundaries might be in a relationship. 

2. Determine Language for Setting Boundaries 

Once you have cataloged all of the things that make you uncomfortable, then it’s time to determine what the boundary might look like. For example, you may feel uncomfortable when your friend gives you hugs and you are not comfortable with that kind of intimacy. Your boundary may look like asking your friends to ask for consent before they give you a hug. 

3. Communicate boundaries 

One of the hardest parts of boundary setting is communicating your boundaries. There can sometimes be a fear that other individuals might not be receptive to your boundaries and can prevent you from taking action to put the boundary in place. 

Prior to a conversation, you can start by writing down what you might want to say. Write down your boundaries and how this boundary might improve the relationship or your own wellbeing. 

When it comes time to communicate, be assertive. You have done a lot of work to get to know yourself and your limits, so it’s important to be grounded in that when you are in communication. A great tool for communication is using I statements. I statements can eliminate blame from the other party and center your feelings and perceptions at the moment. An example might be, “I feel uncomfortable when I am hugged without consent.” This can exist in opposition to a statement like, “You make me uncomfortable when you hug me.” 

After stating how you are feeling about a certain action or statement, you can follow with the boundary you want to set. For example, you could say, “I feel uncomfortable when I am hugged without consent, so could you please ask me for consent before you give me a hug?” This statement gives both the explanation for how something makes you feel and follows up with the boundary that you want to set. 

4. Revisit Boundaries

Sometimes your limits and discomforts may change throughout a relationship, and you may find yourself wanting to change or add new boundaries. It’s okay to want to restructure an existing boundary or create new ones. This practice is an ongoing practice, so don’t be afraid to change boundaries as you see fit. 

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