Top 10 Tips for Setting Boundaries

Boundaries are an important part of creating a life that works well for you. Boundaries are lines of protection that you draw in your life. You decide what is and isn't okay and then hold people and yourself to these boundaries. Developing this skill is an important part of living a life you love. The first step is to decide that you value yourself enough to draw these lines and the second is that you value others enough to teach them how to be with you.

1. Be compassionate

Setting boundaries can be an act of compassion. You are a teacher...teaching others how to be with you and modeling an important skill for effective communication. Being compassionate and setting boundaries can go together. Empathize with where they are coming from and set the boundary.

2. Charge neutral

When you are setting a boundary it is critical that your voice be charge neutral. If there is a charge to your communication then the message can get lost and the clarity of the boundary becomes clouded. Practice speaking without a charge in your voice so it feels natural.

3. 4-Step model

Use this 4-step model to set boundaries. It is simple and effective and can keep your communication on track and guide you through the process of setting and holding to your boundary. After you have defined your boundary follow these steps: (1) Inform the person that you have a boundary, (2) Request that the boundary be respected, (3) Insist that the boundary be respected and (4) Leave or end the interaction with the person at this time.

4. Practice

Find someone with whom you can practice setting a boundary. Practice your new skill and when you get more confident then start setting boundaries with others in your life. Start setting boundaries with people who will offer little resistance and then move up to more challenging people. Get a feel for what it is like to draw the line.

5. Body language of confidence

Watch your body language. Do your shoulders slump? Do you look down when you are talking? Do you mumble? Do you fidget? Start becoming aware of how you come across. You want your body language to communicate confidence, so challenge yourself to hold you shoulders back, sit up straight and make direct eye contact.

6. Use "I" statements

When you are speaking, be responsible for the words coming out of your mouth. Make "I" statements that reflect how things effect you, what you believe, or your ideas. "You" statements can put people on the defensive and detract from effectively communicating a boundary.

7. Don't take things personally

How other people behave, act, and think often has nothing to do with you. It has to do with their life experiences, their beliefs and the agreements that they have made with the world. You can be responsible for your own communication and yet not take it personally.

8. Find your own words

Listen to how others talk, learn different ways to language what you want to say and read how others communicate and set boundaries. Then develop your own way to speak...find your own voice and your own style of expression. That way it will be natural for you.

9. Don't assume responsibility for others

Don't assume responsibility for other people's feelings. Again this has much more to do with them and their views of the world. Create clear direct ways of communicating and allow others to feel how they choose.

10. Be aware of your own sensitivity

When you first begin setting boundaries you might be very sensitive to what people ask of you or how they relate to you. You have opened up a new awareness and you may be viewing your communication in a completely new light. This is great, but it can also get in the way if you jump ahead in the 4-step model or your new sensitivity affects the charge of your voice.

-by Coach Jamie McGarvey