How to communicate for an effective boundary


Boundaries and how to set them are a hot topic! It’s an area that I, Dr Claire Maguire, see appear time after time when working with people and it’s an area that is often difficult to do well.

What is a boundary and why do we need them? Ultimately a boundary is something to keep you safe and to make relationships work. We have self-boundaries which ensure we do the work to keep our bodies and mind healthy and happy and we have relationship boundaries which keep our interactions with others workable and avoid mis-understanding. However, communicating, or the lack of communicating, boundaries with another can result in upset and anger. How do we avoid that and still set mutually beneficial boundaries?

Listen to Claire explain the need for effective communication when boundary setting…

When we communicate a boundary to another person, we are saying what is ok with me and what is not ok with me. However, every one of us has different things which are ok and not ok for us.

For example; the way we look after ourselves, interact with people, conversations we have, what we tolerate and will not tolerate. And just because something is not acceptable to you doesn’t necessarily translate to unacceptable to another person – unless you communicate to them and have a conversation.

When something is unacceptable to us we can often set a boundary like a cast iron fence with barbed wire around the top resulting in the boundary becoming impenetrable. It pushes the other person away. The other person may not know you’ve set a boundary or they may not agree with what you are saying. You are not letting the other person put across their point of view or what they might decide is right or wrong. Remember this applies to kind, loving people who want the best for you and themselves.

If the boundary is high and pushing people away, it’s avoiding a conversation that needs to be had. This is often because it’s difficult, it’s something you don’t wish to confront, you don’t want to hear the answer, the other person has an opinion and you don’t want to hear the answer as you want to be right.

Whereas what we should be doing, is having the conversation to say: this is what is and isn’t acceptable to me – how do you feel about it? What are your thoughts around it? What is acceptable and isn’t acceptable to you? Do you realise that when you set your boundary high it was affecting me in a certain way, that I feel unheard, or it hurts me when you do that?

We need these conversations to bring down the cast iron fence to a picket fence level. With you on one side and the person on the other side, you can both then negotiate what is acceptable and not acceptable within the relationship. These can be relationships which are romantic, friendship, family and also work.

Remember when you push up the boundary so high you’re blocking out the other person’s opinion, thoughts, feelings. We want to bring it back down to talk about the issue and from there we establish the boundary of what is and isn’t acceptable for that relationship. Relationships involve more than one person!

Have a think about the boundaries in your life you hold with people, what you want and what the other person might want. Have the conversation and see what together you can create and bring to the world.

Where do you struggle most when setting boundaries with others? I’m looking forward to hearing your views…


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