Boundaries (part 3)
In the previous two blogs, we’ve established how important it is to set boundaries with others. But once we’ve decided on our boundaries, we must communicate them. But how? Nedra Glover Tawwab, in her book Set Boundaries, Find Peace, identifies how to successfully communicate a boundary. But before she does that, she highlights four unsuccessful ways of communicating our boundaries. She notes being passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, or manipulative, while possibly effective for a time, do not promote healthy boundaries. The key to successfully communicating your boundaries is to do so assertively.
“Assertiveness involves communicating your feelings openly and without attacking others. It isn’t demanding. Instead, it’s a way of commanding that people hear you” (p. 103). Tawwab offers three steps to assertively communicating a boundary:
Be clear. Do your best to be as straightforward as possible. Mind your tone – don’t yell or whisper. Take a deep breath and focus on being precise.
Directly state your need or request, or say no. Don’t just mention what you don’t like; ask for what you need or want. Identify your expectations, or decline the offer.
Dealing with the discomfort that happens as a result of setting boundaries is the hardest part. It’s common afterward to feel guilty, afraid, sad, remorseful, or awkward.
Nedra encourages us to allow time for people to adjust to our boundaries. “It’s likely you may need to repeat your boundaries, but try not to explain yourself” (p. 112). Starting statements with “I need…”, “I want…” or “I expect…” can be helpful and will keep your boundaries easy to understand. Upholding your boundary is also very important. You’ll need to decide what you’ll do if it’s violated and then follow through.
A couple things to avoid when setting boundaries: Don’t apologize for having and setting boundaries; don’t allow people to get away with violating your boundary even one time; don’t say too much – you don’t have to explain the who, what, when, where, and how of your boundary. “If you want people to respect your boundaries, you have to respect them first” (p. 116).
Tawwab, Nedra Glover. Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself. New York. Penguin Random House, 2021.