10 Sep Others Will Treat You The Way You Let Them —3 Keys To Boundary-Setting
You know those people, the ones that when you’re having a conversation with them, you find yourself taking a few steps back because they’re all up in your face? That’s a physical boundary that they just crossed.
Boundaries are physical and emotional. Think of emotional boundaries like your invisible bubble of how close (or far) you prefer people to hang out in. Our boundaries help define who we are, determine what we’ll put up with, and keep us safe from undesirable behaviour from others. Your job is to communicate your boundaries with others clearly. Your boundaries will vary from relationship to relationship, while you can’t change people, you can encourage them to change how they behave around and interact with you.
Halting undesirable behaviour
As an example, let’s say your new love interest has been late for your past three dates. You can’t control if they’re late for all their appointments, but you can make it clear that dates with you need to begin on time. The unwanted behaviour is about what’s not cool with you — “It’s not okay for me when people aren’t on time.”
Often, people react with their emotions first and respond with complaining, anger, or nagging. They’re often responding in one of three ways; passive, aggressive, or everyone’s favourite—passive-aggressive.
A passive response would be to let the unwanted behaviour continue, staying hush on the outside while a storm is raging inside of you. The boundary-breaker is none the wiser and you feel bent out of shape on the inside.
If you were responding with aggression, you might counter with blame, or attack them. Imagine lecturing your date with a tirade while you stomp your feet. You look like a fool and they might be completely bewildered.
In a passive-aggressive response, you’d be responding with aggression, but your body language would appear non-threatening. Think sarcasm, guilt-trips, and half-smiles. People often engage in passive-aggressive behaviour so that they can be subtle in their attack. It communicates their unhappiness but doesn’t share what they want and need.
Instead of reacting, choose to respond with confidence with kindness.
You still have emotions around the event and might be angry, and this is entirely okay. It’s your response that you can control, and when you communicate your boundaries effectively and kindly, others will be more likely to hear and respect them.
Your intention here is to build or grow a relationship in a way that avoids shaming or blaming your partner(s). It’s not about being right. It’s about the other person changing their actions around you.
The next time someone crosses your boundaries, here are some positive and constructive ways to respond:
- Make others aware of their actions.
The offender may not even realize that they’ve offended you, so responding in this way helps make them aware. You could say with your late date, “When you’re late for our dinner dates, I feel slighted.”
- Ask for what you want.
It’s all too easy to think people can read our minds (wouldn’t that be so much easier?) You can ask for what you want calmly and specifically. As an example, you could state, “I’d really love it if you’d arrive for dinner on time, or let me know in advance if you are running late.”
- Head for the door.
If the other person is too emotional to handle a calm and adult conversation, your best bet may be to remove yourself from the situation. If you’ve stated your displeasure and asked for what you want and the response makes you uncomfortable, you have permission to leave.
Others treat you the way you let them.
This is fantastic news, because you have the power to ask for what you want. Showing others how to treat you and what behaviour you accept is essential to set up healthy boundaries. Don’t be alarmed if some people feel offended. Continue to hold your ground politely. The more you make boundary-setting a habit, the easier and more natural it will feel to you.
Written by Bliss therapist, Kelly McDonnell-Arnold. Learn more about Kelly and get her secret “Tips From the Couch” here.
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Do you have any questions for us, or need some help setting up healthy boundaries? Maybe there is someone in your life who makes boundary-setting a challenge? We’re happy to help! Get in touch with us here.
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