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Set & Respect Boundaries

Have you ever wished that someone would DO or STOP doing something without you needing to say anything?

Have you ever just hoped that someone would notice that what they were doing was bothering you, or that what they were failing to do was disappointing you?

And, have you ever gotten so frustrated that, when you finally told them, you exploded with anger and upset in a way that you felt bad about later?

Most of the time, using what we call ‘The Wishing Technique’ doesn’t work!

People cannot read your mind. The first step to letting them know that you want them to do something differently is to TELL them, clearly, respectfully, and powerfully.

Just telling people what you want them to know is obvious, AND it can be hard.

Figuring out what stops you from speaking up will help you figure out ways to get past those barriers. Common challenges include:

  • Internalized beliefs such as: “It’s not worth it.” “I have no right.” “It’s dangerous to say no.” “It’s my job to take care of other people.”
  • Triggers, such as: emotions, behaviors, thoughts, and words that cause us to explode with feelings.
  • Longing to belong, such as: wishing to be accepted, loved, wanted, or included by another person or a group.

Beliefs can be changed. Triggers can be managed. Learning to overcome uncomfortable feelings so you can take charge of your wellbeing will serve you throughout your life.

It’s never too late to learn.

One of our students in a class for older adults said, “I am 94 years old, and this is the FIRST time anyone has taught me about boundaries. I’m SO glad I’m learning it now!”

We’re glad, too, and, YOU don’t have to wait until you’re 94!

HOW you set your boundaries makes a difference.

People are more likely to listen to someone who communicates in ways that are calm, confident, and assertive – rather than passive or aggressive.

By using your Assertive Advocacy Communication Skills, other people are likely to listen to you better and bother you less.

A recipe for communicating about boundaries:

  1. Wait until you calm down enough to express your boundary calmly and respectfully.
  2. Try to make a time when the other person is more likely to be able to listen. If it is not an emergency, wait to state concerns until everyone is rested. You might start with, “There is something I’ve been wanting to talk about.”
  3. Lead with a “Boundary Bridge” expressing caring, understanding, and/or appreciation, followed by the word ‘AND’ in order to connect this with what you are going to say next.
  4. Communicate your feelings without attacking the other person, and starting with an ‘I’ statement.
  5. In an objective way, then state the specific behavior you are concerned about.
  6. Say what you would like the other person to do differently.

It works best to use short, simple sentences. For example:

  • “I understand how busy you are, AND I feel frustrated when you keep coming late to our meetings. Please allow extra time so that you can be there when we’ve agreed to start.”
  • “I have a great respect for all your expertise and appreciate your generosity in sharing it, AND I feel upset when you correct me in front of other people. In the future, please wait and do this privately.”
  • “I know that I forgot to take out the trash again, AND I feel sad when you yell at me. Next time, please remind me in a regular voice.”

To learn more, see our article: How the ‘Boundary Bridge’ Helps to Avoid a Communication Breakdown.

Do you dislike it when someone else tells you what to do? Or, if they say they don’t like something you are doing?

Negative reactions when you first set a boundary are normal, and include: denial, minimizing, counterattacking, and acting so devastated that you feel tempted to take care of the other person’s feelings.

The best way to become skilled at setting boundaries is to PRACTICE!

Rehearsing what to say and do can really make a difference in how well things go, and can prepare you for the other person’s negative reaction. You can use our Fullpower Boundaries Personal Practice guide on your own, or with a friend.

For more, visit our Mental Health resources page.

Focus on what you CAN do

Constantly thinking and worrying about big problems outside your control can make you stressed, anxious, and distracted – without making anything better.

Focus instead on small, positive steps that you have the power to take.

Even one small, positive action can help replace isolation and despair with connection and hope.


Make self-care a high priority

Most of us know that getting the rest, exercise, connection, nourishment, and care we need will make us calmer, happier, and more prepared to do our work and help others.

The problem is that making enough time for self-care can feel impossible with work, school, and family responsibilities.

It’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking that we can get by with far less self-care than we actually need.

Without investing in ourselves, we are harming ourselves.

This is why it’s essential to make nurturing ourselves a top priority in our daily lives.


Develop & choose positive beliefs

Beliefs are thoughts we have over and over until we become convinced they are true.

Some are empowering. Some are limiting. All are changeable. Just deciding to change a negative belief probably won’t work at first because it won’t feel true.

For example, going from “I hate my body” to “I love my body” doesn’t happen just because we decide we want a new belief about our body.

Instead of trying to make a big leap that doesn’t feel true, you can use a strategy to change a negative belief in smaller steps, gradually, over time.


Protect your feelings

Have you ever felt miserable because of something cruel that someone said or did to you? Has this experience made you miserable over and over again every time you remember it?

You have the power to protect your feelings so that you can stay safe emotionally.

Here’s how.


Create safe and strong relationships

Developing safe and strong relationships helps us to reduce isolation, protect our mental health, and add joy and purpose to our lives.

Even one strong connection with a caring person can help to replace despair with hope.

Times of transition often lead to the loss of ongoing close relationships. Even if you don’t have someone you can talk with on a personal level right now, brief, positive exchanges with strangers and acquaintances can brighten our whole day. A smile, a wave, or a short chat about the weather can help us to feel more connected and less alone.

Here are some ways to meet new people and improve your relationships.


Support others

Have you ever seen a friend or family member struggling emotionally? Maybe they were depressed or anxious or very sad because of a loss?

Many of us really want to help, and we aren’t always sure how. We might feel that whatever we do just isn’t enough, or we’re worried about doing the wrong thing and making someone feel worse.

The simple things can make a big difference.

Helping someone in need can improve your mood, your sense of wellbeing, and your sense of connection.

Here are some ideas of how to help others while still taking care of yourself.


Recognize and ask for what you want

One of the most important keys to good mental health is being able to do things that give you joy, satisfaction, and success in your life.

In order to do this, you first have to determine your own values, goals, and priorities.

Next, you have to look at what your options are and figure out some specific next steps for taking action.

And then, you need to be prepared to advocate for yourself persistently, respectfully and powerfully.

Here are some ways to recognize and ask for what you want.


Get help

Do you hate asking for help? Do you want to solve problems yourself instead of leaning on other people? Have you had bad experiences where the help you got made things worse?

Unfortunately, many cultures view asking for help as a weakness or as being selfish.

Some families see getting professional help such as counseling or therapy as being a personal failure, and associate mental healthcare with being ‘crazy.’

Getting help when you need it takes courage and strength.

Here are some ideas for how to overcome obstacles to getting the right kind of help for YOU.


Protect your personal safety

Too much misery, suffering, and trauma are caused by abuse, bullying, and assault.

The good news is that you have the power to protect yourself most of the time.

Here are some ways that you can develop the confidence and skill to take charge of your personal safety at home, at work, online, and in public.