Challenge 7: Boundary-Setting Strategies

Posted on August 24, 2011


In the last Challenge, you were asked to face and dissolve your lizard fears around boundary-setting. Because boundary-setting may be so new to you, it would probably help to have some strategies (things to say, actions to take, etc) to help get you started. Below are some of my personal favorites.

Use the ones you like, use the ones that fit you and your specific situation or tweak these to create some of your own. Remember, just like we each have a personal line that we must maintain in order to keep healthy boundaries, we each must develop our own way to set boundaries with others. Be true to yourself with this process and it will work for you.

Challenge #7: Use at least 3 boundary-setting strategies to set up healthy boundaries in the situations you listed on your chart for Challenge 6. (See below)

1. Strategy One: Learn to say no. 

Trigger: When someone asks you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, this is your signal that you need to say no. You can use one of the ways below.

a) “It’s impossible for me at this time.”

b) “I can’t do X, but I can do Y. ”

c). “I hate to say no, but I’m going to have to.”

d) Saying no and then providing a legitimate excuse. (No I can’t donate to this cause; we’ve already allocated our donations to some other charities).

d) “Sorry. I can’t.”

e) If saying no is too difficult in the moment, or if you’re put on the spot and aren’t sure how to gracefully say no, ask for some time. “Let me think about it” or “Let me get back to you,” are both good stalling techniques.

f) See my blog post on Saying No Gracefully for more ideas and suggestions.

Strategy Two: Manage boundary expectations

Trigger: If someone has crossed your personal line, perhaps unknowingly or innocuously, you need to instruct them that your line has been crossed. If you don’t tell them, they won’t know and will continue their boundary-crossing behavior.

a) State your expectation/personal rule (ie: I don’t take phone calls after 10pm. I don’t lend money to friends. I go by my maiden name. We don’t shop on Sundays.)

b) Use the DON’T/DO Tactic. *This is from one of my favorite books Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It and it works very well (ie: I don’t want you think I’m being difficult, but I do need to see the details of this plan before I agree to it. I don’t want to seem ungrateful for all this company has done for me, but I do believe that I deserve a raise).

c) State the benefit and the consequence for not adhering to your boundary. (ie: I know how much we both love getting together on the weekends, but if you continue to show up late every time, I’m not going to make our get-togethers a priority anymore. I love so much about this relationship but if you continue to forget our anniversary, I’m going to grow resentful).

d) State what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do. Then, problem solve together. (ie: I’m willing to pay for concert tickets for you and Mark but I’m not willing to pick the two of you up at 2am. What other ways can you get home? or I’m willing to go to your daughter’s piano recital but I’m not willing to deal with your ex-wife’s rudeness. How can we make this a peaceful gathering for all of us?)

Strategy Three: Hold fast to your line. 

Trigger: Sometimes, even after you’ve graciously stated a boundary, others will continue to cross your line. Usually this is another person’s resistance to change and you’re going to have up the ante to make your boundary known and respected.

a) Rinse and repeat. Keep repeating your line over and over again, using the same message but different words until the other person gets a clue. (ie: Like I stated earlier, I go by my maiden name only. I prefer to be called by my maiden name. I don’t use my married name, just my maiden name. OR I’m just really busy right now. I’m swamped and I don’t have time. Like I said, things are crazy for me right now. This is just a hectic time and I can’t do X.)

b) State the boundary, then escalate the consequences for the boundary crossing. (ie: I told you that I didn’t want to be interrupted while I’m working on this report but you’re calling again. I’m turning off my phone now. or We agreed that you wouldn’t talk to your ex-girlfriend anymore and here you are, talking to her again. I’d like to take some time away from this relationship.)

c) State just the facts. Sometimes, people don’t realize they are continuing their behavior until you point out the evidence (ie: Last week, I told you that I didn’t want to see clothes all over your bedroom floor. Here I am, looking in your room and there are clothes all over your bedroom floor. Or I have asked you three times not to call me by that nickname. Yet here you are again, calling me by my childhood nickname).

Okay, Self-Worth Challengers, it’s time to get to work on setting those boundaries!