Can you set boundaries without hurting others? I believe you can. My view on this is it all begins with intention. If you understand what your intention is for setting the boundary it will be a lot to easier to communicate without hurting others in the process. Is your intention about wanting something for your life, or is your intention to ‘motivate’ (really manipulate) someone into acting a certain way or punish them. These are two very different intentions and yet I see many people blur them because they don’t put the energy and hard work needed to figure it out. Boundaries are good. Self protection is good. We all need to identify our limits, aligned with our values, and be clear with ourselves and others about what we need for our lives.
The descriptors I hear from clients when they have not been able to set healthy boundaries with their job, colleague, spouse, family, or friends is that are feeling ‘resentful’, ‘taken advantage of’, ‘railroaded’, ‘under appreciated’. This usually is a gradual process. You say “yes” to something you didn’t want to do, you give more than is comfortable, you are looking for something in return, you have expectations of others to follow the same norms as you do without getting their buy in, and then poof, you are angry. Anger is a strong one. A real motivator. It also is a heavy burden. As you have learned to sit in your anger pot it becomes really hard to try a different pot. It makes me think of the boiling frog analogy… starts warm, next thing you know you are boiling over; seething with anger. This is where things go south….
So how do you communicate your needs? Do you wait until your are boiled over and then emotionally vomit on someone? Do you explain why you need to make adjustments? Do you get input on how to jointing agree to boundaries? Or do you dictate and make rules that no one else has the playbook to? We all have arbitrary rules; some rules for these people, some rules for those, which in and of itself isn’t a “bad thing”. But how are you showing up and being kind and gracious to those you are stricter boundaries with. I will say, I am in full favor of boundaries! We do not have the same relationships with people, people are complex and come with their own stuff, so unless we actually say what we need, we are in the world of assumptions. If you follow my blog you have heard me refer to The Four Agreements. Never make assumptions… making assumptions is the base for the anger train. Right out of the gate, you and the other person are not on the same page, not playing by the same rules, as we are interpreting and imprinting our norms on the situation. Therefore, not truth.
I recently experienced a shouting match (yes literally a yelling match, apparently grown up people who are not married still do that), between two siblings who supposedly love each other. I would say they probably don’t, but feel they “should” have relationship because of their familiar bond. One person has a set of rules for how family should behave and the other has a different set of rules. Over their 40 year relationship communication was strained and tight about what one needed from the other, what one wanted for their relationship, but when one sibling “stepped out of line” to ‘slight’ the other, 40 years of anger, resentment, disappointment, hurts, came flooding out. Now, some would argue this type of outburst is 1) unavoidable and 2) cathartic. I disagree, and here is why. Not everything needs to be said. Sticks and stones break bones… and words will break hearts and minds. Bones heal a lot faster and (usually) back to their same function, hearts and minds do not. So did one really need to ‘go off’ on the other, I think not. And if we are sensing friction we have a choice. To let it continue and fester, is to become “resentful” and add to the anger pot. When we don’t deal with our anger, with our years of miscommunication, it becomes all that much harder to tackle. It is critical to healthy relationship and healthy boundary setting to be able to have the hard conversations when a situation happens.
How do you tackle crucial conversations with people in your life? Do you hope it will go away? Do you share your feelings real time? Do you make a conscience decision about the outcome you are looking for? Or decide to let it go and actually mean it? Is the relationship more important than your rules? If you can share with someone how you feel and make it about you, and not about the wrong doings you assumed the other person has done unto you, articulating your needs and setting boundaries will be smoother. If you can be brave and share your hurts and emotions setting boundaries won’t be an uphill battle and it will come from an intention of having loving, respectful, honest relationships.
I struggle with this. Triggers, old stories, and even a little good ole vindictive ego gets in the way at times. But I try. I keep trying to focus on my feelings. Focus on what I want; want from the relationship, want for myself, and want the other person to feel. At the ‘end of the day’ setting boundaries to ensure I focus on my intention, allows for self protection and accept with more love and less judgement those in my life.