For people with a strong empathic side, like coaches, setting boundaries is a vital skill to learn and practice.
Here are our 5 tips to help you set healthy boundaries in your life:
1. Get clear on your priorities
The first step to setting healthy boundaries is getting clear on what you need and what you want. Reflect on the boundaries already in place and what’s missing from them.
Figure out what you need from various relationships and in various environments and then communicate them to other people.
2. Do it clearly, firmly, and in a few words as possible
Your boundaries are your non-negotiables so don’t start negotiating them. State them respectfully, gracefully and firmly – there is no need to explain.
Keep the focus on yourself through ‘I statements’. For example, instead of telling your clients ‘You have to stop calling me in the evening’, tell them that ‘I need time for myself and my family in the evenings so I won’t be checking my messages’.
3. If setting boundaries feels uncomfortable for you, practice them
For many who are not used to setting healthy boundaries, this process will feel uncomfortable in the beginning. For people who tend to put others first, you might even feel guilty or ashamed, to begin with. For others, you might fear rejection or confrontation.
Don’t expect perfection from the start but practice saying your boundaries. Make a list and practice them alone by articulating them out loud. And then practice on others, step by step, starting with the smallest things.
Learning to set healthy boundaries is a skill that takes time so allow yourself space to practice, to make mistakes and do it at your own pace.
4. Decide on consequences ahead of time
A boundary without consequence is just a threat.
This means that when setting boundaries, it is important to explicitly state why they are important, and then following through with them. If you decide ahead of time on the consequences, it is more likely you can think them through and then follow through if needed. Otherwise, the boundaries will not be effective.
5. Remember, you are only responsible for setting your boundaries respectfully, not how the others will react
You are only responsible for communicating your boundaries clearly, you’re not responsible for the reaction of the other person. False responsibility leads to all kinds of shame and guilt, and the first step is to recognize it and accept it. So say it again, loud and proud.
You are not responsible for other people’s reaction.
Appropriate boundaries look different for each of us in different environments but it’s important to set boundaries in all aspects of your life.
Finally, as important as it is to set your own boundaries, it’s just as important to respect other people’s boundaries. We’re all dealing with unprecedented challenges, stresses and changes. Respect is a two-way street and appreciating the boundaries others have set for themselves is part of it.