5 Steps to Knowing and Communicating Your Personal Boundaries

OK let's dive right into this one, boundaries!

There are certain things in life that trigger me but none more than when someone crosses one of my boundaries. To my amazement sometimes it's not until a boundary has been crossed that I realized I even needed to establish one.

"Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits." - Wikipedia

I have different boundaries for all the different roles in my life. What might be an acceptable way for my husband to talk to me might not be acceptable for my son or my colleagues? However all of my boundaries are grounded in something deeper than how I want to be treated, it’s why I want to be treated that way that's important and the why is connected to my personal core values. For example, if I value honesty and someone tells me a lie I am very likely to get triggered. 

It's my experience as a coach that I am not the only one who hasn’t always been aware of the need to establish a boundary. The behaviors of other people can sometimes be bewildering. In my work with nurses managers, it's not uncommon for them to ask, "why do I have to tell people they need to be on time for work isn't that obvious?" What is obvious to you or I might not be so obvious to others. If being tardy crosses a boundary for someone it is probably because they value punctuality and people who cross this boundary probably don't consider it as a high priority.

"When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated." ― Brené Brown

If the behaviors and actions of others are causing you stress it is well worth exploring what's happening with you. You can't change other peoples behavior but you can change your own. Here's what to do;

  1. Recognize when you get triggered, you might feel angry or frustrated and you might have a physical response such as your throat tightening, fists might clench or maybe you want to cry. All of these and more are normal stress reactions.
  2. Ask yourself how you feel and be honest with your answer. It's tempting to self-judge and tell yourself how you think you should feel rather than how you actually feel. If you are pissed off then be pissed off - its ok.
  3. Now that you have recognized you are triggered and how you really feel, ask yourself why. Why do you I feel pissed off? The answer to this question is critical because it's going to reveal the boundary that has been crossed.
  4. Now you are aware of your boundary your next self-discovery question is, why does this matter? It could be a family rule that you learned as a child, it could be related to a life experience, it could be connected to your profession and it's code of conduct.
  5. When you have worked through the first 4 steps you will have clarity around what is important and why. Your next step is to clearly communicate to those who need to know;
    - What your boundary is.
    - Why it's important.
    - What the consequence will be if this boundary is crossed.

 If you need help working through a situation or setting a new boundary let me know I would love to help you. Email me at sarah.bell@bellscoaching.com for a complimentary "Stress Busters" call.