The Power of Saying No:
Communicating Your Boundaries
Every person has their own unique boundaries. Boundaries help us define who we are. Some
examples of boundaries include what you feel is and isn’t acceptable, and what you want and do not want. Boundaries can be communicated verbally and non-verbally, and there are different types of boundaries we can have. An example of a specific type of boundary is physical boundaries, such as the physical space between you and the person next to you that you feel most comfortable with. Examples of different types of boundaries (emotional, mental, sexual, spiritual, physical and material) can be found here.
We are going to focus on how important communicating your boundaries with others can be. Setting appropriate boundaries, like saying no when you want to, can pose as more and more challenging as responsibilities increase and relationships expand; although challenging, boundary setting is essential to healthy relationships, self-expression, and empathy.
Why Boundaries are Important to Have in Relationships?
Identifying and communicating your boundaries can actually decrease any anxiety you may be experiencing within your relationships. This relates to the finding that lacking boundaries can increase your anxiety, such as when you over-commit or over-accommodate others, and is discussed further here and here. Communicating boundaries clearly gives people in your life a chance to respect and respond to these boundaries, thus enhancing your relationship.
Researcher Brené Brown, PhD has found that a person with clearly communicated boundaries is someone who can be more empathetic to others in their life, and thus have more fulfilling relationships. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brown explained, “Compassionate people are boundaried people.” (http://brenebrown.com/books/) Every person has their own boundaries, and it’s important to prioritize yours while asking about, and respecting, others.
Important steps to consider when communicating boundaries include: 1.) identify your boundaries; 2.) identify the potential consequences should those boundaries be crossed; 3.) communicate your boundaries clearly with others (more on this below); 4.) follow through with consequences if/when boundaries are crossed (more on this below).
Boundaries are something that can be communicated verbally and through nonverbal communication; however, verbal boundary setting can be a clearer way to express your needs. Examples of verbally communicating your boundaries include using “I statements” such as “I feel…” “I do not want to…” “I am going to…”, etc. You can also use assertiveness skills discussed in the most recent BALA Bulletin, to assert your wants, needs and concerns in an effective way.
It is important to be sure to clarify to others the potential consequences if a boundary is crossed. Setting specific consequences will let others who may be considering crossing a boundary know the gravity of their behaviors. Keep in mind that after boundaries and consequences are set, if that boundary is crossed it is very important to feel confident in your ability to follow through with the consequences you have set. This can be challenging, as Dr. Brown explained, “One of the greatest (and least discussed) barriers to compassion practice is the fear of setting boundaries and holding people accountable.”
When setting boundaries with others, it is helpful to remind them that boundaries are a strategy to improve the quality of any relationship. It is key to have the understanding that healthy relationships have clear ideas of one another’s’ boundaries and are guided by following those boundaries with mutual respect for one another.
Need help with identifying and setting boundaries?
It is common to think that boundary setting can be particularly challenging especially if it is new to you, if you experience social anxiety, or have a history of or current unhealthy relationships. Receiving further guidance and support in identifying your own boundaries, and then communicating them with others, can be helpful. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about their own boundaries and how to communicate them, contact us at Behavioral Associates Los Angeles to find out more about what treatments may be right for you.
Deborah Schleicher, Psy.D., Associate | Behavioral Associates Los Angeles
Behavioral Associates Los Angeles is a group of cognitive-behavioral therapists specializing in the treatment of anxiety and mood disorders. To find out more, contact us by phone at 310-205-0523 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also request an appointment with a Behavioral Associates LA psychologist by submitting a brief patient assessment form on our Website. Our clinical staff will follow up with you within 24 hours of submission.