Establish your boundaries

I realised this week that I see a lot of discussion about establishing boundaries and how critical this is for your wellbeing, but not a lot of discourse on how to work out what your boundaries are.

If you’ve grown up in a certain way, if you’re a people pleaser, if you have been in toxic relationships (and I include work relationships within that), you may have lost sense of what boundaries you need. Here’s a couple of tips on how to understand where you need boundaries.

Think about situations you dread. It could be a phone call from a particular ‘friend’ that you know will always end up with you being asked to do something, a meeting with a colleague where you seem to take more actions, a conversation with a family member where you feel that you have to explain and talk about more of your life than you feel comfortable with. That sense of dread or nervousness is giving you a good indication of someone pushing on a boundary you’ve maybe not even fully recognised yourself.

Imagine what a better outcome to this situation is. That you don’t end up doing an extra shift, or baking two dozen cupcakes, or discussing aspects of your life you don’t want to. Know the outcome of the boundary you want to put in place.

Come up with at least 5 different ways of this happening and then order them 1-5 in your order of comfort. I guarantee that there’s not one of them that you feel totally comfortable with or you would be doing it already. You’ll probably have a really direct intervention as your least preferable; something like ‘No’ or ‘I don’t want to discuss that’. Think of these as goals to build towards. At the other end of the scale you may have things like deflection or delay.

Practice a key phrase. Sometimes the reason we say yes to something we don’t want to do is because it is easier than figuring out a way to politely