Getting What You Need in a Relationship

Set Boundaries for Better Relationships

Through connection with others we feel part of the world and feel special to the people in our lives. However, we may become so close that we lose our self or risk losing authenticity.  Setting boundaries says, “This is who I am, and what I want or need from you, who I really care about.”  Setting boundaries gives you a sense of autonomy. In addition, it allows you to show up as our authentic self.

Your partner, friend, family members or boss may be critical or be unaware of what is going on in your life. Sometimes they may be intrusive or be unable to understand that you too have needs in the relationship. Bosses or friends may try to be helpful in ways that don’t really help. A boundary promotes both of you to being your better self. These four suggestions will give you some ideas about setting boundaries and building better relationships.

“We diminish the other person when we tolerate behavior that diminishes the self,” 

Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate

1. Don’t just react, think and determine what is the underlying bother. Ask yourself why you feel angry, diminished or anxious. This allows you to identify what is happening and whether you need to set a boundary or if there is a different choice. We cannot choose our feelings, but we can choose how we react to those feelings.

2. Approach the conversation to set a boundary or discussion with unconditional positive regard. Let the person or persons know that you care about them and know that they care about you.  The conversation opening should be one of respect and love. Not “when you do this I feel angry or I feel hurt, etc.” Let the person know that you care about their feelings too. A boundary can be set with someone you love, a family member, parents, coworkers and even your boss. Mutual regard is simply approaching the conversation on a level playing field.

3. State your feeling or boundary simply. You don’t need to justify why you have a boundary, simply say I need you to hear me and understand this is what I need. Use “I” language. This owns the feelings and doesn’t place blame on someone else. You are simply stating that this is what you need  and want in the relationship.

4. Acknowledge that it isn’t up for negotiation and that it is what you need from them. Check in with yourself, before you approach the conversation. Is it a boundary or are you trying to make the other person change. Remember that you can only control yourself. The other person’s reaction and feelings are their responsibility. If they have trouble with the boundary or want to talk about it simply ask them to take some time and think about it before they give you an opinion, negotiate or try to change your mind.

Setting boundaries is just a way of letting others that you are connected to that you have needs and want certain things in the relationship. It is not blaming them for your situation or feelings. Coaching can help you develop an understanding of where you can use boundaries and how to set a boundary without diminishing yourself or the other.

“But one of the hallmarks of emotional maturity is to recognize the validity of multiple realities and to understand that people think, feel, and react differently. Often we behave as if “closeness” means “sameness.” 

Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships


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