Take Control of Your Life by Setting Boundaries
Posted by Todd Smith
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Do you keep agreeing to do tasks you don’t have time to do? Do you allow people to interrupt you at their whim? Do you allow your children to ignore your requests? Do you allow people to treat you with disrespect?
When you don’t stand up for yourself and set boundaries, negative things happen: people take advantage of you; life becomes chaotic; you feel abused; your strong self-esteem fades away; and you struggle to find joy and fulfillment in your life.
Here are 12 responses you can use to set boundaries with. . .
1. An angry person. You could say, “You are a valued customer, but I will not tolerate this type of verbal abuse. If this is how you are going to treat me, I need to hang up the phone.”
2. Callers phoning you at home during your family time. “From 6:00 until 8:00 is the time I have allocated to be with my family. If you call during that window, I will return your call after 8:00.”
3. Family or friends who often interrupt you at work. “I want to honor my employer during the hours I am being paid to do my work. Unless something is an emergency, please text me and I will call you during lunch or after I leave the office.”
4. Your children texting their friends during family time. “Our family time is sacred. When we are spending time together, please leave your phones in your bedrooms.”
5. People who ask you to accept additional tasks. You could say, “While this organization and the people in it are very important to me, I can’t make any new commitments until I fulfill my current list of responsibilities.”
6. Someone who is being disrespectful. “I value you as a friend, but I cannot continue in this relationship if this is how you are going to treat me.”
7. Your parents who keep prying into your personal affairs. “Mom and Dad, I love you, but I respectfully ask that you not continue to probe into my personal life.”
8. An adult child who is always asking to borrow money. You might say, “I love you and want the best for you, but I will not be loaning you any more money. It’s important that you take responsibility for your own finances and learn to live within your means.”
9. Someone who keeps commenting on your weight. “I appreciate your concern for my weight and health; however, I ask that you please stop making critical comments about my weight.”
10. A person who makes sarcastic and cutting comments. You could say, “I don’t know if you realize it, but your sarcastic comments are not kind, considerate, or respectful. If you value our relationship, I ask that you stop making those unnecessary jabs at me.
11. Your co-workers or colleagues who are constantly interrupting you while you’re working. “When there is something you would like to discuss with me (unless it’s an emergency), let’s schedule an appointment to talk via _____(email). This will allow me to focus on my work and give you my full attention during our scheduled appointments.”
12. Your spouse or business partner who is making decisions without you. You could say, “I admire your ability to quickly make decisions; however, when those decisions impact me, I would appreciate being included in the decision-making process. Is that fair enough?”
Other boundaries could include such things as refusing to accept calls while you are with other people, taking time to exercise regardless of how busy you may be, putting a limit on the time you will spend watching TV, and refusing to engage in certain types of conversations.
Learning How to Set Boundaries
The first step in learning to set boundaries is self-awareness. For example, pay close attention to situations when you lose energy, feel stress or guilt, get upset, or want to cry. Begin by identifying the things that bother you.
As you set boundaries with people, always be respectful, control your emotions, and use a respectful tone. You may feel uncomfortable at first, but as you begin to see the power of setting boundaries and the freedom it gives you, setting them will get easier.
When you do set boundaries, don’t feel like you need to defend, debate, or detail your feelings. Instead, clearly explain your position; be firm, gracious, and direct.
If someone apologizes when you set a boundary, simply say “Thank you, I knew you’d understand and I appreciate you honoring my request.”
Caution: Make sure the boundaries you set are highly important to you. If you are constantly setting boundaries, people may get tired of living by your rules.
When you have set a boundary, you need to stand firmly behind it. Stay strong. When faced with resistance or repeat occurrences, restate your position. If you give in, people won’t respect your boundaries and you will open the door for future abuse.
If abusive behavior continues, consider severing the relationship. No one has the right to take advantage of you or intrude upon your lifestyle. Sometimes you need to take a step back to go forward.
Setting boundaries enhances your personal power, frees you from abuse, and gives you greater control over your life.
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