I’m not going to pretend like I am a boundary expert. In fact, there are still some areas in my life I need to make my boundaries clearer. However, over time with conversations with friends, coaches, mentors and even my clients I have learnt 3 main ways to set intentional and healthy boundaries. So let’s dive right into it!
The Ultimate Guide to Saying No: 3 Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries
1. Set healthy boundaries by taking responsibility
The hard truth is, it is your responsibility to set healthy boundaries for yourself by saying no when no is needed. To put it simply, someone else cannot set healthy boundaries for you (I did say let’s dive into it). Only you can control how you feel and how you respond to situations.
Some people are natural ‘takers’ so they find it easy to take but never give; while some are ‘controllers’ and constantly seek out to cross other people’s boundaries. Unfortunately, as you are not in control of how people choose to behave or act, you can only control your own behaviour, emotions, and ultimately your boundaries.
So what can you do about it?
Be firm about the boundaries you set. Oftentimes, I hear my clients say things like, “But I’ve told my partner so many times I do not want to do this… because it doesn’t make me happy but they don’t listen”. I’ll tell you what I tell my clients – Dear ‘[insert your name]’, actions SPEAK louder than words.
For instance, if your flatmates always leave the dishes unwashed, leave their clothes lying around and are generally untidy; but you always end up cleaning because you don’t like dirty things hanging about. What that means is, your housemates will always get their job done for them because you always do it and it doesn’t matter how many times you have told them to clean up. If you keep cleaning up after them there will be no responsibility for them to take ownership.
So stop doing it!
I know it will be tough but eventually, they will get the point and start cleaning after themselves. You cannot underestimate the power of action. It truly speaks volumes.
2. Set healthy boundaries by communicating effectively
Everyone knows the value in effective communication, but with boundary setting, this works both ways. If you don’t tell people your boundaries, how will they know it? And if people don’t tell you about theirs, you will never know. Once you have taken responsibility in setting healthy boundaries for yourself, the next thing is to plan how you are going to communicate these boundaries.
When I first started to set healthy boundaries for myself this is one aspect I struggled with, because I HATED confrontation. So I am going to give you two great books that literally took me from 0 to 100 in the communication realm. The first is Boundaries, by Cloud & Townsend and the second, The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. Do give it a read and let me know what you think. I found these books game-changing for myself and the relationships I hold.
A friend once told me, “If confrontation is not your thing, then writing things down first is a good tip.” This way you can recognize your feelings, and then be better prepared to control them when communicating with that friend, colleague, family member or partner.
Personally, I find that when I first write down how I feel, I am better able to communicate it constructively rather than in a heated and unproductive conversation.
3. Set healthy boundaries by freeing yourself from guilt
Yes. Guilt. If you are a natural person-pleaser then you are probably thinking, “But if I set these boundaries, it will offend this or that person”; or “They won’t accept it” or maybe even “I will lose all my friends”.
Dear friend, dear person reading this, I want you to highlight with the brightest color what I’m about to say as the most important thing you will read today: ‘YOUR WELLBEING MATTERS” and that should come first before any other thing!
Change isn’t easy, but it will be worth it if it means your mental health and wellbeing is at a much better state and you are feeling happier and less drained. The truth of the matter is, this may mean you lose some ‘friends’, and frankly, that is OK because the type of people you want around you are only those who want you to be happy, healthy and flourishing.