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Learn How To Say NO: Setting Personal Boundaries

Updated on September 24, 2014

What are Boundaries?

Boundaries serve a particularly important function in relationships since interactions include two or more people and each party has to be cognizant of their needs and personal space. Personal space is frequently referred to the actual space between two people, however, having mental personal space is also important. How many people cross those boundaries by asking inappropriate questions or making untimely remarks. Setting boundaries are completely individualistic and serve the purpose of personal protection – both physical and emotional. Relational needs are different for everyone and thereby different boundaries are encouraged. For example, what is allowed or normal in an intimate relationship is not the same in a work related relationship. Therefore, setting and maintaining boundaries can be viewed as a challenging task. However, completely accomplishable if thought about in depth and with the right tools. So below will walk you through contemplating and planning your own boundaries.

Why Are Boundaries Important For You?

Remember boundaries are one method of protection against emotional harm. With that in mind, how can boundaries work for your and your emotional safety. Boundaries can serve as a catalyst to self-esteem as if a person feels they can ask for what they want without fear, they are more apt to feel better about themselves. It also aids a person against internalizing negative emotions and feeling as if they are the one that “takes everyone’s crap.”

What Are Your Personal Boundaries

Personal boundaries again will change depending on the relationship involved. Using the diagram above, one can visualize where people in their lives can be placed on the boundary bubble. See how intimate relationships are closer to you say distant or work related relationships. So for example, you may hug your grandmother when you appreciate something she has done, however, that would not be appropriate for the grocery store clerk. Be aware, those that are closer to you in terms of intimacy and interpersonal relationships are likely the ones that either do or are more capable of the most emotional damage. As a side note, intimacy does not imply sex it just describes the emotional closeness of a person.

Do you have clearly established boundaries in your relationships?

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How Do You Establish And Enforce Boundaries With Others

This is an area of practice, which like with any human situation is not foolproof. Think about how you commonly deal with emotional dings or when someone “walks all over you.” How do you react? Most people internalize the pain and then find a safe person that they can express their hurt, pain and anger to and the person that inflicted that pain never knows what they have done. So the best method is with a calm and soft approach. Yet, when emotions are at a heightened state it is less likely that calm and soft is going to come out of your mouth. Many times, it is more appropriate to walk away and when things between you and the other person is calm, then bring it to their attention. For example:

“Do you remember last week when you said, what are you stupid when I asked where Target was, that really hurt my feelings.”

Depending on the person’s response would then suggest one of two approaches:

1. “Oh I am really sorry, I was just joking and did not realize that hurt your feelings. I will not do that again.”

Not the likely response, but if so then your work is done and nothing else is required, but maybe a hug if that person is in your hugging circle.

2. “Oh you shouldn’t be so sensitive, you know I was just joking, get over it.”

Now that type of response generally oversteps everyone’s boundaries and was not very nice. Why should you put up with a person like that? So setting a healthy boundary may sound something like this:

“I am sorry that you did not take it seriously, but I did. You are a very good friend of mine and I value your opinion and that did not feel good. For me, if you continue to talk to me in that way I can no longer be friends with you. I hope you understand where I am coming from.”

What Are Some Obstacles That May Prevent You From Maintaining That Boundary

Main obstacles that will arise when you are trying out your new boundaries is resistance. People are used to you being easy going and that they can overpower you. However, when you begin to stop them in their tracks, certainly they will not be happy. Keep your boundaries, despite others discontent and remember who the boundaries are for anyway.

How Do You Manage Obstacles When Enforcing Boundaries

Obstacles will arise and perfection will never happen. Though practice is key. Find the best method for you, whether it be explaining to others what you are trying to accomplish or if you give yourself and the other person time to cool off. It may be a good idea when in an emotionally heated situation to take a break as a way to gather your thoughts and come back to the conversation with a clear head. Writing the person that you are having a conflict with may also work as you can get your thoughts down in an uninterrupted manner.


Everyone deserves to have their own personal space and to set boundaries. Remember other people don’t have to like what you are doing though they must accept it in order to be in your life. Good luck.



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    • mdscoggins profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Scoggins 

      6 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thanks word55 for the kind words

    • word55 profile image

      Al Wordlaw 

      6 years ago from Chicago

      Hi mdscoggins, I like this. Personal boundaries are important to establish especially at the beginning of any relationship. It is just as important to maintain them until you're ready to change them. Note: It is hard to try stating them in the middle of the ocean. Keep up the good work and God bless!

    • mdscoggins profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Scoggins 

      6 years ago from Fresno, CA

      Thank you FlourishAnyway for recognizing my work :)

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Good examples. It's so important to establish appropriate personal boundaries in all spheres of life.


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