When someone sets a limit with you, how do you respond? How do you feel when someone says no to you? Are you accepting and understanding or do you get offended or hurt? Do you ever try to convince them otherwise?
We talk about boundaries a lot in this corner of the internet, but usually, it is from the perspective of how to set and maintain your personal boundaries. The truth is, being a Boundary Boss also means you have the ability to respect and accept other people’s boundaries as well.
Healthy, robust personal boundaries are the key to living a fulfilled, empowered, and self-directed life. They are incredibly liberating and essential to talking true and showing up in the world as your truest self.
That is true for you and for everyone else in your life. Boundaries are always a two-way street!
Effective communication is a foundational aspect it goes both ways – when you are setting a boundary and when someone is setting one with you. In both cases, you need the ability to talk true and to actively listen to the other person with a goal of understanding.
If you do not understand, it is okay to ask respectful questions for clarification, again, with the end goal of understanding the other person.
Sometimes when people say no or set a limit with us, our fear mind can take over and fill in the blanks with the worst-case scenario.
Instead of asking clarifying questions, we start writing an entire story in our heads about why they have drawn that boundary, they must not like me, they are paying me back for not going to their baby shower 4 years ago, etc…Sound familiar?
A lot of this is projection and fear. You might feel guilty for the thing you did or did not do 4 years ago and now you feel like it is coming back to haunt you even though from the other person’s perspective, that might not be at all true. Making assumptions when someone sets a boundary with you blocks the potential for open conversation and real understanding.
Guess what else? Even if the other person is still mad at you, that is on their side of the street. Each of us has an equal responsibility to talk true and to ask clarifying questions.
For high-functioning co-dependents, people-pleasers, and over-givers, another person’s no or limit setting can feel like a personal rejection.
Raising your awareness of when you are knee-jerk reacting from a place of defensiveness instead of mindfully responding to someone else’s boundary requests is an important first step to moving into true Boundary Boss empowerment.
Once you get a snapshot in your own mind of how well you accept the boundaries and limits of others, you might realize you are a boundary violator. Please understand that your past behaviour is not a reflection of who you are—just what you knew at the time. You have the power to make a change!
It is important to note when you are having a boundary conversation it is not as simple as rejecting or accepting what the other wants. It is more nuanced than that which is where the skills of discernment, negotiation, and compromise come into play.
To break this down further, I like to categorize boundaries by levels of importance:
A preference – Being partial to one thing over another. Nice to have.
A desire – A step up from preferences, as they reveal more potent wishes. Important to have.
A deal-breaker – A non-negotiable boundary. A must-have.
Can you see how the way you respond to someone’s preference (negotiable) should be very different from how you respond to someone’s deal-breaker (non-negotiable)? You can always ask the other person “How important is this to you?” to get more clarity.
There are times in all of our lives when we are simultaneously the boundary setter and the boundary violator. We are human and the reality is becoming a Boundary Bos includes this dual skillset.
The great resource does help you better understand what each of us has a right towards when it comes with boundaries. Our preferences, desires, and deal-breakers are the things that make us beautifully, uniquely ourselves. Respecting and accepting other people’s boundaries is a way to honour the uniqueness of our loved ones.
Here are some steps you can take to do just that:
- Use Effective Communication
Communication is a 2-way street and is essential to understanding and being understood when it comes to boundaries. Listen actively, with the goal of understanding, instead of the goal of being “right”. Effective communication requires your presence and is direct and verbal. Avoid passive-aggressive body language.
If you do not understand what the other person is saying, it is ok to ask questions. Be the listener you would want them to be for you.
- Get into Acceptance
Accept what the other person is communicating, as long as they are on their side of the street and they are setting a boundary that is theirs to set.
Even if their boundary does not make sense to you, do your best to try to understand and respect it. When we are in partnership, living a shared life, or raising children together, negotiating and compromise are essential elements of a healthy, balanced relationship.
- Respect the Other Person’s Autonomy
Here is the thing – I do not own the people in my life and neither do you. We need to give them a certain amount of respect and autonomy to make their own decisions. Each of us has a right to sovereignty and to be self-directed in our choices.
Setting and accepting boundaries creates a life of liberation. It sets us and the people in our lives free to talk true and be authentically ourselves.
Thank you for your commitment in creating a world with better boundaries for everyone!
Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years. After she had a professional stint in various reputed corporates, she realised that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion that is painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She says, “It’s a road less travelled but a journey that I look forward to everyday.” Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India.
Trishna fancies the art of creative writing and is dappling her hands in that too, to soak in the experience and have an engagement with readers, wanderers and thinkers.