Need to Set Better Boundaries? These 5 Rules Will Help
So much suffering in life comes down to unhealthy boundaries:
- The decades of resentment and lost intimacy accumulated because you’ve “tolerated” your spouse’s bad habits
- The stress and burnout at work because you habitually “compromise” with your manager about workloads
- The chronic worry and anxiety that comes from “just going with the flow” and never speaking up for yourself
And while most people know that better boundaries are key to healthier relationships, they’re also essential for your own emotional health and wellbeing.
So whether your goal is to improve an important relationship in your life or increase your own wellbeing, learning to set better boundaries is critical.
Here are 5 principles to help you create healthier boundaries in your life.
1. Be hyper-specific with your boundaries
Vague boundaries don’t work.
Suppose you want your mother to stop calling you complaining about your father every day. Telling her that she should see a therapist instead of unloading all her baggage onto you is a fine idea, but it’s not a boundary.
A good clear boundary in this situation might be something like this:
Mom, I don’t want to hear you complain about dad anymore. If you call me and start complaining about dad, I will politely say goodbye and then hang up the phone.
Notice how specific it is, both in terms of the input (what the other person does) and the output (what you will do in response).
What’s more, notice that it’s specific in the sense of concrete actions and behaviors: If X specific action happens, Y specific action will result.
I could give you a hundred and one reasons why specific boundaries are better than vague ones. But what matters is that specific boundaries are much more likely to work than vague ones.
If you want your boundaries to be effective, make them crystal clear.