Building on from my last blog post, here's a post on how to set boundaries more effectively in relationships, with a number of tips and hints on doing so.
It's been a few weeks since my last post - I'm still trying to get consistency in posting on this blog, but between my NHS and online work, it can be a challenge! In my last post, I said that I'd spend some time in this post discussing how to set boundaries more effectively.
If you know what boundaries you have, but are finding it difficult to implement them effectively, there are a number of communication strategies you can use.
Clear and direct statements
I've been a clinical psychologist for over a decade, and one thing I've definitely found to be true is that lots of people think their communication is clear and direct when it couldn't be further from those things! To be clear and direct myself:
Using "I" statements
It's often easy to blame others for how we feel, even if we don't mean to. This puts the focus back on the other person, when it really needs to be on your boundaries and how to assert them. Using "I" statements shows that you're willing to focus on how you feel, and to take responsibility for that - as long as the other person does the same. Some examples:
Broken record technique
This one is a favourite of mine because it's so easy and SO difficult at the same time! Sometimes people think that if they just keep asking in a different way, they'll wear your boundaries down and get what they want. And sometimes that works. But it doesn't work if you're using the broken record technique - continuing to say almost exactly the same thing, and making it really boring to try to argue with you:
"I'm too tired to go out tonight, so I'm going to stay home."
"Oh come on, you never come out with me!" (this is an invitation to argue)
"Sorry, like I said, I'm going to stay home."
"You're being really boring!" (this is also an invitation to argue)
"Nevertheless, I'm still staying home tonight."
"Fine, if you don't even care enough about me to come out tonight" (this is, unsurprisingly, also an invitation to argue - sucking you in so that you explain how much you do care and at some point in the conversation also agree to go out)
"I don't know what to tell you - I care about you and I'm still staying home tonight."
This is a technique to use with people you care about who just aren't getting the message. For that person in the bar who won't leave you alone, I don't recommend any technique that continues communication, including broken record. Just walk away.
As we established in my last post, actions have consequences. If you smoke a cigarette near me, I'm likely to leave. My presence is conditional on there being as smoke-free an environment as possible. Having consequences for actions helps to establish appropriate boundaries, and it's helpful to use an "if - then" format - for example:
So that's my post on how to set effective boundaries. There are loads more ways to do so, and they might form another post in future - for now, if you've got any good ways to set boundaries, let me know in the comments.
Dr Sarah Blackshaw: Clinical Psychologist, blogger, tea drinker, interested in dinosaurs and shiny objects