In one of your recent articles, you said, "You can usually enforce boundaries in a kind way that won't lead to conflict." My question is, how do you do that? If I try to set a healthy boundary, say no, or do what’s best for me, other people don’t like it and it definitely leads to conflict. How to do it right?
A boundary is a rule to help you love and protect yourself. Boundaries protect you from a tendency to over-give and put others' needs before your own. Many of us struggle with this because it can feel terribly selfish to make our own needs important. But it’s not selfish at all; it’s wise. Wisdom says that you must care about yourself and other people equally or you will soon find yourself empty with nothing to give anyone.
One reason people sometimes get offended by your boundaries is that they feel you don’t care about them. If you can enforce your boundary in a way that makes them feel loved, this is less likely to happen. But, you must understand that the key to doing this is managing your own inner state.
Why your inner state matters
Your inner state matters because others can pick up on your energy, and that greatly influences their reactions to you. To keep things simple, I believe there are only two inner states you can be in (every moment of every day):
The procedure below will help you get into a Trust and Love state before you enforce a boundary. This will be something you must practice, though, because it has to be authentic. You cannot fake your inner state.
If you are defensive, scared of rejection, scared of conflict or scared of the other person’s reaction, they will likely feel your fear could lose respect for you. They might also fear threatened and think they have to defend themselves.
How to exhibit Trust and Love
The method of enforcing boundaries with love all rests on you not being scared to do it. When you show up fearless and loving at the same time, people tend to respect you for your strength and love and are more likely to honor your needs.
Follow these steps to enforce a boundary from a Trust and Love state:
Change isn't easy
If you have felt like a doormat in the past, you may have taught the people around you to expect you to have no needs. They might be so used to this that they will resist when you try to find a healthier balance. You may have to explain to them that you have been too codependent in the past and need to make some changes. While they might not like the changes, they’ll need to prepare for a new, more balanced you.
If you have been too controlling, critical or selfish in the past, you may need to apologize and promise to do better at honoring others' needs too. You may need to work on letting go of a feeling of loss (Fear state) when you don’t get your way. You should also practice trusting God and the universe that whatever you get is the perfect experience for you, like it or not.
If you are dealing with someone you feel is too controlling, opinionated or selfish and often feels mistreated, he or she will be one of the hardest people to enforce boundaries with. Their fear issues (of not having what they need) may prevent them from honoring your needs, no matter how lovingly you deliver them. These people, because they are overly selfish themselves, feel mistreated if you take care of yourself. You may need to explain why this hasn't been healthy for you and ask them to support you in making changes. If they can't respect your boundaries, accept the possibility that your relationship won't work.
Your lesson in dealing with these people is don’t be affected by their behavior or reaction to your boundaries. If they are going to feel mistreated or get upset, that is their choice; it is your choice not to be there with them. You can stay in a kind, strong, trust and love state, no matter how they respond. If they create conflict, excuse yourself from the conversation until they can discuss it respectfully. Keep working on steps one and two above and don’t let the other person scare you. You are safe even in dealing with conflict. It is just a lesson and your value isn’t affected by anything they do or say.
If a person is unable to honor your boundaries, or if you are still too scared to have any, your relationship with them isn't healthy and you might consider getting some professional help. An expert therapist or coach can give you the skills and tools you need to stay balanced in trust and love.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.