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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

9 Ways to Build and Keep Healthy Personal Boundaries

9 Ways to Build and Keep Healthy Personal Boundaries

How would your life change if you were able to maintain personal boundaries? This includes stopping people from overstepping into your personal space, as well as sticking to the personal boundaries that you set for yourself later.

This ideal world is possible. All it takes is a little know-how and practice. Self-awareness, values, and assertiveness are qualities that play a part in maintaining strong boundaries that we will explore further in this article.

What you will find here is an explanation of personal boundaries, why you need them in your life, and 9 expert tips to get you started.

Let’s dive in…

What Are Personal Boundaries?

Personal boundaries are the limits that you set when it comes to what you expect from a person and how they behave towards you. They indicate what you find acceptable and unacceptable in someone else’s behavior, particularly with someone that you are close to, such as family, friends, or a partner.

Personal boundaries can be set in almost any area of your life. You can be quite strict about what hours during the day you will answer phone calls, but quite flexible in terms of your text responses. You might not appreciate anyone raising their voice at you in any circumstance, but you may not mind people telling you what to do all the time — as long as it is in a quieter tone.

Personal boundaries can be restrictive or free depending on your own personality and preferences. Other common domains of personal boundaries include personal space, sexuality, time, energy, interaction, communication, religion, and ethics. However, personal boundaries are by no means limited to these things.

Why Are Personal Boundaries Important?

The fundamental reason why people set boundaries is to try and create stronger relationships with themselves and other people. Personal boundaries are an essential part of any thriving relationship and should never be overlooked.

Just like fences and walls in the physical world are used to determine where you can and can’t go, what is yours and what isn’t yours, personal boundaries determine how far others can go before crossing the line.

They stop people from walking all over you. They stop people from manipulating you. They stop people from getting too far into your personal business.

Why is this important? Because what is yours is yours. You are unique, and just like every other human on this earth, you have things that you are comfortable with and things that make you really uncomfortable. You have preferences, you have hang-ups, and you have challenges that are unique to you. They are for you to deal with, no-one else.

That’s why personal boundaries are important. They let other people know where they can step and where they can’t. Boundaries open and close, expand and contract all the time — you just need to let people know.

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All of this is also a reminder to be accepting and conscious of other people’s personal boundaries, too. This is especially important in couples as partners inhabit each other’s most intimate spaces, including physical, emotional, and sexual areas[1].

The result? Healthy relationships that thrive on mutual respect, trust, and happiness.

Now that’s something worth striving for, isn’t it?

How to Set Personal Boundaries

Just like anything else in life, in order to become an expert at setting and being comfortable with personal boundaries, you have to practice. Luckily, we have 9 amazing ways for you to get started and to start reclaiming your own life.

Are you ready?

1. Identify Your Boundaries

It is impossible to begin setting personal boundaries when you don’t even know what they are or where they lie. This is why the starting point for anyone who feels like they may need more/fewer boundaries is to identify where they currently stand.

Are you getting pushed around too often? Or are you completely resistant to any change?

Do you find yourself arguing with people a lot? Or do you find it difficult to speak up when you know you should?

Everybody has different starting points when it comes to their personal boundaries, and those boundaries will inevitably change with time. The first thing you should do, though, is to find your starting point.

2. Determine Your Values

One of the best ways to identify what your boundaries are and how you want them to change is to determine what your values in life are.

If you value creative freedom and thinking time, consider placing a strong boundary around your personal space and your free time.

If you value the small things in life over the big, extravagant things, maybe consider loosening your boundaries a little to let more serendipity in.

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If you value yourself or you want to start valuing yourself more highly, start placing firmer boundaries around how people speak to you and treat you.

Whatever your unique personal values are, your personal boundaries that you set are going to be what helps you to maintain them.

3. Start Simple

As touched upon already, any skill in life requires not only practice to reach a desired level, but also regular reviews and maintenance to make sure that skill doesn’t disappear. Setting personal boundaries is no different.

Rather than completely pushing back on people that are overstepping, turning your back on every single aspect of your old beliefs, or selling all of your stuff to live in a remote forest, there are small steps that you can and should take first.

If you have a friend that always calls you to make plans, and you feel pressured into doing so, politely tell them that you don’t want to this week. What will happen? Not much, probably. This small step will give you the confidence to say no again in future weeks when you don’t feel like going out.

If you feel like you are getting too much input and overwhelming information from your phone, my favorite hack is to delete the troublesome apps for a day. Missing them? Download them again tomorrow. Didn’t miss them as much as you thought? See what another day without them is like[2].

It is just as important to set boundaries with yourself and your own routines as it is to set boundaries with other people. The only way to begin in both respects is to start simple.

4. Listen to Your Feelings

If you aren’t sure about where your personal boundaries should be, it might be a good idea to check in with your feelings and the sensations in your body every now and then[3]. These will usually give you an excellent indication.

Signs to look out for include an increased heart rate, sweating, tightness in your chest or stomach, and other general feelings of discomfort. Of course, just because you feel these sensations does not mean that you should close yourself up to the world — that won’t help you in any way.

Your feelings are like directions on the side of the road. They will let you know what areas that you should probably investigate a little further.

5. Learn to Say No

Possibly the biggest stumbling block that people who struggle with setting personal boundaries have is that they find it extremely difficult to say no.

This comes in all sorts of packages. You might find it impossible to say no to social gatherings for Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). You might find yourself doing loads of favors for people who asked you even though they could have probably done those things themselves.

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You might even have a friend or spouse who encroaches too far into your personal stuff, but you struggle to tell them no because they are your friend or partner. The problem is with you and not them, right?

Probably not. The reason most people face resistance to saying no is that they are worried about how it will make the other person feel. Maybe it’s time to stop and think about how you are feeling for once.

You are allowed to say no without an explanation[4]. It likely won’t affect the other person nearly as much as you think it will. As an article on Healthline

In most instances, people will be fine with you saying no. Perhaps even more surprisingly, you might find that people actually respect you more because you have personal boundaries.

On the flip side, if the person reacts poorly to your personal boundaries, it’s their problem, not yours. In fact, they’ve just made it even easier for you to realize that you probably don’t need them in your life.

6. Be Assertive

This ties in very closely with the previous point about saying no. The importance of being assertive when setting your personal boundaries cannot be emphasized enough — whether with yourself or with other people.

Remember, this doesn’t mean being cruel or insensitive. Being assertive simply means stating what you want or need in a clear manner without beating around the bush.

If you aren’t assertive with people when trying to set boundaries — especially if you have had issues setting them in the past — expect them to not to take you seriously and life to go on as it did before.

7. Set Consequences

Setting consequences is one of the most important actions that you can take to ensure that your personal boundaries don’t get overstepped.

What stops people from breaking the law? Consequences. What stops children from misbehaving? Consequences. What is going to stop people from violating your personal boundaries? Consequences.

People will try and get away with whatever they can. If you don’t put your foot down, your boundaries won’t be taken seriously. The consequences don’t have to be drastic, just a stern rebuke will usually do the trick.

Make sure that you not only set consequences but also stick to them, otherwise they won’t be taken seriously.

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8. Practice Self-Awareness

You have probably been recommended some sort self-awareness or mindfulness practice at some stage for a certain part of your life, and setting boundaries is no different. The benefits of self-awareness touch every single aspect of your being and your life.

When you are aware of your thoughts and feelings and what they are doing for you (or to you), you can start to work out where specific boundaries need to be set.

For example, if you are an overthinker, and your thoughts begin to race whenever you are in a situation, be aware of this. Set a boundary with yourself that whenever a negative thought pops into your mind, you will let it go. No matter what. It won’t have anything useful to say, so don’t fall for it.

Of course, this can apply to other people, too. However, self-awareness and boundaries with yourself not only go hand-in-hand, but are essential to a life of peace and joy.

9. Seek Support

A common mistake to make when trying to set personal boundaries is that you have to do it alone. You have to plan everything yourself, enforce everything yourself, and work out what is and what isn’t working for yourself. That simply isn’t true.

If you find yourself struggling or simply want an easier ride, talk to your friends, family, or spouse about the boundaries that you will set and explain why. You might think that opening up will create arguments and resistance, but more often than not, people appreciate you letting them know.

Setting boundaries can be extremely difficult though, whether that be setting them with other people or setting them with yourself. Don’t ever have any shame about seeking professional help. If you feel like your life will greatly benefit from help, then it is something that you absolutely should consider getting.

Final Thoughts

There you have it. Hopefully, this article has done its job and illuminated what a life with excellent personal boundaries can look like and created a roadmap on how you can get there.

As with anything in this life, practice makes perfect. Don’t sweat it if you mess up on the path. Just get back up and keep going!

More Tips on Creating Personal Boundaries

Featured photo credit: Anika Huizinga via unsplash.com

Reference

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Daniel Riley

Daniel is a writer who specialises in personal development and helping others become the best version of themselves.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

Reference

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