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How to set boundaries

How to set boundaries

“Boundaries are the edge territory of what belongs to us and what belongs to someone else. They are the ways we communicate our needs. They are what allow us to feel safe among strangers, in everyday interactions, and in our closest relationships.” “Boundaries aren’t just the hard nos, they are also the maybes and the yesses-with-limits.”

Dr. Faith G. Harper, Unf*ck Your Boundaries
  • ✋🏾 How to set boundaries with a partner
  • How to redirect the conversation (bridging) 4
  • How to respond to gaslighting

Start Here

  • Good for you, setting boundaries! It’s a necessary part of every relationship.
  • Note that boundaries change over time because we (and our relationships) change over time. That’s why there isn’t a one-size-fits-all template for setting boundaries.
  • This guide is intended to help you find the right words to draw and defend your boundaries, but it’s up to you to decide when and with whom to employ them.
  • You do not always need to justify your boundary. If you have a boundary, you don’t need to justify your self-advocacy (no explanation needed). Example: “I’d give you my car but one time I let someone borrow it and they crashed it and…”
  • When drawing boundaries, it may be uncomfortable. You don’t need to protect people from feeling uncomfortable or feel obliged to smooth the tension. It’s okay for people to feel bad and weird when they’ve crossed someone’s boundary.

Talking Points

☝🏼 If there was a delay between the behavior and your response, try this talking point: “Hi <Name>, I realized that I didn’t tell you about something that bothered me recently, but I want to talk to you about it now.”

  • I feel when you . What I want/need is .
    • Example: I think it’s gross when you drink from my water bottle. Please only drink from your water bottle.
  • I’m learning to trust myself. So I’d like to decide without input from others.
  • If you continue to speak to me like this I’m not going to engage you.
  • I’m not okay with your actions and that’s just a position I don’t ever want to be in again.
  • When you said, “<what they said>,” it was hurtful/made me uncomfortable.
  • If you continue to not hear me, I’m going to move forward and do what’s best for me.
  • I’m not changing my boundary.
  • I’ve made my decision. This is non-negotiable.

👎🏽A Big List of No

No, but thank you. 
No thanks. It was delicious, but I’ve already eaten too much.
Not now but another time. Maybe we can go on Saturday?
I’d like to but I have to work late this evening.
I wish I could but, unfortunately, I already have plans that night.
Nope. I don’t have time. Maybe tomorrow.
No way. (This is like saying, “No. There’s no chance I would ever do that!”)
I’m sorry but we won’t be able to make that compromise.
I would love to/like to but our company has a holiday party that night.
I’m afraid that I’m not available on Tuesday.
No, I’m sorry to say that we aren’t able to change the time of the meeting.
I wish I could but I’m unable to make that kind of compromise.
We appreciate the offer, however, this is not a good time for us.
I’m afraid I can’t meet you today. How about tomorrow?
No thanks, I won’t be able to make it.
Not this time.
Heck no.
No way, Jose. 
Regrettably, I’m not able to.
It’s that time of the year when I must say no.
It’s a Wednesday. I have a “No on Wednesday” policy.
Ask me in a year.
I know someone that might be a fit for that. I’ll email you their information.
You’re so kind to think of me, but I can’t.
Maybe another time.
Sounds great, but I can’t commit.
Rats! Would’ve loved to.
I’m slammed.
Perhaps next season when things clear up.
I’m at the end of my rope right now so have to take a rain-check.
If only it worked.
I’ll need to bow out.
I’m going to have to exert my NO muscle on this one.
I’m taking some time.
Thanks for thinking of me, but I can’t.
I’m in a season of NO.
I’m not the girl for you on this one.
I’m learning to limit my commitments.
I’m not taking on new things.
Another time might work.
It doesn’t sound like the right fit.
I’m RESTing right now.
I’m not sure I’m the best for it.
No thank you, but it sounds lovely.
It sounds like you’re looking for something I’m unable to give right now.
I believe I wouldn’t fit the bill, sorry.
It’s not a good idea for me.
Not now.
I’m trying to cut back.
I won’t be able to help.
If only I had a clone!
I’m not able to set aside the time needed.
I won’t be able to dedicate the time I need to it.
I’m head-down right now on a project, so won’t be able to.
I wish there were two of me!
I’m honored, but can’t.
I’m booked into something else.
I’m not able to make that time.
Thanks, but no thanks.
I’m not able to make it this week/month/year.
Bye now.
I’ve got too much on my plate right now.
I’m not taking on anything else right now.
Bandwidth is low, so I won’t be able to make it work.
I wish I could make it work.
Not possible.
I wish I were able to.
If only I could!
I’d love to — but can’t.
Darn! Not able to fit it in.
No thanks, I have another commitment.
Unfortunately, it’s not a good time.
Sadly I have something else.
Unfortunately not.
I have something else. Sorry.
Apologies, but I can’t make it.
Thank you so much for asking. Can you keep me on your list for next year?
I’m flattered you considered me, but unfortunately, I’ll have to pass this time.
And my favorite, “Oh I wish I could help but you know, I bet Claire could help you with that.”
Thank you for thinking of me. Unfortunately, it’s just not a match.
No, sorry, that’s not really my thing
Can I get back to you on that?
No, I’d rather you didn’t, but thanks anyway
I can’t make it work.
It just won’t fit right now.
I’m really buckling down on my priorities right now, so I can’t.
Sorry, no can do.
I only say ‘yes’ to very select opportunities, and unfortunately this doesn’t meet my criteria.
The demands would be too much for me.
It’s not feasible for me to take this on.
I wish I had all the time in the world.
My body double can.
In another life.
My advisors won’t agree to it.
I’m not the person you’re looking for.
I don’t have an iota of bandwidth left in my brain.
If only.
N to the O.
Sadly, I have something else going on.
I have another commitment.
I’m afraid I can’t.
I don’t have the bandwidth for that right now.
I’m honored you asked me, but I simply can’t.
Thanks for thinking of me. However, I’m not able to.
I’m sorry, I’m not able to fit this in.
Unfortunately, I already have plans. Maybe next time!
No, thank you, but it sounds lovely.

Further Reading


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