“I keep setting boundaries, but they are not working!” Said the distraught and frustrated person.
Boundaries are often misunderstood and therefore, improperly used. Thus, having little to no effect on the disrespectful or hurtful situation you are trying to remedy. So, let’s have a little Boundary 101 lesson on what boundaries are, why they are not working and how to set them effectively.
Step One – Setting a Word Boundary
This will look something akin to…
“I feel disrespected when you often make me the butt of your jokes in social settings. I’m requesting that you please stop doing it.”
Your person will respond in one of two ways:
(a.) Understand and honor your request which allows both parties to continue forward happily. Or…
(b.) Disregard your request and continue to do it.
With response (a.) you’re good to go!
With response (b.), unfortunately, you’re not finished yet…
Many people think a boundary is set only with words and if you’re lucky, it will be. But if our person chooses to disrespect our Word Boundary, we must be prepared to back up our words with action.
Step Two – Setting an Action Boundary
The difficult part about Action Boundaries is oftentimes the most effective action/boundary we could choose may be the hardest or scariest one to set. We are terrified what might happen or what we’ll lose if we stand behind our words with action. Thus, we repeatedly use words over action in a feeble attempt to feel “safe” by disrupting as little status quo as possible. This is where we become the most frustrated.
Ugh… I don’t want to go further with this. Why can’t my person just heed my [word] boundary?!
The answer is simple. Because your person is not motivated or has reason to introspect or adjust him/herself. (Self-reflection is something many people avoid like the plague unless motivated or inspired to do so) Additionally, you have shown your person over time that your worn-out words mean nothing. They can continue to say and do as they please because there are no consequences.
By providing a “consequence” or action behind your boundary, you will provide the necessary motivation and inspiration to introspect because they will lose something of value if they continue with the same behavior.
Setting healthy Action Boundaries is in direct proportion to our level of self-worth. When we have a healthy self-worth in place, a firm boundary is easy-er because our joy, worth and value are not reliant on another person.
Healthy self-worth says: I understand my value and won’t allow another person to minimize it no matter what. My job is to take care of me.
When we are continually hurt or disrespected, we have two choices only:
Put up with the crap. Yay, I get to live with this for eternity.
Remove yourself or something from the relationship/situation until your person acquiesces to your respect request. There is hope this situation will change!
Action Boundary Sample:
“I will no longer attend _______ with you because I will not put myself in position to be disrespected by being the butt of your jokes.”
And don’t attend again.
Unless or until Mr. or Mrs. Disrespectful stops making you the butt of his/her jokes.
Are you getting the picture here?
For a Boundary to reign success, the offender must feel a consequence of their action. Otherwise, they will have no reason to introspect into why he/she is being a shit in the first place.
Boundaries Serve Both Parties
The best and most awesome part about boundary setting is it can serve both parties. Our boundaries and clear sense of self-worth can shine light on our person’s dependencies, controlling tendencies or disrespectful behaviors and potentially start them on their own healing path.
It’s important to remember what others are doing is oftentimes a pattern set in place long ago and they may not even be aware how detrimental their behavior is. When they begin to receive the message enough, they will eventually have little choice but to take a good hard look at themselves.
Above all else, remember this…
If words are not working, back them with action.
You always have.
They will not respect you until you respect you by setting a boundary that says: I’m worth more than that!
I knew you would.