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Out of Bounds: Dealing with People Who Break Boundaries

Most people have a sense of what is and isn’t appropriate when it comes to respecting boundaries.  However, we are bound to find individuals who don’t.  These people are abusive…and if we don’t deal with them properly, they will continue to break boundaries time and time again.

As much as we strive for healthy relationships, we inevitably encounter individuals who are bullies, toxic or just plain manipulative. Some of these people KNOW what they are doing, but often, most “just don’t get it:”  They have little-to-no self-awareness and feel that they are fully entitled or appropriate in their behavior.  And what’s worse is that they frequently get away with it because others don’t stand up to them.  This enables boundary breakers and convinces them that their behavior is acceptable.  Here’s a news flash: It ISN’T.

The best thing you can do is firmly establish boundaries.  You’ll feel better about yourself and your relationship.  Further, you won’t have to succumb to their inappropriate behavior over and over again:

  1. Know Who You Are Dealing with: The first step in this process is to identify those individuals who don’t respect your boundaries.  Doing so will keep you on the look-out for times that boundaries need to be reinforced or put into place.
  2. Tune-in: Start paying attention to how these people typically break boundaries.  Some questions to ask: Are they pushy?  Do they ask questions you feel uncomfortable answering?  Do they discuss things with you that are inappropriate?  Do they disregard your wishes or needs?  Do they always prioritize their needs before yours?
  3. Trust Your Gut: If you aren’t sure as to whether or not a boundary is being broken, stop thinking and start feeling.  Does something feel awkward, uncomfortable or wrong?  Can you feel an adrenaline rush, but aren’t sure why?  Do you feel nauseous during the discussion?  At times, our guts have better listening skills than our ears.  If you can feel a visceral reaction to the conversation at hand, you can be pretty sure that something isn’t right.
  4. Think First, Speak Second: Once you realize boundaries are being broken, think about how you want to react.  Reacting without thinking through your position and what you want as an outcome can lead to an unresolved situation, potential “room for discussion” or more broken boundaries down the line.
  5. State Your Position: Tell the person who is breaking a boundary that they are indeed breaking a boundary.  Sugar-coating it…hemming and hawing…playing nice…politely saying no…often doesn’t work with people who perpetually break boundaries.  Unfortunately, many of these boundary breakers don’t have a clue as to the fact that they are crossing a line.  The more obvious you can be, the better.
  6. Don’t Back Down: If the person continues to push you on a topic, tell them the topic “isn’t up for discussion.”  The more you stand your ground, the less likely the person will continue to try to push you on things in the future.  No means no.  Inappropriate is inappropriate.  And, boundaries are boundaries.

The more you set boundaries, the easier it will get. Do you have boundary breakers in your life?  How do you handle the situation?

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Posted in Brett's Blog, Mind-Body Tagged with: , , , , , ,