Enforcing Boundaries: Effective ways to assert yourself and remain consistent with your boundaries. The importance of self-respect and recognizing healthy relationships will also be covered.
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This is part 3 of a three-part series. Information in this post builds on what you’ve learned from Part 1: Defining Boundaries (link) and Part 2: Setting Boundaries (link).
In the previous video and posts from this series, boundaries were described as being crossed. In this video and post, boundaries are described as being violated, rather than crossed, because once someone has been notified, they should make an effort to change that behavior out of respect for you.
Boundaries are invisible.
The only thing that keeps them
in place is memory.
The advice in each video and blog post of this three-part series helps you increase repetition of your request. This is how information from each post/video makes your boundary memorable:
Video 1: Setting a good example increases exposure to good behavior—more examples makes it more memorable. (You’re only asking for the same level of respect you’re already showing other people.)
Video 2: Setting boundaries is the act of informing others as well as the first exposure to both the boundary and the requested, more appropriate alternative action. Responses to questions also reinforces your message. Thanking the other person for respecting your boundaries also reinforces your message (and makes enforcing boundaries easier).
Video 3: (This video) Additional reminders/enforcing (repetition) increases retention (memory). Consistency also adds repetition.
To Enforce Boundaries
Have healthy, sensible, and rational boundaries.
- If you are easily offended, you need to fix that first! You can’t depend on boundaries if you are easily offended.
- The intent of boundaries is not to shut people out of your life, but to improve relationships and interactions.
Challenges to your boundaries
Change is hard, and it doesn’t happen overnight!
- They will most likely need at least one reminder.
- People tend to fear change, so they probably won’t be happy about it, and they might even be a bit rude about it.
If they’re rude about your boundaries, these are some of the most common explanations:
- People who are particularly thin-skinned and worried about their social standing are likely to take any new instructions as a threat or an insult.
- Feeling insulted—by telling them to do things differently, they might interpret this to mean they’re wrong, and take it as an insult or a “challenge” to their social standing.
- Didn’t respect you in the first place.
- Insecure about their standing within the social context (e.g. work or relationship).
Personal qualities for best results
Although you can’t make someone else a better person (it’s their decision to be rude or respectful and mindful of your boundaries), you can develop personal qualities that bring the best long-term results in your interactions with others.
- Stand up for yourself without being argumentative or aggressive.
- Be polite, calm, and confident. State your boundary/preferred alternative action, and refrain from starting or engaging in arguments.
- Thank them when they change and respect your boundaries. Having an attitude of gratitude is helpful in many situations!
- Having different rules for different people (i.e. work/professional situations), or let someone “step all over you”, or fail to enforce consistent boundaries for everyone, then it’s hard to get others to respect your boundaries.
Don’t worry about being liked!
- Worrying about being disliked is a common reason people are afraid of speaking up for themselves and setting and enforcing boundaries.
- You’re not being rude! You’re simply showing that you are worthy of respect.
- People who care about you will also respect you and care about your boundaries!
- So what if they call you the “B” word? If they don’t want to respect your boundaries, they
didn’t respect you in the first place.
- A person who didn’t previously respect you can develop respect for you when you become assertive.
Misconceptions about respect
There are many misconceptions about the meaning of respect. These are some of the many quotes and ideas that have distorted the meaning of respect.
“Anyone who has to demand respect deserves ridicule.”
This example is actually referring to someone oppressive and irrational, like a bad boss. Unfortunately, this type of sentiment has been misinterpreted by some as meaning they don’t need to respect others. People who fear they aren’t worthy of respect think of quotes like this, feeling they are opening themselves up for ridicule by asking for respect.
“It’s a man’s job to respect women, but it’s a woman’s job to give him something to respect.”
There are unfortunately many quotes like this, which are used to excuse and enforce misogynistic behavior. Just so you know, that is NOT OK! There are many irrational and hurtful messages which are hurtful for both men and women. You don’t need to allow a shame-based message to define your self-worth.
Understanding the concept of respect
It may help to think of respect in legal terms. Respecting the law means not violating the law. By not breaking (or violating) the law, you’ve already shown respect for the law.
The law is essentially an “invisible boundary”. In much the same way, respecting another person means not harming them nor violating their invisible boundaries.
- Respecting the law means not violating the law, which is another “invisible boundary”.
- Respecting another person means not harming them or violating their boundaries in the same way you respect the law—by not violating the “boundaries” of the law.
- Demanding respect should be unnecessary—by default, everyone should respect one another.
This is respectful behavior:
Our current culture gives us more bad examples than good examples of behavior. It’s hard to know what is healthy or how to recognize signs of a bad relationship if you don’t know what a healthy relationship is like.
What respectful behavior IS:
- not taking advantage of other people.
- a person will not try to put others down in order to make themselves feel more powerful.
- accepting others’ boundaries, not violating their boundaries, and remaining mindful of their boundaries.
Hopefully—that sounds like something that’s worth enforcing your boundaries!
Basic format for Enforcing Boundaries
You can see that enforcing a boundary follows a similar structure to setting boundaries. This example is from video #2. It involves acknowledging the other person and stating a preferred action.
If you’ve already done this in setting boundaries, you can follow a similar structure, by stating your preferred action, AND ending with it—which is an easy way to stay on point and make your request repetitive.
Example (setting boundary):
I know you’re accustomed to (doing… or saying…) but I would prefer that you (do or say…) Instead.
- Acknowledging: “I know you’re accustomed to (doing… or saying…)
- State preferred action: but I would prefer that you (do or say…) instead.”
Example (enforcing boundary):
I know you’re not used to (doing or saying) instead of (what they were doing), but it’s important to me that you (do or say) instead.
- Acknowledging: “I know you’re not accustomed to (doing the preferred action)
- State preferred action: but I would prefer that you (do or say…) instead.” Your preferred action is stated twice—which makes it easier to remember.
Don’t give up!
As stated previously, it can take time to grow accustomed to being assertive, so please don’t give up if you are met with resistance. It can take time (and trial and error) not only for the other person to change—but for you to change as well. Consistency is not just good for setting and enforcing boundaries, it’s essential for developing confidence and self-respect.
For personalized assistance with defining, setting and enforcing your boundaries, call us at 317-842-8881.