How To Set Boundaries Without Sounding Arrogant

If you aren't used to setting boundaries, it can be scary to start. How do you set a boundary without coming across as arrogant? These tips can help.

Use "I" statements. The use of "I" statements takes the blame off the person you are addressing and asks for cooperation.

Examples of "I" statements are:

  • "I will not tolerate your making fun of me at my expense in front of other people. If you do it again, I will call you on it and then I will leave."

  • "I do not like when you take my car without asking. If you do it again, I will call the police."

  • "I'm not happy when I come home from work and the breakfast dishes are still on the table. If the breakfast dishes are still on the table again, I will take away your TV privileges."
Good "I" statements always begin with the word "I". They then state a feeling or a problem. They do not blame or accuse. They are direct and complete. They tell the other person what you will do if the problem is not resolved. Think very hard about what you will do if the boundary is crossed and be prepared to follow through. Don't make threats. Make promises.

Boundary setting may include "receptive listening". Allow people to state their feelings without fear that you will become angry. If you are extremely shy, you might be afraid that someone could "talk you out of" your boundary. This could put you on the defense. Relax. Listen to their feelings.

Some people will test your boundaries. Be firm and stick to it. If a boundary you set is tested, and you do not follow through with what you promised to do, that boundary no longer exists. It will be crossed again and again. You must be firm when you set a boundary.

What if someone wants to argue when you assert your boundary? Reassert your boundary and leave it. Take care that your body language does not come across as aggressive. Uncross your arms and do not lean in towards the person. Tell them that you will be willing to discuss their problems with them, but the boundary stays.

If boundary setting is scary for you, try practicing it in front of a mirror. People who have never set clear boundaries might feel timid to take that first step. You might want to, you might prepare to, but you never quite get it out of your mouth. It just feels too alien.

Practice in front of a mirror. Practice saying it so that it does not sound aggressive or defensive. Watch your body language so that it does not look aggressive.

I knew one woman who was so shy that when she started setting boundaries, she would plant her feet, lean in towards the person, and grit her teeth. Her "boundary" sounded more like a demand than a firm stance. Practicing in front of a mirror will allow you to make sure that you do not come across as demanding when you first start setting boundaries.

People who set good boundaries are happier. And, the people around them are happier, because they understand exactly what the rules are and are not concerned with overstepping your boundaries.

Good luck with setting boundaries. You can do it!


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