Even when we set healthy boundaries for ourselves, it does not mean that other people will always acknowledge or respect these boundaries. If you find yourself in this situation here are some steps you can take:
- Explain (again) Your Boundary: You may have been very clear, but sometimes we are not as clear as we think we are. If you would like to give the other person the benefit of the doubt, then calmly and directly explain what your boundary is again. Use specific examples of how they crossed your boundary.
- Set a Firmer Boundary: In the case where you are thinking, “Oh I know I set this boundary clearly and this person is just a habitual line crosser…” you could set a firmer or more restrictive boundary.
- Take More Distance from the Relationship: Try to take physical and emotional distance in the relationship if the person continues to violate your boundaries. Less interactions mean less opportunities for them to cross your boundary. This strategy is helpful when the person crossing your boundary is not someone you feel as though you can completely cut out of your life (perhaps a parent, a sibling, your boss) but you recognize you need to step back.
- Spend Time Strategically: For instance if you’ve told your mother you do not want to talk about whether or not you will be having children, and she continues to bring the topic up, you may want to be strategic about how you can spend time with her. So instead of spending time alone with her, maybe you plan to see her at lunch with extended family, or you see a movie together. Other people, pets and kids can be great buffers. Stay on benign and neutral topics when interacting with the person.
- Let Technology be Your Friend: Family member going on a crazy rant about a political topic you’ve already told them you are not open to discussing with them? Block them for 24 hours. You can also put filters on your email so that if the person emails you it goes to a separate folder and you can read it on your own time when you’re ready. Turn off alerts and notifications on your cellphone for when this person contacts you.
- And if they continue to violate your boundaries…: Then ultimately you need to way the cost and benefit of keeping them in your life. When someone has a pattern of disrespecting your boundaries they are unlikely to change. Outside of cognitive impairments, when another person continues to violate other people’s boundaries it is indicative of narcissism, or someone who is abusive, manipulative, controlling, etc. Some people are so toxic and have caused so much damage to others lives that the healthiest decision is to cut them out of your life (sometimes even in cases when the person is someone you’re “not supposed” cut out of your life like a parent or a sibling).