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Argh! How to Set Boundaries and Get Respect

Let’s empower ourselves. Social media and technology have made it too easy for strangers and toxic people to ignore our boundaries and invade our personal and professional lives.

Family may ask you for a favor, not realizing (or caring) that you’re tired and need some space. Work may ask you to do extra work, in the evening, when you’re getting ready to call it a day. Strangers can send you unwanted messages via social media.

Only you can set some boundaries and create for yourself a peaceful, safe space. Here are some tips for saying “No” and feeling good about it.

Personal Life Boundaries

1. Clear Communication

Effective communication is key to establishing personal boundaries. This may be easier said than done, depending on how comfortable you are with telling people that they want you to do something you’re not comfortable with.

For instance, a friend might ask you to help them with something on a day you planned another activity. The activity might not be life-changing but it’s important to you and you don’t want to reschedule. Ask your friend questions and see if you can reach a compromise so you both can be happy with a new plan.

2. Prioritize Self-Care

Friends, family, coworkers, and strangers can do or say something that presses against your boundaries. For example, a coworker asks you to work later because you’re the one without kids to take care of. Or a stranger cutting in front of you in line, although you had been patiently waiting there first.

Even after you insist on your boundaries and say, no, I can’t work later, I have plans, you might feel bad. It’s important to prioritize self-care and de-stress. Watch a fun movie or listen to your favorite music. Treat yourself to a spa day (even if it’s at home), or play your favorite video games to “detox” and get the negativity out of your head.

3. Learn to Say No

Saying no is a life skill when setting personal boundaries. Decline invitations to events you don’t want to attend. Say no to responsibilities that will leave you mentally or emotionally drained. Refuse to do things that compromise your values.

It’s okay to say no when a friend or family member asks to borrow something sentimental and you’re afraid you’ll never see it again. You may be scared of their anger, but in the long run, you may be angrier at yourself if they conveniently forget to return your precious possessions.

Professional Life Boundaries

1. Establish Clear Work Hours

Define your work hours, whether you work at an office or remotely. Let your coworkers and supervisor know when you are available. This boundary is especially important with remote work, especially if your coworkers work in different time zones. If they start earlier than you, your workday may start with catching up on messages. If they work later than you, you may be bombarded with work requests during dinner or just as you’re logging off for the evening. Set expectations that you’ll answer during your office hours or within 24 hours, and your stress level will decrease.

2. Prioritize and Discuss

Everyone has limits to their professional boundaries. Sometimes taking on that one extra task can push your limits because your last task was stressful enough already. Instead of staying quiet to keep everyone happy, speak up. Tell others that you have a lot on your plate already. Which task should you prioritize? Your current tasks or the new one? Can someone help you so you aren’t overwhelmed?

3. Clarify Expectations

Clarify your coworker’s expectations. Be clear about your tasks and roles on a project. Most importantly, write those tasks and deadlines down. This prevents others from adding more “small requests” for you to complete by the deadline. It will also avoid misunderstandings and conflicts in case the other person expects you to do more than you planned to, or conflicts because you overlapped tasks with another person.

Key Takeaways

Setting personal and professional boundaries is fundamental for your mental health. Don’t hesitate to say no to requests that will make you uncomfortable, and communicate with the other person about how you can reach an agreeable compromise.

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