You've met someone new and now your phone is blowing up. You're waiting at the bus stop and the chatty stranger just won't take a hint that you don't want to talk. You run into an old acquaintance while shopping and they give you a slightly too long hug.

Cartoon characters discussing their boundaries with each other

You don't want to be rude — but seriously? Can't people take a hint? If you're asking that question, you already know the answer: no. Not everyone can or wants to honor your boundaries.

What Are Boundaries?

A fence with a sign that reads Photo by Erin Larson on Unsplash

Boundaries are a form of self-care. When you have good boundaries you recognize that you're separate from others. Having good boundaries keeps you emotionally safe and prevents you from overextending yourself.

When you communicate your boundaries clearly, other people know how to behave around you. Without boundaries, resentment, and anger can grow.

How To Set Boundaries

A person setting boundaries with their hands.

  1. Be Clear About What You Want. Practice self-care and verbal self-defense. Speak up when someone makes you uncomfortable.

  2. Expect Resistance. If your boundaries make others uncomfortable, that's okay. Remember the saying that "the only people who get upset when you set boundaries are those who benefitted from you having none."

  3. Be Direct and Don't Apologize. It isn't your job to make everyone comfortable. These boundary crossers aren't giving your needs a second thought, so don't be afraid to set your own boundaries.

How Would You Handle A Non-Stop Texter?

angry birds texting GIF

Try this scenario:

You met Sal online and had a couple of dates that went ok. Sal is now blowing up your phone with texts at all hours of the night and day.

You don't want to be rude but Sal's texting is really getting to be a problem.

What would you do?

Answer A: Tell Sal that you appreciate their friendship and ask them to slow down the texting because you're feeling overwhelmed.

Answer B: Block Sal. If they can't figure out that texting so often is a problem, then you don't need them as a friend. (This is an option if someone actively ignores your personal preference)


Based on the above scenario, what would you chose?

How Would You Handle A Nonstop Talker?

A number of mouths talking and eyes blinking

Try this scenario:

You're a writer who likes to work at your neighborhood coffee shop. As you sit there focused on your laptop screen, you notice that someone has just slid into the other side of your booth. Even worse, this person is now talking to you incessantly!

You try ignoring them. They keep talking.

You try glancing up and glaring at them. They keep talking.

What do you do next?

Answer A: Slam your laptop shut, give them a dirty look and leave.

Answer B: Tell them that you are busy working and would rather not talk.


What do you do next?

How Would You Handle A Personal Space Invader?

A person indicating personal space by putting their hands forward

Try this scenario:

You're in line at the market. A man with two kids steps in line behind you. The kids are jumping around and you know if you move an inch, you'll back into his cart.

You move forward a couple of inches, making sure not to crowd the lady in front of you.

The man pushes his cart forward so it's even closer than before.

What do you do?

Answer A: Turn around and politely ask him to back up a little bit and give you some personal space.

Answer B: Give him a dirty look but say nothing. After all, you're just 6 customers away from the cashier!


What would you do?

Take Action

A person creating a bubble around themself Remember, you get to determine what feels uncomfortable for you. You don't need objective evidence that someone is crossing a boundary.

If you feel uncomfortable, then the other person should stop doing whatever it is that's making you uncomfortable. Don't be afraid to speak up.


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