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Clearly Communicate Your Boundaries

Last week I noticed a property surveyor truck parked across the street. The land directly opposite my house is wooded and vacant. The surveyor measured and staked the property, defining the boundary between this property and the neighbor next door.

Nothing else has changed. If I had not seen the surveyor’s truck, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. There is no fence. We could still walk the property if we chose. Who would stop us?

Boundaries have little meaning unless they are enforced. It is not enough to just put up a tiny boundary marker and assume that it will be respected. Boundaries not only need to be marked, but they need to be clearly communicated and reinforced.

The same can be said for our personal boundaries. If we feel stepped on, manipulated, or used, then it is time to check our boundaries.

First, we must get clear on our boundaries.

What will we accept and where are the lines drawn? How do we want to be treated? There might be different boundaries for different people or situations, such as work vs. home. Identifying our personal boundaries is the foundation for defining how our relationships will operate.

Next, we must clearly communicate those boundaries.

It isn’t fair to expect others to behave a certain way if they don’t know the rules. Communicate what is acceptable and what is not tolerated. This is where we begin teaching people how we expect to be treated. This is where we show others what we stand for and how we operate.

Last, we must reinforce our boundaries.

People will test our resolve. Just like a child tests a parent, others will push us to see if we are serious about our boundaries. It might be tough at first. It is like training a puppy or toddler. Repetition and patience will result in changed behavior.

I once had a family member buy me a painting. This was a 2’ x 3’ painting in a thick wooden frame. She loved this painting and wanted to hang it on a wall in my house. She literally brought the painting into my home and began looking for the perfect place for display. I kindly explained that I appreciated her gesture, but I was not interested in hanging this painting in my home. I had to repeat myself multiple times. She didn’t get it. She left the painting with me, thinking that I would come to my senses and eventually hang the painting. I never did.

If we do not (1) identify our boundaries, (2) clearly communicate them, and (3) reinforce them, people will walk all over us.

It is our responsibility to define how we want to be treated. This is how we begin to control our time, energy, and money. This is how we bring calm to chaos. This is where we find the freedom to be who we want to be and do what we want to do.

Where in your life do you need to define and communicate your boundaries? Is it with a person? A situation? What can you do today to begin exploring your boundaries?

woman sitting on fence

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