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Communication Skills: Boundaries
Communication Skills: What is a Boundary?
Your experience in individual, couples, or family therapy will all have one thing in common; you will improve your communication skills. The thought of improving your communication can seem overwhelming or unattainable. Where can you begin when it comes to better communication with your loved ones? A great first step to better communicating is to learn how to set good boundaries. (Related Article: How to Communicate Better Through Boundaries).
Today, you will learn about this basic building block of good communication: boundaries. You will also learn how therapy helps you set good boundaries for yourself and others.
What is a Boundary?
Simply put, boundaries are the limits of what you personally define as acceptable versus unacceptable behavior. Boundaries have recently become a popular discussion topic, and you may have heard someone talk about “setting good boundaries”. But, what exactly does that mean? And why are boundaries important? (Source)
This is where it gets confusing for some. Boundaries are NOT a request. They are not even an ultimatum! Boundaries are a clearly communicated “line” that defines what you deem appropriate, plus your response if that behavior occurs. (Related Article: Requests Vs. Boundaries Vs. Ultimatums). If you are effectively communicating boundaries, you will set clear expectations for the people around you about what is acceptable and how you will respond in a potentially unacceptable situation.
Why Boundaries Matter for Good Communication
Boundaries set reasonable expectations for others. Sadly, the people around you will not be able to read your thoughts. So, boundaries help to communicate how you expect to be treated. Boundaries also help to explain how they can anticipate you will react if you are treated poorly. (Related Article: Communication in Relationships).
Being good at setting boundaries can help you be a clearer, more assertive communicator. This skill can be especially important and useful in close relationships. For example, good boundaries can improve the quality of your friendships, family relationships, and your romantic connections. (Related Article: How to Fix Communication in Your Relationships).
Boundaries can also improve more formal connections with coworkers, classmates, colleagues, and more! Boundaries open a door for further trust to develop between yourself and the people around you. (Related Article: Communication Barriers).
What Do Boundaries Look Like?
There are lots of different types of boundaries you may set in your life. We don’t review all of them today, but let’s talk about a few that you might notice in your daily life. Here are some examples:
“I cannot continue this conversation if you continue to talk to me unkindly.”
“I will not continue to talk to you while you are drunk. You can call me back tomorrow.”
“If you continue to make me feel uncomfortable at Sunday dinners, I will not attend them.”
As you reviewed these examples, you may have noticed some common aspects of each statement. Hey, that’s the first thing they have in common- they are all statements. These are not requests. For instance, a request would be “Could you please not talk to me when you are drunk?”. That is good, but that statement is not a boundary. (Related article: How to Communicate Effectively).
A boundary sets clear and firm expectations for how you will respond to certain situations and behaviors. There is a clear cause and effect. You might also notice that these boundaries are firm, but not mean or critical of the other person. They are straightforward and outline the behavior that is unacceptable and how you will respond.
After The Boundaries are Set
Maintaining your boundaries are as important as how you present them to others. Good boundaries are not effective if you don’t act on them. That’s why it’s important to actually follow through on your boundaries you set with others. As I once heard someone say, “you teach others how to treat you”.
Therapy Can Help You Set Better Boundaries
Do you struggle to set boundaries? Does all of this information seem overwhelming? Maybe you just aren’t sure where to begin. No matter your starting point, a therapist can help you learn to set and maintain better boundaries. Get help with boundaries and schedule an appointment for individual, couples, or family counseling today in Orem, Spanish Fork, or South Jordan.
Written by Lauren Adkins