Therapy Blog for Orem, Spanish Fork & South Jordan

Communication Skills: Requests Vs. Boundaries

Communication Skills: How to Set Better Boundaries

In our last blog post you learned about the basics of boundaries and how therapy can improve your communication skills. But what if you have tried to set boundaries and it seems like they just aren’t working? What is missing? 

Today, we will talk about a common mistake people make when trying to set a boundary. (Related Article: How to Communicate Better Through Boundaries).  You will learn how to improve your communication skills. Next, you’ll learn how therapy can helpcommunication skills you set better boundaries.  

Requests Vs. Boundaries

When it comes to boundaries, you might think that you are simply asking someone to change their behavior. However, requests and boundaries serve different purposes. (Related Article: Requests Vs. Boundaries Vs. Ultimatums- The Ultimate Guide). 

Requests and boundaries are both useful and help us to meet our needs in our interactions with others. What is the difference? Requests are more of a “soft” approach. When you request something from your partner, you express your needs. Then, they can choose to meet them… or not. (Related Article: Communication in Relationships). 

Requests are typically open-ended. There is simply a request for action and an invitation for your partner to do so. Here are some examples of requests:

“Could you please clean up your mess?” 

“Can you please not talk to me that way?”

“Would you stop lecturing me?”

There is nothing wrong with requests on their own. Requests serve an important purpose in your relationships, too. However, there are situations where a more direct approach is appropriate. (Related Article: How to Fix Communication in Your Relationships). 

That’s where boundaries come in. When you set a boundary, you make it clear what is (or is not) acceptable behavior in your interactions. Let’s talk about how boundaries are different from requests. 

Turning Requests Into Boundaries 

A good boundary does not only identify the behavior that concerns you. Boundaries also outline what the other person can expect in response if they do not cooperate. In fact, that’s a great way to sum it up; boundaries set good expectations. And boundaries can be specifically enforced; requests cannot. (Related Article: Communication Barriers).

Let’s look at those examples from earlier. What would they look like as boundaries instead of requests?

Request Boundary
“Could you please clean up your mess?”  I can’t keep cleaning up your messes. I will clean up my own mess in the kitchen and the rest is up to you. 
“Can you please not talk to me that way?” I cannot talk to you if you are going to yell and call me names. We can continue this conversation when you are able to speak calmly. 
“Would you stop lecturing me?” We can’t spend time together anymore if you are only going to offer unsolicited advice. 


Can you see the difference? When it comes to communication skills, good boundaries are an important tool. (Related article: How to Communicate Effectively).

When to Use a Request vs. a Boundary

I mentioned earlier that requests also serve a purpose in good communication. So, when do you use a request? And when is it time to present a boundary? 

Requests and boundaries can actually work well together to help you communicate your needs and your limits. Requests come first. When you make an effective request, you give the other person an opportunity to change for the better. communication skills

If your partner or the other person is willing and open to change, it is important to also put a time frame for that change. At the end of the period of time, you have an opportunity to provide positive feedback. Requests can be great learning experiences, and can help you and the other person increase your trust. (Related Article: Communication Skills- Boundaries).

But, what if you make a request and those changes don’t happen? Or what if the other person is unreceptive to your request? That’s where a boundary can be appropriate. Creating a boundary helps you protect yourself (and the other person involved) from unnecessary hurt. Boundaries are an act of compassion; specifically compassion towards yourself. 

Therapy Can Help You Set Better Boundaries

If you are struggling with boundaries and communication skills, therapy can help. Schedule an appointment for individual, couples, or family counseling today in Orem, Spanish Fork, or South Jordan. 


Written by Lauren Adkins

Lauren Adkins

Writer for the Center for Couples and Families


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