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How Do I Create Better Boundaries? Part 2

Hannah Hopper, LPC, NCC 

I work with many clients who want to establish better boundaries in their relationships, and typically after setting a boundary, people feel a greater sense of autonomy and freedom. In my last blog, I focused on ways to identify when you may be needing a boundary, and how to listen to your feelings. This blog is more focused on how to have a conversation around boundaries and steps to take that may help the other person hear what you need. 

  1. Start small

Like any new skill, setting boundaries takes practice and can become easier to do over time. Being assertive takes practice, and it may even feel uncomfortable at first. Start by picking a boundary that will be easier for you to set and pick a boundary around something that is more concrete. A smaller boundary to start with could be limiting the amount of time you spend talking on the phone to your parent. 

  1. Practice assertiveness

Sometimes we expect others who know us well to be able to read our minds and recognize the things that will hurt us. Using assertive communication helps when communicating about boundaries, because with assertiveness you’re respecting others’ rights, as well as your own. Assertive communication involves asking the other person for collaboration and input on solutions. For example, phrases like “How can we get around this problem?” or “What are your thoughts on this?” 

  1. Give yourself permission

Part of giving yourself permission to set boundaries comes with prioritizing self-care. Putting aside time for self-care means that you’re recognizing your own need to recharge and recognizing the importance of your feelings and taking steps to honor them. Putting yourself first in some areas helps you to be in a healthier headspace. And, when we’re taking care of ourselves, we’re able to show up for the needs of others, and take a step back when we begin to feel exhausted. 

Emotions like fear and guilt can be barriers to setting boundaries. We might feel nervous that the other person won’t respect what we have to say, or that they’ll feel hurt by our needs. Guilt can come in to play with family members too and it may seem like saying yes means being a good parent, child, or sibling. We may even wonder if we deserve to have boundaries or deserve to say no to someone in our life. But boundaries are the sign of a healthy relationship, and they’re also a sign of self-respect. Give yourself permission to set boundaries and to continue to prioritize your needs. 

  1. Be direct with your boundary

Identify what you’d like to change in your relationship or interactions with this person, and name that clearly. For example, if a partner expects to spend time with you every free moment and you’re needing alone time to recharge, say how much time you’d like to have to yourself each week. If a family member asks intrusive questions that you don’t feel comfortable answering, saying something like “If I say that I don’t feel comfortable answering one of your questions, please respect my boundary instead of pushing for answers.” 

Being able to identify a need for boundaries and then putting those boundaries in place are key factors in having successful relationships. Symmetry Counseling has several therapists that specialize in relationships and helping people set the boundaries they need. If you’re ready to take that first step by scheduling counseling in Chicago, you can browse our therapist bios to find someone that is the right fit for you. You can also contact Symmetry Counseling today by calling 312-578-9990 to get matched with one of our therapists. 


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