5 Crazy In-Depth Steps for Setting Boundaries + Worksheets
Setting boundaries effectively is essential for living a happier, more fulfilling life.
When you can set boundaries well, you create space for your biggest success.
So, if you have ever been told “you need to teach people how to treat you,” or, “you get what you tolerate,” then this guide is for you.
Let’s dive in!
What are boundaries?
Boundaries are defined by Merriam-Webster as, “something that indicates or fixes a limit.”
In the case of personal boundaries, they are something that indicates a limit on what you will allow in your space.
In other words, personal boundaries help you limit your exposure to the things you don’t want in your space.
Not surprisingly, people don’t always respect boundaries, either intentionally or unintentionally (which is likely the reason you are here, reading this blog!).
There could be a few reasons for this:
Maybe they don’t know where the boundaries are.
Maybe they don’t know how to respect boundaries.
Maybe they just don’t want to.
Whatever the reason, you can learn how to set personal boundaries and how to keep them so that you don’t have to put up with things you don’t want in your space.
One thing I struggled with, and one thing that is extremely important for you to remember is:
You do not need to feel bad about setting boundaries.
Your boundaries are not about placing limits on others.
Your boundaries are about limiting your exposure to behavior that doesn’t align with who you are and who you want to be.
Setting your personal boundaries is about creating a personal environment that allows for your success.
You are 100% entitled to create a space that honors who you are.
And with that, it’s time for the first step for setting your boundaries!
1. Know your most important values.
The first and most important step in setting personal boundaries is finding and knowing your 5 core values.
Why is this the most important step?
Your 5 core values are the bedrock of who you are. When you know your values, you know who are at your core.
On the flip side, knowing your values also lets you know who you are not.
Knowing your values is the first step for setting boundaries because they help determine what you are not willing to compromise on.
One of my top values is authenticity.
Knowing I value authenticity helps me set boundaries because I know I only want people and things in my space that don’t make me compromise that value (i.e. fake people need not apply).
If I didn’t know authenticity was a core value, I might be more willing to let inauthentic people in my life.
When you have people in your space that don’t align with or respect what you value, you can get caught up in managing that drama instead of on what’s best for you.
To help you find your most important personal values, you can use this definitive guide to finding your values.
Now that you know the importance of values (and maybe have an idea of your own), you can proceed to step 2, using your values to create personal boundaries.
2. Use your values to find your personal boundaries
Your values can be used to create your personal boundaries.
These boundaries align with who you are at your core, so they are extremely powerful.
Turning your top values into personal boundaries has a few simple steps.
For each of your core values, you want to figure out the three things:
What will you allow in your space given this value?
What will you tolerate in your space (but don’t like) given this value?
What won’t you allow in your space given this value?
I created a setting boundaries worksheet to help you keep track of your answers to each question.
Enter your email below to get the setting boundaries worksheet!
Below is an example of the setting boundaries worksheet that I filled out based on my values to help guide you.
Going back to the example of authenticity from above, we can see:
I allow people into my space who are authentic and tell the truth.
I don’t allow people in my space if they lie or are dishonest - that is something I clearly move away from.
Converting authenticity into a boundary is straightforward for me, but there are some values that have more wiggle room than others.
Setting your boundaries is really about you deciding what works for you and what doesn’t.
Sometimes, you might let a person cross a boundary because of something else they bring to the relationship.
Boundary setting is not black and white. There are many shades of gray, all driving by personal preference.
Context is also key.
Your boundaries in a personal relationship might be different from boundaries in a work relationship.
Many times at work the organizational culture drives environment so those boundaries come first.
You might be able to get by at work with co-workers who don’t match up with your values, but the closer you are with someone, the more important it becomes to set and communicate the boundaries that you need for success.
Whatever your values are, converting them into boundaries gives you a basis for setting boundaries in relationships, setting boundaries at work, or anywhere else.
What to do if you are having trouble finding your boundaries
It’s not always easy to figure out exactly where the line is.
There are a few internal signals that you can pay attention to that indicate a crossed boundary.
The first internal signal is anger.
Anger is one of your good friends when setting personal boundaries, because it is a clear indicator of a crossed boundary.
When you get angry, many times it is because one of your core values is being compromised or offended.
For example, I get angry when I feel lied to or cheated. That is because it goes against my value of authenticity.
The second important warning signal is the cringe factor.
I learned about the cringe factor from Dr. Henry Cloud in his book 9 Things a Leader Must Do.
The cringe factor is any time you have to cringe or take a big gulp to agree to do something or to work with someone.
If you experience this, that likely means you know one of your values is about to be upended if you move forward in this relationship.
Once you have your personal values translated into boundaries, you can move onto step 3.
3. Setting your boundaries
Now that you have an understanding of where your boundaries are, it is time to put them to work. It’s time to learn how to set boundaries.
There are two important parts to setting boundaries:
The first part of setting your boundaries is knowing what not to engage in or who not to engage with in the first place.
This might be the most important part of setting your boundaries.
You can save yourself a lot of trouble, anger, and headaches if you know what to say no to before boundary crossing becomes an issue.
This goes back to knowing what you will not allow in your space based on a value.
If you think one of the paths ahead of you might lead down a road you don’t want to go, you have every right not to.
If you value punctuality, then being on a team with someone who is habitually late is setting yourself up for crossed boundaries.
If you value financial well-being, then dating a big spender is setting yourself up for crossed boundaries.
If you know that you value cooperation, then being best friends with someone who is selfish is setting yourself up for crossed boundaries.
Knowing what you won’t tolerate allows you to avoid getting into situations where boundaries might be crossed from the start.
This is not to say don’t engage with people who don’t share the same values as you.
It is just to say make sure you know the playing field that you are stepping into.
Oftentimes the other qualities someone might have are so redeeming that we just can’t help but love them, so we just charge ahead and do our best to make it work.
The second part of setting boundaries is communicating your boundaries to others.
This part is where you teach people how to treat you.
Life can be messy.
Along the way you are inevitably going to get your toes stepped on, but you can drastically reduce the amount of times and frequency that this happens by getting good at communicating your boundaries.
Communicating your boundaries breaks down into having clear expectations and learned the empowered no.
Have Clear Expectations
The heart of successfully setting boundaries is having clear expectations.
Most people don’t intentionally violate boundaries. They just don’t always know where the line is.
Having clear expectations lets others know where that line is.
There are two good ways I have learned to set clear expectations.
The first is to use your setting boundaries worksheet, where you translated your values into boundaries, as a guide.
When you are going to have a boundary conversation with someone, pull out your setting boundaries worksheet during the conversation and use it to explain the boundary that was crossed and what you need to be successful.
This way is effective for speaking directly to boundary-crossers to try to remedy the situation.
There is no blame in this conversation. You are simply sharing a boundary that is being crossed.
The boundaries worksheet is something concrete that you can share with a boundary-crosser to let them know this is what you value and that something they did crossed that line.
You can also invite the boundary crosser to fill out his or her own worksheet so you can see where you might be crossing one of their boundaries.
Understanding boundaries together creates a powerful connection of understanding, acknowledgement, and ownership for self.
The second way I have found to outline clear expectations is to create something similar to a code of conduct.
A code of conduct sets the standard you plan to hold yourself and others to.
I wanted family boundaries that brought out the best in each of my family members, so I created the Bryan family code of conduct.
This code allows us to hold each other accountable without making it personal.
Our code of conduct is a family agreement to behave a specific way, and it’s not about pointing out when someone does something wrong.
By saying yes to a Code, you are giving authority to others to hold you to the behavior specifically called out, and vice versa.
Here is another worksheet to use that can help you create your own Code of Conduct (you can get the Code worksheet by subscribing to the Llama Times here):
If you are setting boundaries in relationships, you can sit down with your partner and complete the Code worksheet together.
You can both use your values and personal boundaries to create a code of conduct that works best for both of you.
If you are setting boundaries at work, you can work with your team to create a code of conduct so that everyone is aware of what the expectations are and what the team needs to do to be successful.
If you are setting family boundaries then you can use the Code to let everyone know what the family expectations are for acceptable behavior.
Our family code set the standard for each person in the family.
It was a great way to establish clear family boundaries about what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.
It works anywhere: for teams, for departments, for organizations, and for personal relationships.
A code of conduct is a blending of everyone’s values and boundaries, and it is a great way to make clear what the standard of behavior is for everyone.
The Empowered No
The other part of communicating your boundaries is what I like to call the empowered no.
Oftentimes, if we are less clear on our values and boundaries, we are more susceptible to being convinced do something we maybe don’t want to do.
We get asked why we don’t want to do something, and we can’t provide a clear answer so we just go along with it.
The empowered no is where you clearly know what you value, what your boundaries are, and what you won’t tolerate, and use that knowledge to communicate to someone else that what is taking place doesn’t align with your values so you must decline to participate.
If you value honesty, and have felt habitually lied to by a friend, you might say something like this:
“I appreciate who you are and what you do. For me, I value honesty. It doesn’t feel like honesty is mutually valued in this relationship, and, without that, I have to say no to the friendship because it is important to me to say yes to friends who value similar things.”
With the empowered no, you can communicate clearly why it is you aren’t interested, and feel entirely confident and secure in your decision.
4. Keeping your boundaries
I’m going to be honest with you:
Not everyone is going to respect your boundaries.
It would be nice if that was the case, but it’s not.
So, in order for you to do what’s best for you, you have to know what to do when someone crosses your boundaries.
When someone crosses your boundaries (or that of your team’s or organizations), you have to hold them accountable.
This is where the code of conduct or personal boundary worksheet you made earlier comes in.
You already have an understanding of where your boundaries are as well as clear expectations of what you need to be your most successful.
Now you just have to have the conversation.
Framing your boundaries conversation
Ultimately your boundaries are about your success or the success of your team or organization.
You can use this fact to frame the conversation you are having.
When you keep what is most important at the forefront, then it isn’t necessarily about you or the person you are talking to.
If you are talking about crossed boundaries in a relationship with regards to communication, you might frame the conversation as something like this:
“I want our partnership to be as successful and fulfilling as possible. What I need in this relationship for us to be successful is clear communication, and I feel like that hasn’t been happening lately and it makes me sad. How do you feel like we can move forward from here so that we are as successful as possible?”
If you are talking about crossed boundaries at work with regards to communication, you might say something like this:
“Hello team/co-worker, I value what you all do. I want our team to be as successful as possible. One thing that I need to be successful is clear communication. I feel like lately I have not been receiving clear communication about our project and it has been difficult for me to perform at my highest level. How can we remedy that?”
Use Me-First language
In the example above, you might have noticed that the way the conversations are managed is by using me first language.
Me first language is where you explain the problem based on the impact it has on you.
When we are talking about crossed boundaries, we have to keep front and center the fact that setting boundaries is not about limiting others so that we can have as productive a conversation as possible.
Using me first language keeps others from getting defensive because you are talking about how you feel.
You are not placing blame nor are you being defensive. It is a simple this is the impact this behavior is having on me.
Let’s look another example of a boundary violation:
Let’s say you value integrity and you feel that sometimes your partner does things you consider unethical to get ahead.
It has been a source of conflict for a while, but you just haven’t been able to figure out how to resolve the issue. Now, though, you know your values and you are ready to set some boundaries.
What’s the best way to have the conversation?
If you say, “you are always trying to take advantage of the rules. You are only concerned with getting ahead for yourself!” then your partner might get mad and you will not be able to have a productive conversation. Accusations tend to have a squelching effect on conversation.
If you instead use me-first language, you might say, “I value integrity and doing things the right way. It makes me feel upset when you do things like cut corners to save time and money. I want us to have a successful and healthy relationship and a partner who I can trust to do the right thing. How can we be better about this moving forward?”
This is likely to elicit a different response and lead to a more productive conversation about what you need to be successful in this relationship.
Use the circle back method
When someone crosses your boundaries, it is easy to get frustrated.
If you aren’t able to say anything at the time, or maybe don’t handle the moment in the best way, you can always use the circle back method.
I talk about the circle back method here, but what it involves is revisiting a previous conversation and asking for a do over, so you can get it right the second time.
It is circling back to talk about the crossed boundary again, except in a more effective way.
The beauty of the circle back method is that you can always revisit a previous moment and say, “hey, I was frustrated before, and I want to circle back to the incident, so we can have a better conversation about it.”
5. Figure out where you will compromise and where you won’t. And then act on it.
Even after all these steps, boundaries are still going to be crossed.
At this point it is up to you to figure out where you will compromise and where you won’t.
An example of a boundary violation I have learned to compromise on is with my value of effectiveness.
My husband likes to take the scenic route. It takes longer to get where we are going. It uses more gas. It gets us stuck in traffic.
It may seem simple, but it always frustrates me.
I have communicated this to him. But for him, he values taking the scenic route, and he isn’t going to change.
Everything about him is worth so much more than this boundary violation, so I have learned to compromise (even if it still annoys me sometimes!)
For you, whether it is a partner or co-worker, friend or family, you have to decide where and if you are willing to compromise on your boundaries.
You have to ask yourself, “is this boundary-crossing something you are willing to tolerate because the relationship with this person is worth it?”
Choosing to accept a boundary violation is fine. It’s a compromise.
If you choose to compromise, it is important to release the hurt and anger about the violation in a positive way so that your frustration or venting doesn’t impact the relationship in a negative way.
When you hold your boundaries, you might realize there are people who won’t be able to be in your life any more if you are going to achieve your greatest success.
Maybe this person isn’t willing to be the person you need them to be. That is okay. It is better for both of you if your each existing in a space where you can live in the way you need to, even if those spaces aren’t together anymore.
Either way, you will be much happier when your boundaries are set and you are living in the space that is geared towards living your best life.
Got any questions? Want to share your boundaries? Comment below!
Wishing you llama llove,