Boundary-setting is like any new skill-you'll need to learn the basics, create a plan for applying your new skill, and then follow through with action and a support system. Over time and with practice, setting boundaries will become easier.

Remember that setting boundaries is a way to fully honor and respect yourself. You can control your own response by delivering your request gracefully to another person, but you cannot control their response or behavior to your request. People who continuously refuse to respect and honor your boundaries are clearly not willing to change. The change you need to see may come from yourself. Be sure that you have provided direct requests and communicated your boundaries consistently. If you have, and they still refuse to honor your boundary, it's up to you to decide how you wish to proceed. In these (hopefully rare) cases, you may need to negotiate further or end the relationship.

Practice: Complete the following statements:

People may no longer...
I have a right to ask for...
To protect my time and energy, it's okay to...

Then, finish each sentence with at least 12 examples (or more) of boundaries you can set to honor yourself. Don't censor your thoughts. Keep jotting down ideas over the course of the next week or so. Then, select the easiest ones and start communicating and reinforcing your boundaries.

Essential Boundary Setting Steps:

1. Self Awareness: Identify where your boundaries are weak or non-existent. Establish some new boundaries that honor you. What may people no longer do around you, do to you, or say to you? (Be realistic)

2. Inform: Educate others about unacceptable behaviors and expressions. Help people understand how they can respect your new boundaries. Communicate without blaming. Verbalize your boundaries.

3. Request: Calmly tell each person very specifically what you want them to stop doing or saying. Get their commitment to honoring you.

4. Follow-Up: Let them know how they are doing on meeting your request. Continue educating and reinforcing. Reward those who are respecting your boundaries.

5. Demand: Warn them about possible consequences if they continue ignoring your request. Enforce your boundaries.

6. Consequences: Follow through with the consequence if results aren't forthcoming. Determine which battles are worth fighting and which are worth letting go; walk away without any further comment if necessary. Set consequences that impact the other person more than you.

7. Respect others' boundaries : Stop violating other people's boundaries. Be aware and respectful of other people's boundaries.

Suggested Resources

1. Boundaries: When To Say Yes, When To Say No To Take Control Of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend (Zondervan Publishing House, 2002)
2. Parents In Charge: Setting Healthy, Loving Boundaries For You And Your Child by Dane Chidekel (Simon & Schuster, 2002)
3. Partnership Tools: Transforming The Way We Live Together by Alan Konell (Hippo Press, 2001).
4. Succeeding As A Super Busy Parent: 75 Practical Tips For Balancing Life, Love, Kids, And Career by Natalie R. Gahrmann (Infinity Publishing, 2002)
5. Where To Draw The Line: How To Set Up Healthy Boundaries Everyday by Anne Katherine (Simon & Schuster, 2000)
6. Working Parent-Happy Child by Caryl Waller Krueger (Nashville/ Abingdon Press, 1990)

Copyright 2003 by Natalie Gahrmann

About the Author:
Natalie Gahrmann, is a workshop/seminar leader, writer, success coach and expert in work/life mastery who delights in helping others achieve their goals and live the life they truly want. She is a graduate of Coach University and a member of the International Coach Federation, NJ Professional Coaches Association and the Alliance of Work/Life Professionals. She combines life experiences and extensive training to motivate others to achieve better results, unlock creativity and gain personal fulfillment in their work and personal life. To learn more about how coaching can help you, call to arrange a complimentary 30-minute coaching session. For more tips, advice and resources see "Succeeding as A Super Busy Parent: 75 Practical Tips for Balancing Life, Love, Kids, and Career" (Infinity Publishing, 2002) and visit To subscribe to our free weekly e-newsletter for working parents, send a blank email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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