Before diving deeper into setting boundaries with friends, let’s define boundaries. Boundaries are guidelines you set for yourself. These guidelines define what kind of behaviors you consider acceptable when it comes to other people.
Boundaries can be physical, emotional, psychological, and even financial. They can play a very important role in your life. For example, they can help you:
- Feel safe
- Preserve a sense of personal space
- Protect your self-respect
- Protect yourself from emotional manipulation and abuse
- Stop enabling negative behaviors in others
- Stop excessive people pleasing
- Have more time or use your time more productively
- Achieve your goals
- Use your psychological and physical resources more efficiently
- Protect yourself from unnecessary disappointments
- Have more peace in your life
- Avoid being taken advantage of
- Avoid being dragged into uncomfortable situations
- Stop accidental oversharing
Now, of course, friends play such an important role in our lives and well-being; however, sometimes, some people can overstep their boundaries and make us feel uncomfortable, disrespected, or taken advantage of.
Setting boundaries with friends doesn’t mean being mean to your friends or avoiding them altogether; instead, it means establishing healthier and more balanced relationships.
Keep in mind that it is possible to overdo it. If your boundaries are too rigid, you might come across as unapproachable and become completely isolated. Finding a good balance is the key to successful boundaries.
Healthy boundaries with friends help prevent conflicts and misunderstandings and promote mutual respect. Knowing your boundaries is knowing where you end and where others begin.
Types of Boundaries
Boundaries can be applied to different areas of our interaction with others. For example, you could choose to set physical, emotional, financial, or even time boundaries. Let’s look at each of these in more detail:
Physical boundaries may include rules regarding your personal space, whether or not you allow others to touch you or borrow things from you. These are basic boundaries because they allow you to establish a sense of safety and at least minimal control over your environment and belongings.
By setting physical boundaries, you communicate your comfort levels and preferences. For example, you may feel uncomfortable if a friend insists on standing too close to you or attempts to touch you excessively. By stepping back, you communicate your preference to keep a certain distance.
Or if a friend borrows your things without asking, you can communicate your boundary by openly discussing the problem with them or by physically preventing them from doing so, such as removing the item in question from their view or even locking it up if necessary.
Your emotional boundaries are the limits you set on the emotional energy you are willing to share with others. Here are some examples of emotional boundaries:
- emotional aspects you are ready to discuss with others
- emotional aspects you prefer to keep private
- the amount of negativity you are ready to handle
- the level of emotional support you are willing to give
- the amount of sharing you are ready to handle
- your unwillingness to be someone’s toxic handler
- your position on emotional dumping
- your position on some upsetting topics (Do you allow others to tell you disturbing stories, for example?)
Establishing emotional boundaries is crucial for preventing emotional burnout. It helps protect your well-being and avoid taking on other people’s problems.
Time boundaries examples may include:
- the amount of time you are willing to spend with your friends
- how often and for how long they can visit your house
- your position on last-minute disruptions
- scheduling activities in advance
- your availability during work or study hours
- your preference for text messages over phone calls
- limiting phone calls and messages during certain hours
- duration of phone calls
Time boundaries are essential for balancing your personal time and other commitments. Avoiding last-minute disruptions and limiting all communication to specific times only can help maintain a healthy work-life balance and avoid unnecessary stress.
Examples of financial boundaries may include:
- the amount of money you are comfortable lending
- your willingness or lack thereof to share the bill in a certain way
- types of items you are comfortable lending
- financial expectations during outings, such as keeping outings within a specific budget
- your willingness or lack thereof to cover expenses beyond your own portion
Establishing financial boundaries helps prevent financial stress and conflict. Being clear on financial expectations and responsibilities helps avoid resentment and misunderstandings.
Steps for Setting Boundaries with Friends
Setting boundaries isn’t an easy task. Usually, we all have two types of people in our lives:
– those with whom we don’t need to worry about boundaries because their understanding of what is appropriate or excessive is similar to ours
– those who constantly overstep our boundaries because, well, they just don’t understand!
Generally, there are three steps to effective boundary setting: identifying the boundaries you personally need, communicating your boundaries to the person in question, and reinforcing your boundaries so that they know you are serious about it.
Identify the Boundaries You Need
This step takes a little self-reflection. Take some time to think about your needs and comfort levels. Is there anything that some of your friends do that bothers you?
For example, you may decide that the time you spend with friends negatively affects your work performance. You might decide that you need to limit socializing to one day per week.
Or you may have that one friend who makes condescending jokes about you to the point that it isn’t even funny anymore. Issues like these need to be on your boundary list.
Or, even more likely, you may want to ask your friends to schedule visits to your house rather than just drop by. You may also want to set boundaries around how long and how often they can visit.
It’s important to remember that boundaries don’t have to be the same for everybody. Some people may be closer than others, and you may be willing to make exceptions for them. Some people may need more time and attention, and that might be okay for you, while some others may benefit from more independence and personal space.
Communicate Your Boundaries
Once you make your list, it’s time to state your preferences. Using the example of house visits, you can say, “I wanted to talk about our next meeting at my house. Could you please give me notice before you come next time so I can make myself available?”
Try to be as clear and direct as possible. State your preferences in a straightforward manner; however, there is no need to sound arrogant or rude. You do not actually need to use words like “boundaries,” “limits,” “rules,” or “guidelines” unless you really want to. The reason for that is that using these words can make you sound distant and unfriendly. After all, you are talking to a friend; you aren’t writing a manual!
When your friend texts or calls you to make an appointment, you can say something like, “Sure, we can meet! Just want to let you know in advance that I have only two hours or so.”
Reinforce Your Boundaries
Now that you identified your boundaries and communicated them to your friends, you need to make sure that you reinforce them. If you continue allowing people to overstep your boundaries, they might decide that you aren’t serious about your new rules, and the desired pattern of behavior will not form.
To establish a new pattern, you need consistency. If your friends keep ignoring your preferences, you need to be willing to remind them about them every single time. As always, don’t be rude or arrogant; a hint or a gentle reminder is usually sufficient.
For instance, if your friend contacts you during your work or study hours, you can assertively say, “I am a little busy right now. Let’s catch up later.”
Remember, setting boundaries with your friends is an ongoing process that relies on mutual respect and a willingness to adapt when necessary. It’s crucial for your friends to understand that your primary intention is to be a sincere and caring friend. When they have this confidence in you, they are more likely to be open and understanding towards your needs and preferences.
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