When facing time with family, good boundaries will serve you well.
But first, let’s be clear: good boundaries are not “I just can’t take it ANY.MORE!” limits. They’re not demands you hope others will fulfill. They are not cold, hard brick walls.
Good boundaries are more like standards you have that keep YOU peaceful, safe, and at least relatively content.
Good Boundaries in action
Here’s an example: I have a standard that I don’t get yelled at. If, at any time, someone were to start yelling AT me, I would remove myself. Right away.
I don’t yell back and usually I don’t reiterate my standard unless I do it with super-low, measured energy. I just go away from it. Or get off the phone. I leave the room or ask the other person to leave- in that same measured, low-level energy.
I don’t do yelling matches. Period. About anything. Ever.
Those days are gone.
Because I now have standards about what I will and will not have in my life. And yelling AT me is one thing I will not have in my life.
Here’s a thing to remember:
You set a boundary, you get to keep it
Having a boundary and setting it is NOT about the other person, it’s about you. If you set a boundary, then it’s yours. You are the one who gets to tend and maintain the boundary.
You only get to control yourself.
Don’t try to use “boundaries” to control other people. That will never work. Those are actually demands. Those types of boundaries can be manipulative, plus they’re kind of screechy, shrill, and above all, ineffective. (More about this everywhere I’ve written about communication: HERE and HERE. You can check out the podcast episode HERE or search for episode 7 of Midlife Love Bytes anywhere you find your podcasts.)
Don’t be surprised when others push them or cross your good boundary.
They’re new. Like a dog and an electric fence, people need to discover and learn from the boundary. Of course they’re going to get tested.
Don’t get upset when YOUR boundary gets tested.
There’s no need to go to war over them. If the boundary or standard is not negotiable (that is the nature of real boundaries and standards- they are not negotiable) then don’t stand there and negotiate the boundary.
Yes, you can explain your boundary
But do this at a time when it’s not being tested, pushed, or crossed. You can say something like “hey, just so you know, I don’t stay engaged when people yell at me. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t like it. I feel bad and I just don’t tolerate it.”
End of talking. You don’t have to defend the boundary. Or unearth it’s family of origin or ex-spouse origin. If it’s a boundary and it’s your boundary and you mean to live by it, then you don’t really need to explain it or justify it or talk it to death.
That someone understands where the boundary comes from or how it came to be a boundary for you is way less important that YOU having it, being clear on it, and knowing that it’s YOUR boundary.
Assertiveness is different than aggression
Assertiveness comes from a place of strength; aggression comes from an attempt to get more of it. In other words, aggression is a reaction because of lack while assertiveness is just an assertion of that strength.
Assertiveness does not lord it over someone else or tell them what to do. Assertiveness puts the truth out there and then follows up when necessary.
Apply your good standards and boundaries
Heading into the holidays, identify a thing you know you won’t tolerate. Then make a plan for how you will respond to it. Then do it.
That’s all there is to it.
Don’t want to be around your drunk uncle? Make a plan to leave when that threshold gets crossed.
Don’t want to be compared to your brother? Leave the conversation if that happens. Go to a different room.
Tired of the girls doing all the work while the guys watch football? Ask for help. Use Clean, Non-Blaming Communication (TM) or (CNBC). “I feel frustrated. I don’t want to do all the work and clean-up. Can you help with that?” Or assert it as a standard: “I feel miffed. I want to watch football and take a nap.” Then go do it. 😉
Hard to imagine the last scenario?
It could be that’s not an area for a boundary.
Sure, it’s something you feel piqued about and you’ve grown bitter about over years and years and years.
Could be, asserting a boundary about that one is really about changing things up way ahead of the game, or just getting over your irritation.
You gotta pick your battles.
If you’re having trouble identifying what might be true boundaries, (think standard) versus demands or attempts to control, I can help. I can see what might be a blind spot for you. It’s what I do.
Maybe you don’t have any experience asserting a boundary and they come out being pretty aggressive expressions. I know how to help with that too. I love supporting people as they grow stronger.
You could be super frustrated around your previously thwarted attempts with good boundaries. I can help with that.
Let’s get you prepped and set for more peaceful, happier holidays (and life) this year.
Get in here and let’s get started. Give me a call.CONNECT