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Your Boundaries and Others

Question: In regards to boundaries, how do you set boundaries with people without coming across as rude?

In the beginning you come across as rude because people are not expecting you to set boundaries. So whatever you do, however you do it, it won’t go down well because people have certain expectations of you. When there are people who don’t have expectations of you, for example if you are meeting up with a person who you doesn’t know from before, setting boundaries is actually easier without coming across as rude.

So how do you set boundaries with known people without coming across as rude? First of all as I said, just accept the fact that you will come across as rude in the beginning because you’re learning to set boundaries. So by the time you are aware of the fact that you need to set boundaries you’re probably already frustrated which will always come across as rude to people. When you are frustrated and you set boundaries out of frustration you will come across as rude, accept that and then you can move on to other things.

Now there are a few different ways that you can set boundaries, for example if someone wants to meet up with you, instead of saying “No I can’t meet up with you at that time” you can say “That time doesn’t suit me, but this time or this time suits me better, do either of those suit you?” So you’re setting boundaries by making a counter offer, and that is probably the best way of setting boundaries in a really polite way. So somebody says “I want ‘this’ from you” and you can say “I can’t do that, but how about this or this?”

Now that doesn’t always work, because sometimes you just don’t want to do whatever is being suggested and you want to be clear about it. So how to say no to somebody without being rude is as follows - “I’m not available to do this activity because it’s not right for me right now”.

Think about what they could be asking of you? If they want to dump their emotional stuff on you, if they want you to listen to them crapping on the whole time while they’re shouting at the phone and you’re yawning at the other end. You can say “listen, I’d really love to be able to help you, however I don’t feel like I’m in a position to help you so I really suggest that you talk to somebody who can.” In this situation, I always try and look for a solution, or make a counter offer. However if neither of these options is relevant then I just say “this is not right for me, I can’t do this” and if they persist that you ‘should’ do it, then you can say “I’ve already said this is not right for me, I’m beginning to get a little bit frustrated with the fact that you’re not hearing what I am saying. What’s this about?”

In summary, a counter offer is a way of not being rude. However, there will be times where this is not possible and your boundaries will need to be firm. In these cases you may need to escalate from polite refusal up to a blunt ‘go away’, until the message is received.

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