Boundaries: Do You Set Them Or Live Without Them?

  • Do you agree to do things that you really don’t want to do and later regret it?
  • Do you avoid speaking up for yourself at times even though you’re seething inside?
  • Do you tend to avoid conflict and let others have their way or make decisions for you?

These are all signs that you haven’t established your boundaries. Some of us believe asking for what we want is selfish or that it’s not good team behavior. So, we may say things like “Whatever you choose will be great!” That results in agreeing to do things we don’t want to do or feel we shouldn’t have to do.

Yes, you may avoid conflict with others. Unfortunately, it can create a destructive conflict inside of you. Because you’ve given away your power to choose and decide to someone else, it can lead to built-up frustration and anger. Eventually, this stress and tension becomes too great and you explode or do something stupid.

Boundary Management

It’s far better to become aware of what you need, develop strategies to ensure that your needs are met appropriately. That requires you to set boundaries – what you will or will not do; what is acceptable behavior towards you and others and what is not; and other things that are important to you.  Setting personal boundaries is essentially a three-step process:

 Step One: Be Aware of Your Needs

Start by thinking of times when you felt angry, frustrated, embarrassed, hurt or powerless. What was going on at the time? Was it for example: Someone kept you from doing what I needed to do; or you were ignored or dismisses when you asked a question; or you were not acknowledged for your contributions to the team? Then figure out which need, that is important to you, was not being met. It could be for recognition, or assurance in your knowledge and expertise, or having freedom to make certain decisions, or acknowledgement of your work,

Step Two: Set Your Boundaries and Let Others Know
When you understand what you need to be satisfied, engaged or motivated, that’s only the first part of the process. The second part is letting others know. Your colleagues, peers, and friends can’t always figure this out on their own. To do that well, follow these guidelines:

  1. Focus on your goals.
    Getting what you want takes commitment. Setting boundaries isn’t always easy, so maintain a strong focus on your overall goals you want to achieve. Make sure they are realistic and relevant
  2. Be more assertive.
    It’s the art of communicating what you need clearly, openly and rationally, without resorting to anger or demands. It’s not just telling; it’s listening as well. You also must take the responsibility to work with them to reach a mutually agreeable solution.
  3. Learn to say no and make it stick.
    If you say yes to everything, you risk not having enough time to do anything properly. You also risk not having the time to work on the tasks that are truly important. Therefore, say a strategic “no” to requests in order to create space in your life for a more intentional “yes.”

Step Three: Monitor Your Results
When you start setting boundaries you may have an immediate sense of empowerment. It’s a great feeling knowing that you can ask for what you need and then get it most of the time. It’s also important to realize boundaries are not completely fixed or unchangeable. Sometimes plans don’t always go as planned and flexibility is required/

Smart Moves Tip

When you have a clear set of boundaries that are reasonable and appropriate to the situation, you empower yourself to get what you need to be satisfied. If you’re satisfied, you’ll be more productive and therefore make a larger contribution to the team and the organization. Therefore make boundary management a priority today.


Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle
Marcia Zidle, The Smart Moves Coach, is a national known board certified coach and keynote leadership speaker who guides organizations that are planning, or in the midst of, ambitious growth and change. As a career strategist, she works with professionals, managers and executives who want to build • shape • brand • change • vitalize their careers. She’s been selected by LinkedIn’s ProFinder as one of the best coaches for 2016!Her clients range from private owned businesses to mid-market companies to professional service firms to NGO’s. With 25 years of management, business consulting and international experience, she brings an expertise in executive and team leadership; employee engagement and innovation; personal and organization change; career building and development; emotional and social intelligence. Your Future Starts Now With Marcia!

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