How to set boundaries to others

How to set boundaries to others

Is it hard for you to say no? Do you put the other’s needs before your own? Do you feel guilty when you prioritize yourself? If so, we would say that it is hard for you to set boundaries.

Why is it important to know how to set boundaries?

Boundaries are barriers that we place on others to protect ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally. In order to set boundaries it is necessary that we express to others in a clear and assertive way what we want or need at a specific moment.

You have the right to set boundaries. Setting boundaries is not the same as being selfish, since we also take into account the needs of others. When we set them, we are sending a clear message: I have the right to be treated with respect and to have my needs met.

In order to set boundaries you do not need them to have been previously exceeded, nor do they need to offend or hurt us. Boundaries have to be set whenever you need them.

In another blog we have already talked about the importance of self-care and how it requires attending to our needs. If we identify them, but do not express them in front of others, it is useless. Setting boundaries is an act of love for oneself.

However, learning to do so is not an easy process. Often, we think that just doing it once will be enough. But the reality is that it requires perseverance.

Doing it will allow us to create healthy and balanced relationships. Strengthen our self-esteem and get to know ourselves better.

Why is it hard for me to set limits?


– My boss always asks me to work overtime.

– And why don’t you tell her you can’t?

– Because many times I don’t have anything to do after work and I feel bad.

Fear of rejection

– If I tell her that I don’t like it when she makes jokes like that, she will get angry and won’t want to date me anymore.

Self-demanded responsibility:

Holding ourselves responsible for everything even when it does not correspond to us. Many people believe that by doing so they help others, but disregarding our limits is not helping.  Taking care of problems or obligations that are not ours in order to help others, harms ourselves.

– My sister has no one to take care of the children when she goes out.

– Does she often go out?

– Every Friday.

– And if you want to go out on a Friday?

– I try to change my plans for Saturday.

Use passive communication.

Our needs are not clearly established and are often not prioritized.

– I didn’t want to go to the beach. We go there every weekend and I don’t like it.

– And what did you say to him?

– “Maybe we could go on an excursion… or well, whatever you want, the beach is also a good idea”.

Fear of conflict

– If your boss told you that he would raise your salary after one year, you have the right to ask for it.

– Yeah, but he hasn’t said anything to me, he might get angry.

Low self-esteem: you feel that your needs are not important.

– If you feel bad, you don’t have to have sexual relations.

– But he did want to and if I say no, he may think that I don’t love him and look for someone else.

Boundaries can cause tantrums

Warning: setting limits where there were none before can create resistance in the person who receives them. That person may become angry or try to manipulate us in order to make us feel guilty.  It is NORMAL to encounter resistance at first, but in order to create solid boundaries, we must remain firm.

Imagine that every night after dinner I give my son an ice cream. It doesn’t feel right, but I do it to avoid a problem late in the day because I’m exhausted. One day I decide that enough is enough; no more ice cream after dinner. How do you think the child will react? Well, to put it bluntly, he’s going to put on a “show” for me. The child will try to force that limit to see if I give in and take it away.

Well, the same thing happens with many adults, as soon as they see a limit they don’t like, they will push it to see if they can get us to remove it again. Therefore, even if sometimes it is hard and guilt or exhaustion tempts us, it is important that we keep our boundaries. 

If every noon I take a tupperware from a co-worker and one day he gets angry, but the next day he tells me that it is ok, it indicates to me that I can do “whatever I want” because there will be times when I will be able to get away with it. Therefore, boundaries cannot be set in stone.

There will be people who will accept our limits at the first time, people who will find it more difficult and others who will decide not to accept them. The latter are people who do not respect our rights.

Therefore, we must be patient since setting limits does not imply that our environment will accept them right away. But with perseverance, most of them will end up accepting them.

How do you learn to set boundaries for others?

  • First, identify your limits. Accept and prioritize yourself.
  • Set limits for yourself.
  • Learn to decide for yourself without being influenced by the opinion of others. Free yourself from pressures that do not correspond to you and from guilt.
  • Accept your fears and understand that setting limits does not always have to generate conflict or mean that you lose the affection of others.
  • Learn to express them assertively. Remember that there are different communication styles and not all of them are appropriate or helpful in setting healthy boundaries. You have the right to say no without justifying yourself while being kind and respectful.
  • Accept the “tantrum” and normalize it as part of the process.
  • The other person’s reaction is not up to you. If after communicating your boundaries clearly and assertively you are met with a person who does not accept them and walks away from you because of it, then that person is not capable of having a healthy, balanced relationship with you. 
  • Respect the boundaries of others.
  • Be patient and consistent.
  • Ask for help if you need to learn how to do it or to manage your self-esteem. At the sanitary psychology service we can help you.