Boundary Setting and Healthy Communication

Knowing yourself, your values, your needs, and your wants is important, and so is protecting yourself. Boundary setting is not just about guarding yourself physically, but also mentally. Setting boundaries means being able to communicate with others about how you would and would not like to be treated, and protecting values that are important to you. Boundary setting shows respect for yourself, and healthy assertiveness to others. It’s important for you to know and believe that you are worth defending. Boundary setting can be used across a spectrum of situations from refusing to answer questions that make you feel uncomfortable to avoiding life threatening situations. Here are some examples of healthy and unhealthy boundaries.  

Healthy Boundaries

  • Appropriate trust. Moving step by step into intimacy – emotionally and physically.
  • Staying focused on your own growth.
  • Maintaining personal values despite what others want.
  • Noticing and speaking up when someone invades your boundaries.
  • Trusting your own decisions.
  • Knowing who you are and what you want. 
  • Self-respect – not putting too much hope in someone else.
  • Recognizing that friends and family are not mindreaders.
  • Not allowing someone to take advantage of you and your generosity.
  • Saying “No” to food, gifts, touch, and sex that you do not want.  



Unhealthy boundaries

  • Trusting no one or trusting everyone. 
  • Letting others define you, direct you, and/or describe your reality.
  • Going against personal values or rights to please another person. 
  • Allowing someone to take as much as they want from you.
  • Falling in love with someone who reaches out, or with a new acquaintance. 
  • Telling all and talking at an intimate level at the first meeting. 
  • Expecting others to fulfill your needs.
  • Believing others can anticipate your needs. 
  • Being sexual for your partner, not yourself.
  • Sexual and physical abuse.



The first step in boundary setting is to name your limits. You need to identify your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual limits – not just in romantic relationships, but in all interpersonal relationships. Your feelings and intuition can help guide these limits. Being self-aware helps you honor your values, feelings, and self. The next step is to be direct with others and develop a habit of healthy communication. Assertiveness is often seen as a negative trait; however, being assertive means confidently and firmly telling others your boundaries and communicating with them you expect respect. Seeking support of a friend, family member, counselor, coach, or church group can help you develop strong boundaries, good communication skills, and an accountability system.

Communications skills can make or break human relationships. Without knowing how to engage in healthy communication, you open yourself up to increased stress and further challenges that can compromise your relationships with others. Quality communication relies heavily on listening skills. If you or the person you’re communicating with are not actively listening, there is no real understanding, no basis for growing together, no mutuality, and no acceptance. Effective communication is a learned skill and the foundation upon which all else in a relationship is built. To improve your communication skills as well as your relationships, practice the following tips:


  • Listen without countering. Actively try to hear the other person’s point of view. Stop planning what you are going to do or say next and just tune in. Don’t be defensive.
  • Make eye contact. This shows you are engaged and respectful of the person speaking. It also demonstrates confidence in yourself.
  • Speak for yourself. Make “I” statements about what you feel, and need. You cannot speak for the motivations behind others’ action and language. You can only describe how their actions make you feel.
  • State and restate what you have heard. Seek clarification. This prevents miscommunication, and shows the other person you are actively listening.
  • Stick to the subject. Make your point without making accusations. Provide examples or details to support your point. Again, you can only state your interpretation of the event. Remember not to speak on another’s behalf.
  • Look inside yourself.  What is the motive behind the words you choose to say? To defend, provoke, distract or to really communicate?
  • Ask for behavioral change.  Bring the conversation back to your everyday life.  What will be different after this discussion? What can be expected?
  • Remember your partner’s trigger points. Then, resist the temptation to use them.
  • Remember your own trigger points. Then, resist the temptation to react.
  • Agree to disagree sometimes.  Practice respectful acceptance of difference.
  • Remember the power of apology.  If you know you have been hurtful or wrong.
  • Be clear and firm when communicating your boundaries. Be direct and say what you need to ensure there is no miscommunication. If someone persist, repeat your stance and intensify your volume as needed. Communicate with confidence.


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