How To Respect The Boundaries Of Others: 4 Essential Tips

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Boundaries are such a vital part of having a healthy relationship.

Surprisingly, you don’t hear more people talking about respecting other’s boundaries when you’re working on improving yourself.

Yet, there are certainly times when we are all guilty of not respecting the boundaries of others.

After all, who wants to hear the word no? A no is a rejection, and rejection can be difficult to receive if you take it as a personal commentary.

Another person’s “no” is not a commentary on what you are and are not. It’s simply a statement of “this situation is not right for me.”

That informs you that you need to amend your behavior to be okay or look to fulfill that need elsewhere.

Boundaries are so important in healthy relationships because they help communicate what a person is comfortable with.

You don’t want to make someone feel uncomfortable or disrespected, particularly a person you want to be close to.

So it’s good to understand what to look for and how to react to another person’s boundaries.

1. Clearly communicate and ask questions.

Clear communication is essential for understanding where the other person’s boundaries are.

Pay attention to how they respond to you in conversation and their body language. Are they comfortable? Do they look like they are closed off? Are they giving reasons to end the conversation or move off somewhere else?

If you’re unsure, ask questions. Give them the option of stating their boundary, so you know whether or not you’re encroaching.

In established relationships, the communication will likely be ongoing as the two of you get into each other’s orbit. You will figure out where the boundaries are, but may need to clarify from time to time.

2. Accept what the other person is communicating.

Accepting what the other person is communicating as valid can be difficult if you’re not used to the situation, especially if it’s normal for you.

The boundary may not make sense to you, it may even sound silly, but it’s still their boundary and it should be respected.

If you feel you can’t or don’t want to, then it may be a better choice to break away from the person and move on to someone else that is more in line with what you find acceptable.

As an example…

John grew up in a household where roasting and banter were normal. His family would lightly pick on each other as a sign of love and respect, but never with mean-spirits.

John ribs his new friend, Lucas, who takes offense to the ribbing. Lucas grew up in an environment where there was no playful banter, only mean-spirited abuse.

Lucas doesn’t find the ribbing funny at all, and it makes him angry that this new friend is mean to him, so he states that he does not appreciate that kind of banter.

On the surface, John may not know Lucas well enough to know why he doesn’t find banter fun or bonding. Lucas may not know John well enough to feel comfortable revealing such a personal reason to him.

The right approach would be for John to accept that feedback, apologize for causing any offense, and not banter with Lucas anymore. But that requires some emotional intelligence on John’s behalf because many people would think Lucas is an unreasonable stick in the mud.

John can honor Lucas as a person by not casting judgment on Lucas’s boundaries, accepting the boundary, and not jumping to conclusions about why that boundary exists.

3. Respect the autonomy of other people.

Sometimes people overstep boundaries because they think they know better for the other person’s life. They may have a genuine desire to protect and help, but they may step on the other person’s boundaries to do that.

The problem with this approach, other than violating personal boundaries, is that it keeps the person from developing useful skills and experience that they will need to conduct their life.

A great example of this behavior is a helicopter parent. As a parent, you want your child to be protected from the ugliness and harshness of life. But it’s impossible to shield the child from that ugliness forever.

The parent may also find that they alienate their child. By rejecting what the child wants and replacing it with what they think is best, the child will likely rebel and not trust the parent.

Though it is a mark of a good and loving parent to want their child to be safe and happy, that’s not always possible. They’re going to face some ugliness in life. They may get sick, have accidents, be hurt, have bad experiences, or have traumatic experiences.

A child needs to learn that their decisions have consequences to grow as a person and not end up overwhelmed by the challenges they will face in life.

That can apply in other relationships too. Perhaps it’s a spouse that you feel concerned for, an elderly parent that is getting on in years and may not be doing as well as they once did, or a friend who regularly makes bad decisions.

Maybe they want help, and maybe they don’t. And if they don’t, then you need to say okay and let them have their autonomy (assuming it’s not life and death, or the person can no longer care for themselves.)

4. Continue to work on yourself.

The ability to respect the boundaries of others comes from a place of personal security and integrity.

You shouldn’t feel the need to coerce others or cross their boundaries for whatever reason. You can’t control what others will and won’t do. You can certainly try, but sooner or later, they will squirm out from underneath that control to seek their own path.

By respecting others’ boundaries, you will demonstrate to them that you are a trustworthy and respectful person. That will open doors to building stronger relationships with the people that you do click well with, and even some you don’t!

After all, not everyone needs to be best buddies or super close. Having a circle of casual friends or respected colleagues is valuable in its own way.

Still not sure how to respect the boundaries of others if you struggle with that? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

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