Are you often dissatisfied with how you are treated?
People will only treat you as you allow them to treat you. This is great news because you have a say in it.
I was the professional “nice guy”. I took the brunt of other’s misdirected anger, rarely turned down requests, and tried to just be pleasant even when I was disrespected or wasn’t listened to for years. I avoided conflict like the plague, which just led me to act passive-aggressively.
This immaturely and maladaptively communicated to myself and others that I was weak and I was a victim. It led to me being run all over. “They are just bad people” I would think. And I became angrier about how people treated me until I realized that it was mostly because of me.
I did not have healthy boundaries. And I had to take charge if I wanted to have healthy relationships for the rest of my life, whether it was romantically, with friends, family, schoolmates, or co-workers.
Setting boundaries communicates to others about what you value, what you will and will not accept in your life, and who you are. It is one of the most empowering things you can do for yourself — it will change your life, your relationships, and garner the respect you deserve.
As soon as I implemented healthy boundaries I became more competent, content, and less afraid to express my needs in all of my relationships.
But it is easier said than done. Here are a few tips I learned (and am still learning) that help me every day.
1. No is your best friend.
There are few words stronger or more powerful than no because it automatically says that you and your time are valuable. You can say it in many ways. To a boss you can say, “I want to do the best for you, but I will need more time/ more assistance if you want me to do more and maintain quality.” Whether you say “no thanks”, or “I can’t right now”, it is important to learn to say it often to prioritize our precious, limited time.
2. There are no Easier, Better ways than to Start from the Beginning. Set Your Boundaries Upfront.
When people first meet you, many will unconsciously test your boundaries to see who you are. First impressions are the strongest, so starting from the beginning sets your character in other’s minds and they will act accordingly to their perception of you. If you are perceived to be a certain type of person from the beginning, then maintaining that impression will be much easier than having to change it. Start strong.
As a former teacher, I was advised to be more strict at the start of a course to set high expectations and garner respect from the very beginning. You can always ease up later. And that worked for me. Starting vice versa is much, much harder.
3. Start Small.
Practice small boundaries first: “Would you clean up your toothpaste from the sink from now on, please?” “It hurts my feelings when you say those things about me”. Start expressing your small needs first, and then it will be easier to express bigger ones later. It is important to start the habit of being assertive.
4. Setting boundaries may mean limiting contact with those who will not respect them.
You don’t have to overly explain your boundaries or give excuses.
If someone is disrespecting you, state that their actions are not acceptable. If they will not heed your wishes, then limit contact with them and do so unless they’re willing to give the respect they’d wish people would also give them.
5. Prepare Yourself to Set Boundaries. Visualize.
Call out someone who mistreats you on the spot. Do not wait long. But prepare yourself and what you will say so you don’t react inappropriately. Do not leave yourself ruminating on what someone said all day without having addressed it. The more you wait, the harder it is. A simple “I don’t appreciate that. It’s disrespectful” will get most level-headed people to apologize and think twice about saying something disrespectful again. It will also save you a lot time spent dwelling on negative feelings.
You’ll find the majority of people respond to strong self-worth. If you say what you need to say with self-confidence, most will react accordingly. Setting boundaries upfront empowers you and will raise your confidence.
Ultimately, when it comes to respect, you are not your job title. You’re not your money. You are where your boundaries or lack of them lay with all of the people you meet. So practice setting healthy boundaries and you’ll find you will be more fulfilled and happier in all of your interactions.