Mastering Communication Boundaries

Every so often I come across a friend or business associate that is having communication challenges with a particular person or business associate. One suggestion that I offer is for them to understand and implement “Communication Boundaries.”

Communication Boundaries are part of mastering “Attraction.”  It’s about having the ability, skills, and tools necessary to clearly communicate with our fellow human beings.  Nido Qubein (Past President of National Speakers Assoc.) once said: “over 70% of our communication is either messed up or misunderstood – meaning that we communicate at a 30% efficiency rate.”  Based on many years of my own experiences,  I can say that Nido’s statement is very accurate.  Much of our inefficiency can be retooled through implementing Communication Boundaries.

Setting effective Communication Boundaries is a basic skill in relationship communication, both personally and professionally.  They are imaginary lines we establish around ourselves to protect our souls, hearts, and minds from the unhealthy or damaging behavior of others.  They give us the ability to maintain proper guidelines for our interaction with others and with the world as we experience it.

Many people allow themselves to be imposed upon and even mistreated or misguided because of a poor self-image, fear of conflict, and uncertainty about their right to exercise control over their lives. This often leads to a “victim” mentality.  Communication Boundaries will help in preventing this.

Why Are Communication Boundaries Important?
Because minute by minute we experience reality in terms of:

  1. Our ego
  2. Our body and how it feels and looks
  3. Thinking, specifically how we process inbound data
  4. Feelings – our emotional responses to that data
  5. Behavior – things we do or don’t do

All of these areas affect who we are and how grounded we are in our lives. By learning to set communication boundaries we enhance a person’s ability to have a sense of self. We can control the impact of reality on others. It’s like throwing up a “safety net” around those involved in our communication.

When You Have Healthy Communication Boundaries:
Fear diminishes significantly; trust is rarely an issue. Willing, healthy family members, true friends, and business associates respect these. You and they start growing more emotionally and developmentally. You have measured protection as you learn to question experiences through the filters of your mind and feelings.  You’ll learn to accept things when appropriate, and you’ll block things when they are “out of bounds.”

When Communication Boundaries Are Weak?:
You attract needy, disrespectful people into your life. You waste much energy in
keeping life going.  Needy people “attract” needy people.

Communication Boundaries Work One Of Two Ways:

  1. Through our external system, which protects the body and controls distance and touch. External boundaries are violated by touching or standing too close without permission. Or, intruding on a person’s privacy. For instance: walking into the bedroom without announcing ourselves or getting into another’s possessions without permission.
  2. Through our internal system, which acts as a filter to protect our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Our internal boundaries can be violated by yelling, name calling, ridiculing, lying, patronizing, sarcasm, negative control, negative humor, unrealistic expectations or demanding one’s own point of view as the only choice.

Setting  Communication Boundaries May Look Different In Some Cases:

  1. The person with low self-esteem or painful past experiences is unable
    to set limits and thus has no protection.
  2. The person who disconnects to protect themselves, thus blocking all closeness
    and preventing even healthy interaction.
  3. The person who is confused about setting limits, wavering between building walls or erecting inadequate boundaries thus gaining only partial protection.
  4. The person who is self-confident enough to set limits, processing the experiences of life to determine their legitimacy and suitability and then making the decision of what is appropriate.

Self-Confident People Know:

They have a right to control their own space, distance, touching, and other physical contact. Others, in turn, have the same right to them.  “I have a right to control my response to what others say, do, or expect of me, and they have the same right.”

“I think my own thoughts and make my own choices of what I do or don’t do.  Others have the same right. If one of us offends the other, that person is responsible for the impact of their actions, and should make amends.”

Learn To Create Communication Boundaries:

Some people have trouble setting limits. Setting their boundaries will help them develop self-esteem through:

  1. Positive mental assertions
  2. Engaging in activities in which they can experience success
  3. Surround themselves with people who affirm and support them

When Communication Boundaries Are Intruded Upon:

  1. Consciously, take deep breaths and breath into your heart
  2. Remind yourself of your right to set limits and communication boundaries
  3. Firmly tell the other person how you feel
  4. Master the 10 Steps . . .

10 Steps To Having Extensive Communication Boundaries:
note: this example is based on an escalating situation. Change the 10 Steps as it relates to your own personal circumstances.

  1. Educate People In Advance
    “You know, I’m fairly sensitive about people raising their voices at me . . .”
  2. Ask The Other Person To Stop
    “I ask that you stop yelling at me, now.”
  3. Demand That The Other Person Stop
    “I demand that you stop yelling now.”
  4. Walk Away
    “I am walking away because you refuse to respect my boundaries.”
  5. Raise Your Standards
    “I don’t yell at anyone for any reason.”
  6. Warn The Other Person When They Are Getting Too Close
    “This is escalating into a fight and . . .”
  7. Upgrade Who You Associate With
    “My family/friends easily respect my boundaries, and I, theirs.”
  8. Extend The Boundary
    “It used to be okay for you to be angry with me, yet for now . . .”
  9. Anticipate & Prevent
    Do not get into situations with people in which you’ll predictably need to
    extend your boundaries
  10. Announce The Boundary
    The moment the other person is going down the wrong path with you

Master These Suggestions:

  1. “Get” that you need to work on Communication Boundaries
  2. Educate others on how to respect your new ones
  3. Make a list of circumstances that people may no longer do around you,
    do to you or say to you
  4. Sit down with each person involved and share with them your process; consider  an agreement with them to honor your wishes
  5. Make a list of ways you are violating others’ boundaries
  6. Stop violating the boundaries on that list.
  7. Reward & congratulate those who are respecting your boundaries
  8. If anger is present, take a time out and reassess the situation

My most favorite personal development quote of all time comes to us from my friend, Jim Rohn. He said this: “You become the average sum of the five people with whom you associate with.”  Very profound words, in fact, words that sometimes have become a boundary. They come to mind as I think of Step Seven which states: “Upgrade Who You Associate With.”

Enhanced and accurate communication can be found through “upgrading” our own personal paths as we “retool” some of our past inefficient communications skills. Master Communication Boundaries and watch as new doors open and new adventures begin.


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