Boundary Setting Terri Cole

The Importance of Setting Boundaries and Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About It

04.28.2021 — The Frenshe Editors

By now there’ve likely been a ton of instances in your life where setting boundaries should’ve been a priority. The thing is, a lot of people don’t know where to start when it comes to setting boundaries, and some even feel guilty. Yet, boundary-setting is something that’s crucial if you don’t want to overextend yourself to others or feel exhausted and depleted of your own energy. It’s normal, a lot of us do this to “keep the peace” per se, but are you losing your own peace in the process? If so, we spoke to boundary-setting expert, Terri Cole, on how we can all set healthy boundaries and feel good about it.

Why Boundaries Matter

“Healthy boundaries are the bridge to being seen, known, heard, and authentically loved,” said Cole. “They are essential for creating fulfilling relationships, with ourselves and others.” Another critical reason for boundary-setting? Cole notes that without them, it’s impossible to live a life you truly love, based on your values, desires, and dreams. Basically, in order to feel good, happy, motivated, and fulfilled, instead of leaking time and energy endlessly people-pleasing, boundaries are necessary. 

“If you don’t regularly set boundaries you can end up saying ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no’ or giving a lot of time and attention to low-priority people who feel entitled,” she said.  “There are massive mental health consequences for prioritizing the needs of everyone else above our own, leaving little time and energy to even know what you really desire.” Cole says that the biggest cost of not having healthy boundaries is having the people in your life not actually know you, which can be isolating and detrimental to your inner peace and overall well-being.

Getting Started

People don’t always know where to start when it comes to boundaries, especially if they’re not confrontational. “I’ve seen countless women give away their power because they simply don’t realize that they have a right to set boundaries,” she said. “So that is a huge and integral first step: realizing that you have a right to set limits.” How you do that is entirely personal, and it’s absolutely possible to express yourself directly and clearly, without alienating the people in your life.

Some phrases to try:

  • “Let me get back to you on that”, 
  • “I need some time to think about that”, 
  • “Maybe” 
  • “I need to check with ___.” 
  • Once you buy time then you can come up with a way to respond that honors your truth. Below are a few suggestions of phrases you can have at the ready (practice a few times so you get used to saying NO with ease.) 
  • “I’m afraid I can’t.” 
  • “I’m not really into that type of (music, food, outdoor event, etc.) but hope you have a wonderful time.” 
  • “I’d rather not.” 
  • “Thank you for thinking of me but I am already committed on that date.” The more you do it the easier it becomes! 

Setting Boundaries at Work, In Your Relationships, With Family, etc.

At Work:

  • The chatty co-worker: If you prefer quiet mornings and you have a chatty co-worker who starts yakking the moment you walk in, you can consciously use body language as a powerful tool to communicate your preference. Use closed body language such as leaning into your computer screen, drinking a cup of coffee away from your door, not facing forward inviting conversation, etc.
  • The weekend emailer: If you have a coworker who makes it a habit to email you at night and on weekends, you could simply not respond until business hours. If the behavior continues, you could say, “I’d like to make a simple request that you contact me during business hours” or “Please know that I’ll always respond as soon as I can during the workday.”

In Romantic Relationships: 

  • If you’re unsure about plans: If someone you’re dating invites you to go on a vacation, and you’re not sure how you feel about it, you can reply, “Let’s discuss it this weekend, once I’ve had a chance to think about it.” That will give you more time to get clear about your feelings and make the right decision for you. 
  • If your partner said something hurtful: You could say, “I need to share my experience of our interaction yesterday, because I’d like you to understand how I feel and where I am coming from . . .” 
  • If you feel uncomfortable answering a question: If a love interest asks an inappropriate question on a first date like, “How much money do you make?”, you can use humor and keep it light, by saying, “Trust me, Bob, not nearly what I’m worth!” or simply ignore the question altogether, “Mmmm…this shrimp scampi is delish!” You don’t have to answer anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.

In Friendships: 

  • If you want to vent and not be interrupted: Let’s say you’re upset about a recent heartbreak and just need to vent, but your friend is quick to offer up her advice for your love life. You could say, “I’m actually not open for input right now. I would really appreciate you simply listening with compassion, please.”
  • If money matters are involved: Maybe you have a notoriously oblivious friend who, when you go out together, always splits the check evenly, even though you had water and she had four top-shelf margaritas. You can say, “Oh, count me out of the bar bill, please.”
  • If you’re not interested in gossip: If you have a friend who is big on gossiping, you can shut that down by saying, “Don’t we have more interesting things to talk about? What’s going on with you?”

With Family: 

  • If someone has an unwarranted opinion: Let’s say your family is big on indirect communication and you have an aunt who frequently expresses her opinion by blaming it on another family member, e.g. “You know, your mom is really worried about you these days.” You can nip that in the bud by saying, “Thanks, I’ll take it from here, Auntie.”
  • If your family is relying on you too much: Maybe you have a sister who is always calling you to fix whatever the problem is. You can step out of that role by saying, “I am sorry you are struggling. I have faith you will figure it out. I am sending you all the good vibes.”

For more tips on setting healthy boundaries, pick up Terri Cole’s book, Boundary Boss, and be sure to follow her on Instagram

The Frenshe Editors