Personal boundaries refer to rules or limits set by someone to identify reasonable and safe ways or others to behave towards them. These boundaries may pertain to belongings, personal space or certain activities. Boundaries are incredibly important – mostly because they keep you safe and assure you your relationships are healthy.
Now that we’ve established the significance of boundaries, it’s important to know what to do when someone violates them. Often, people who are manipulative or toxic tend to deliberately overstep your boundaries. When this happens you need to know what to do.
Here are five ways to react when someone disrespects your boundaries.
1. Use the broken record technique.
This is a form of assertive behavior – it encourages saying the same message repeatedly. The name comes from the days of vinyl records – if the record was scratched or shattered, it would play the same music piece again and again.
Repeatedly state your boundaries, in a clear and concise manner. This is a helpful technique because sometimes manipulative people may try to twist our arguments, and slowly chip away at your boundaries.
Do not apologize for your boundaries – this may be taken as a sign you are willing to back down. Remind yourself that your boundaries need to be respected. Do not over explain either. Try and be precise in the way you communicate. Remember, the problem is not you – it is the other person.
2. Share your own point of view.
If the relationship is safe and healthy, state your perspective on your current situation. What are your feelings? Gather and explain them. Remember – it is okay to be vulnerable. It does not make you weak or stupid. Let yourself be upset, hurt or embarrassed. Remind yourself that it is not your fault.
For example, you may say something like, “When you do x, it makes it more difficult for me to express my needs.” Work with your partner to try and find a solution together. You should both compromise, and remember – when stating your points, stay direct.
Here are some more general tips for healthy communication:
- Take responsibility for your own feelings – but do not take responsibility for being mistreated.
- Carry out active listening – and request that the other person do so too.
- Stick to one issue, to avoid going around in circles.
- Be clear and concise – you can make a list of what you want to say to aid you in this.
3. Be curious.
Ask, “Could you please explain why you’re having a tough time with this?” Be open to communication, and ask supporting questions if needed. Try to be understanding as possible, but stay assertive of your own needs. Most of the time, these issues boil down to miscommunication. This can be easily resolved if both parties explain their point of view in a clear and concise manner, staying peaceful and calm.
However, you come first. Look out for the signs of gaslighting, and make sure you are both pulling your weight. Don’t take on most of the emotional work, divide it evenly. Here are some common manipulation signs that you should look out for:
- They twist their accounts of what happened, often to make themselves sound more vulnerable to gain sympathy.
- They guilt trip you repeatedly.
- They act like your issues and problems don’t matter.
4. Decide to limit or cut off contact.
If someone repeatedly violates your boundaries and refuses to listen to reason, it may be time to cut them off. Remember – you know yourself and your situation best. Do what you feel is right.
This may be a very difficult decision to make, and it may be difficult to move on. But sometimes this is necessary. Do not argue or waste emotional energy on them. Simply restate your boundaries, and leave. If you decide to limit contact, only speak to them when necessary.
This is sometimes referred to as ‘no-contact’ or ‘low-contact,’ usually in reference to not interacting with narcissists any more than necessary. If the toxic person in question is family, it may be extremely difficult to make this decision, but know that this is your decision and yours alone. Take your time thinking it through and figuring it out – there’s no rush. Do what you believe to be best for your own mental wellbeing.
5. Remember your choices.
This may be the hardest one of all, but it is definitely the most important. If you are continuously surrounded by toxic and manipulative people, you may begin to feel that your needs and boundaries are irrelevant and unimportant, but you must learn that this is wrong. You and your boundaries matter, and if someone refuses to respect them, you may have to come to the realization that that person was never good for you.
Practicing self affirmation phrases helps with remembering your worth and your choices. Here are some phrases of affirmation for yourself:
- Speaking up for myself is a solidly good thing.
- My boundaries matter.
- How other people treat me and my boundaries is not directly related to my worth.
- I do not have to bend over backwards for other people.
What are your experiences with boundaries? Do you find any of these tips helpful? Do you feel your boundaries are often crossed? Share your thoughts in the comments! Thank you for reading, and have an amazing day!
[Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. You know yourself and your situation best. This article does not aim to promote forced advice, nor does it aim to promote a victim/perpetrator complex.]
- Dr Tracy Hutchinson, What Are Personal Boundaries
- Michael Coupland, The Acoustics of Assertiveness: Learn the Broken Record Technique
- Liz Kingnorth, 10 Tips for Effective Communication
- Kimberly Holland, How to Recognize the Signs of Emotional Manipulation and What to Do
- Katya Weiss Andersson, When You Should Cut A Toxic Person Out Of Your Life
- Raven Ishak, 50 Positive Affirmations You Should Tell Yourself