I struggle a bit with the notion of “setting boundaries.” I prefer the term clarifying boundaries. It seems more complicated when we frame the exercise as “setting” boundaries. It seems as though, through force of will, I must put something in place that wasn’t there before. This sounds more like a “fence” or a limit. The boundary does not have to be “set”; it is already there. It only must be acknowledged and thought about clearly. I understand I may sometimes interact with someone who operates within fuzzy boundaries. Still, if I have clarity in my mind about boundaries, I can approach the situation skillfully.
️Simply remembering I am not you is a good starting point. If you start with this simple understanding, clarity of ownership and limits seems to occur naturally.
Things I might say to clarify boundaries:
“That is a very interesting view. I don’t happen to share it. I look at things this way.”
“I wouldn’t do things that way, but I am not you. You decide what works best for you.”
If someone says to me, “You make me mad,” I could reply, “I am sorry that you are struggling with feeling angry, but I don’t have the power to make you mad. You seem to be mad because of the way you choose to look at things. Is there any way I could support you while you sort through your anger?”
If someone wants to meet with me at 7 p.m., I could respond, “I’m sorry. I don’t make appointments after 4 p.m.”
️Having clarity of boundaries allows you to be up close to the suffering of another without becoming confused. Clear boundaries make practicing compassion and loving-kindness toward someone else’s suffering much easier.