Someone walked into your bedroom unasked, persisted in discussing a topic you do not wish to talk about or touched you without your permission or consent. These and other uncomfortable situations are a red flag that someone has violated your personal boundaries -- the limits people enforce in interaction with others, in order to protect their own needs, wants and ideas of appropriate behavior. Most healthy, respectful people naturally try to be careful of others' boundaries, but others do not realize or care that they exist, or are unwilling to respect them even if they do recognize another's boundaries. Learn to handle these sticky situations with grace to feel more at ease in your personal relationships.
Assess the Situation
When you feel violated or like someone has stepped on your toes, take a moment to assess the situation before you react. Replay the scenario mentally to figure out what made you feel uncomfortable. For instance, if someone walked into your bedroom without asking and you feel violated, it is probably because they crossed a boundary related to privacy. If others normally ask you before they enter your bedroom, you were likely surprised that this individual did not extend that courtesy to you.
Plan Your Communication
Think about how to respond to the person who violated your boundaries ahead of time. Plan to begin your communication in the first person, so as not to activate the other person's defense mechanisms. Then, be assertive and ask for what you need. For instance, if someone gives unwanted parenting advice, you might say, "I feel violated when you critique my parenting skills. I have not shared the whole story with you and do not wish to talk about it. Please do not bring that up again. Let's talk about something else."
Address the Problem
Once you know what you want to say, address your concerns promptly. Be genuine in your emotion with the other person while keeping your cool; and watch your body language. If the crossed boundary was an accident, offer some grace. For instance, if a child accidentally walks into your bedroom when they are at your house for the first time, smile kindly at them, use a lighthearted tone in your voice and say, "Oops, that is my bedroom and it is just for me, so we won't be going in there. Let's go outside and find the swing set, where everyone can play and be together."
After you clearly state how you feel, communicate your personal boundary and tell the other person what you want or need, reflect to make sure your boundaries are now respected. If they are not, restate your boundary again by saying, "I asked you not to do that. Please respect my boundary." If the other person continues to disrespect your boundary, distance yourself from them, ask them to leave or spend time with another person, if you are in a group setting.
Safety is a concern when someone repeatedly disrespects your boundaries or refuses to leave, so take measures to protect yourself if you need to. If someone refuses to leave after you have asked him to or purposely physically harms you, do not hesitate to contact the authorities for help. Your safety is more important than his feelings and sometimes outside help is needed in order to protect your boundaries and well-being.
Anne Kinsey is a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach and missionary, residing in rural North Carolina. She is the founder of Love Powered Life, a nonprofit organization with the mission of creating loving community for trafficking survivors and their families. Anne has enjoyed writing for publications like Working Mother, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Houston Chronicle, Bizfluent and Career Trend. She resides in rural North Carolina with her husband, three children and a house full of furry friends.
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