How to Set Boundaries and Maintain an Amicable Relationship with Others

When someone else is doing something or acting in some way that makes you feel negative about them, it’s a good idea to set boundaries to prevent that from happening repeatedly.

But sometimes, the mere act of setting boundaries causes individuals to push back on their efforts. They may refuse to abide by them, they may act hurt or angry at your decision – or hopefully, they will simply respect them.

You may want to set boundaries, but you’re worried about the reaction of others. There are many people you’d like to have boundaries with, but who you still want in your life – like your boss and coworkers, family, friends, and others.

It’s possible to set boundaries and still maintain a friendly relationship with others. The first thing is to not label the boundary as exactly what it is. There’s no need to state, “I’m setting a boundary with you,” because then it feels like the other person is being shut out.

Instead, make the statement about the behavior or activity itself. For example, you might say to a mother who always comments about your weight, “It makes me sad when you comment about my weight, so I don’t want you to do that anymore.”

You’re not asking them to stop. You’re telling them. And you’re not saying anything they have to get defensive about, like, “You’re so mean for making comments about my weight.”

Instead, you’ve kept it all about your own feelings and desires. The other person will often apologize and promise to adhere to the new guidelines. They may forget a time or two, so gently remind them as soon as it reoccurs, giving them an opportunity to get back on track.

In my case, my mom kept insisting that I have my kids around two family members who have a horrible history of drug abuse and stealing from family, etc. She’d bring it up randomly in the middle of dinner on vacations, in front of my kids, and then turn to see my reaction, etc. It was never a respected boundary and reminders failed to work. So there was no opportunity for things to remain amicable after setting the boundary. With some people, there will be.

There are some people who set boundaries and apologize to the other person for being an inconvenience in having boundaries. That’s one way to do it, but you never want to position yourself from a weak standpoint.

When you apologize, you’re giving them the power to behave any way they please. Instead, just be friendly whenever you discuss the situation. Say it with a smile and put them at ease. But never put the responsibility on yourself for your reaction to their behavior or actions.

You can certainly be gracious or grateful for the understanding. That’s a polite thing to do. When you’re appreciative of someone, they usually want to do more of the same and keep things pleasant.