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Why is it hard for me to set boundaries?

why is it so hard for me to set boundaries?

For many of us, the idea of saying no and setting boundaries bring discomfort and fear of how others will respond. This makes it hard to set state preferences, stand up for ourselves, and make decisions that are aligned with our goals and values.

However, every time we say yes, we are simultaneously saying no to something or someone else. And every time we do not set a boundary, we are showing people that it is okay for them to treat us or talk to us that way. It's about ensuring that our yes aligns with our capacity, ability, and the time we genuinely have to offer.

Why Is It Hard For Me To Say No?

Saying no can be challenging for several reasons, and some people may experience a combination of these factors that make it difficult to assertively decline requests or set boundaries.

  • Fear of Disappointing Others: People who find it challenging to say no often fear disappointing or upsetting others. They may prioritize maintaining positive relationships and worry that declining a request will lead to conflict or strained connections.

  • Desire for Approval: Some individuals have a strong desire for approval and fear rejection or judgment. Saying yes to requests may be driven by the need for external validation and a fear of being perceived as unhelpful or uncooperative.

  • Avoidance of Conflict: The prospect of conflict can be intimidating for many. Saying no may be associated with confrontation, and individuals might choose to avoid conflict by agreeing to requests even when it's not in their best interest.

  • Guilt and Obligation: Feelings of guilt or a sense of obligation can make it challenging to say no. Individuals may worry that declining a request will make them seem selfish or uncaring, particularly if they have a strong sense of responsibility towards others.

  • The Dreaded Why: When we say no, one of the first things we are asked is why? These questions often imply judgement or a need for an explanation. Saying no is a complete sentence and the questions that follow saying no can make it hard to stick to our compass.

How To Set a Boundary

Believe it or not, there is no right way to set a boundary. There are many examples out there of how to word things but I prefer to focus on themes and formulas, instead of right vs wrong. I like to use something called dialectics when setting boundaries. Dialectics simply involves validating the other side, validating our side, and finding a path forward. For example:

  • I can hear how overwhelmed you are with your finances right now, but I am not in a place to be lending money. I'm here if you ever want to talk and maybe next time we hang out, we can pick something free.

  • I'm sorry to hear that this project got dumped on you last minute, but I am at capacity with my workload. Is there something I can take off my plate to support you? Can you help me prioritise my tasks?

  • I understand that you were just trying help me find solutions to my problems at work, but all I am really looking for is a listening ear. Is that something you can support me with right now?

  • I appreciate the invitation, but I've already committed to something else on that date. Let's hang out later this month?

  • I would love to help, but my schedule is quite full at the moment. Can we discuss priorities to see what I can realistically take on?

  • I'm currently at full capacity with my current responsibilities. Is there a possibility of redistributing tasks, or can we discuss how to prioritize this new assignment?

  • I won't be able to take on the additional responsibility, but I can offer some guidance on how it could be delegated effectively.

  • I really value our friendship, and I'd love to help, but I have a lot on my plate right now. Can we find another time that works for both of us?

It can be a nice path to follow when setting boundaries, stating preferences, or just communicating more effectively. Validate their side, validate our side, and find a path forward.


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