7 Situations where you need to set a boundary

​Everybody likes to be friendly. ​Nobody wants stress and conflict from their relationships. Despite this, relationships are one of the greatest sources of stress in our lives. When relationships go wrong, it can be a truly horrible experience. Basically, it is more stressful when the problem you must deal with has a face, a name and, the ability to fight back. This is where it is important to set a boundary.

As with all problems, relationship problems are better dealt with proactively than reactively. If you can nip problems in the bud before they escalate, you are going to be a lot happier for it. One way to do this is to set a boundary wherever you think there may be potential for problems. You make people aware, in an assertive manner, of what you will and will not tolerate. When people know the standards you expect, they are more likely to adhere to them.

When you set a boundary, it is not about pushing people out of your life. You are usually trying to avoid that by setting a standard. In some cases, the standard may not even be communicated to the other person as it just dictates how you should behave e.g. if you don’t feel you can trust someone to keep a secret, your boundary may be that you don’t tell them anything they don’t need to know.

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​7 Situations where you need to set a boundary

​The following are some common situations where it would be beneficial to set a boundary.

​1. The fake supporter

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​The fake supporter is someone who will voice their support for you when it has absolutely no value to you. This support will be expressed to you but not publicly.

When I was in school, there was one teacher who would bully me repeatedly. Whenever anything went wrong in the class, he would find a way to blame me for it. He made up rules and standards that just applied to me; not to any of the other 25+ people in the class.

This teacher made my life hell for 4 years. It led to two suspensions from the school and due to him telling stories in the staff room (another teacher told me) the problem escalated into troubles with other teachers. I wasn’t a complete angel, but it was an incredibly stressful situation for a teenager to find himself in.

During the 4 years, my classmates would regularly approach me outside class to tell me that what he was doing was wrong. Instead of telling me privately, they could have:

  • ​Spoken up with me when I stood up for myself
  • ​Told another teacher about the way I was being treated
  • ​Politely told the bullying teacher that he had his facts wrong when he falsely accused me

​Instead, they kept quiet in public and only offered their support privately. This kind of support has as much impact as a fart in a sandstorm.

They weren’t really telling me that they supported me. They were telling me that I could not depend on them to do what was right. While we are all young back then, I have had several occasions since where some of those same people have shown me, again, that I cannot depend on them.

As Maya Angelou said, when people show you who they are; you should believe them the first time. I would add that unless they show you they have changed, you ​shouldn’t just take their word for it.

​Why you need to set a boundary

​If you have this type of person in your life, you need to set a boundary whereby you don’t put yourself in a position to depend on them. You can’t depend on them. They are rarely bad people but depending upon people whom you can’t depend upon is a recipe for pain.

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​2. The problem dumper

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​Life happens. Life is transient. There will be good times and there will be bad. How you deal with them is the most important thing. As Les Brown says, you can go through your problems or, you can grow through them. If you understand and apply this, you will benefit from your tough times and, your life will be happier for it.

Unfortunately, there are some people who don’t want to either go through their problems or, grow through their problems. What they want is to dump their problems on somebody else who will deal with the problems for them.

Even worse, if you are willing to take their problems off their hands, they will dump more problems on you. As they dump more problems, they will cease to see you as someone whom they enjoy time with and, you will only hear from them when they have a problem.

Think about the people in your life who are constantly telling you about their problems, How much ‘fun time’ do you really spend with them? Do they ever arrive at your door with good news and / or an invite to enjoy yourself?

If you have people in your life who constantly dump their problems on you, you need to ask yourself whether you have taught them to do so.

​Why you need to set a boundary

​We are all responsible for dealing with ou​r own problems. That’s difficult enough without having to deal with other people’s problems. You are not helping someone by dealing with their problems for them; you are enabling them to avoid taking responsibility for their own life.

​3. The inactive complainer

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​There have definitely been times in my life when I have been the world’s biggest complainer. But overtime, I have come to realise that complaining about something does not achieve anything. It’s ok to have a complaint, but unless you take action to deal with the cause of the complaint, you are only going to make yourself more and more unhappy.

When I was at my worst complaining, I would wreck my own head, leaving myself feeling down and miserable, I can’t even begin to imagine how those who listened to me felt.

Thankfully, some people in my life started to set a boundary with me. They wouldn’t listen to my complaining and, they started to distance themselves. I learned that I needed to cut down on my whining and start focusing on solving the problems I could solve; while letting go of the problems that were not within my control.

Over the years, I have steadily improved though there is a lot more room for improvement yet.

​Why you need to set a boundary

​When somebody is constantly complaining into your ears, it is like somebody drilling into your head. Sadly, most complainers never take action to deal with the problems. It will make you miserable and you really don’t deserve that. So, set a boundary and keep the complaining at bay.

​4. The protection seeker

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​Sadly, there are people who are weak and vulnerable. Bullies seem to be able to sniff them out and attack them (I am talking about non-physical bullying here). If you have been bullied in your life and, you hate bullying as much as I do, you are tempted to step in and stand up for people who are being bullied.

The problem with this is that if you are prepared to step in and do their fighting for them; they will gladly leave you to it. But if you then get in trouble defending them, they will not be there to help you. In addition, they need to learn to stand up for themselves to avoid further bullying but they will never learn to do this if you do their fighting for them.

I recently wrote about a case where I ended up getting fired after I stepped in to defend some people who were being bullied in the workplace. The lesson I learned from the experience was to stop standing up for people and start standing up with them.

Offer to stand beside them as they fight back but refuse to take the lead. If they are not prepared to do this, it is a waste of time doing it for them.

​Why you need to set a boundary

​If you want to help someone who is being treated unfairly, you must be their supporter; not their surrogate. It is not your fight, so you should not be the one fighting it. You help others to grow by supporting them as they move through the process; not by going through the process for them.

​​If you want to help someone who is being treated unfairly, you must be their supporter; not their surrogate. It is not your fight, so you should not be the one fighting it. ​

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​5. The time waster

​Time wasters come in numerous forms. One of the most common is the person who is trying to dump their work on you, to ease their own workload. They don’t care whether it is your job or not. Most people like this choose the person who rarely, if ever, says 'No' because they just want to get the work done.

With this type of person, you need to get a lot more comfortable with saying 'No' so that they don’t even bother asking because they know you are not going to do if for them.

Another person that wastes your time is the person who tries to take you time for unimportant stuff, like personal conversation e.g. they call you at work or send personal emails to your work account; when you are trying to get important work done.

There is a time and a place for personal interaction and you need to be clear about that so that you are not disturbed during important working hours.

Anywhere you feel that someone is wasting your time, you need to set a boundary which makes it clear that you won’t accept it.

​Why you need to set a boundary

​If you want to live a happy, heathy and balanced life, you need to be able to compartmentalise your time as much as possible e.g. when you are working, you are focused solely on work. Whatever you are doing, you must be able to focus 100% on that and, the only way to do so is to set clear boundaries which make it clear that you are not to be disturbed with unrelated matters.

​6. The popularity seeker

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​The popularity seeker is just an approval seeker. They will do whatever it takes to be popular and, gain the approval of others. This usually involves pretending to be somebody they are not; even if it means acting against what they truly believe to be right.

Some of the problems you will encounter with the popularity seeker include:

  • You can’t believe a word they say
  • ​You can’t trust them
  • ​They will carry stories and gossip
  • They only tell you what you want to hear
  • They will knife you in the back to win the favour of others
  •  They can be very manipulative

​The difficulty with spotting the popularity seeker is that they want you to feel good about them and, they achieve this by making you feel good about yourself. So, you may have a lot of fun and laughs with them. Of course, if they knife you in the back, it will hurt a lot more.

​Why you need to set a boundary

​Truth, honesty and reality do not matter to these people. You can enjoy spending time with them, but it is best to never tell them anything they don’t need to know. Also, don’t put yourself in a position where you are dependent on them.

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​7. The safety seeker

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​The safety seeker can be a great ally because they will point out the dangers you might not see. They will point out what could go wrong when you are getting carried away with yourself but you must be carefult not to put too much stock in their opinion.

​If you want to get ahead in life, you need to take some chances. You have to risk something every now and again.  The safety seeker just doesn’t see the benefits of taking risks. They don’t like uncertainty so, they will sacrifice growth, learning and opportunity to hold onto what they have got; even when what they have got is not that great.

​I am not suggesting that you should be all gung ho about life but if you pay too much heed to the safety seeker, they will talk you out of ever doing anything and, they will hold you back.

​Why you need to set a boundary

There is no harm in listening to genuine concerns but when somebody tries to talk you out of everything you want to do, you need to set a boundary because ultimately; it is your life. You must make the decisions based on what feels right for you; not based on the fears of people who are never prepared to take a risk.

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​Variety truly is the spice of life and, this is most true when it comes to relationships. There will be many different people in your life, each of whom brings something different. When you set a boundary in your life, it is not about pushing people out of your life; though in rare cases this may be necessary. It is more about understanding what each person brings to your life and what the most appropriate role is for them. When you set a boundary, you are ensuring that you are able to add the most value to each others’ lives while limiting the potential for the stress and conflict which the relationship might otherwise bring.