All About Boundary Setting: Why Do It and How to Get Better at It

All About Boundary Setting: Why Do It and How to Get Better at It

Physical boundaries help maintain order, efficiency, and safety. Traffic lanes allow high volumes of cars to move at high speeds without crashing. Fences keep people from wandering into dangerous construction zones. Those ropes in airport security lines help lots of people queue up in an orderly, single-file line.

Setting boundaries helps us spend our time and energy in the ways we want to and in ways that align with our values, explains Matthew S. Mutchler, PhD, a licensed ily practice therapist and acting academic director of graduate counseling psychology at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

“We only have so much energy. If we are giving too much to a person or our work, or other things in our lives, we will run out and have nothing left for ourselves to be healthy and well,” Dr. Mutchler says.

It’s important to point out that setting boundaries for yourself – either at work, in your personal relationships, or elsewhere – isn’t selfish or something to feel guilty about, Mutchler adds. Setting boundaries helps you show up, at work, school, for your family, and friends, at your best.

What It Means to Set Boundaries, According to Psychologists

The American Psychological Association defines boundaries as the psychological demarcations that protect the integrity of an individual or group, or that help someone (or a group) set realistic limits on participation in a relationship or activity.

“Boundaries are about our own behavior, choices, and limits,” explains Rachel Wright, a New York City–based licensed ily therapist who runs a telehealth mental health practice specializing in sex and relationships.

We need to be proactive in setting our own boundaries, she adds. “They’re about us, and what we are willing to engage in or tolerate,” she says.

Deciding not to stay in a conversation if someone talks poorly to or yells at you is an example of a lonelywifehookups boundary you can set for yourself.

Another example: In an early developing romantic situation, you might ask the other person not to kiss you until you let them know you’re comfortable with that, Wright says. “Boundaries are how we teach other people how to treat us,” she explains. They teach us how to respect one another.

Types of Healthy Boundaries to Set in Your Life

Boundary setting can be valuable in many different parts of our lives, including at work, in romantic relationships, in friendships, and elsewhere.

Boundaries at Work

Maintaining professional boundaries between your work and personal lives can help you succeed, as well as help protect your mental health and help prevent burnout, research has shown. They can also help you develop better relationships with your colleagues.

An example of a work boundary is deciding on work hours and asking your colleagues to respect those hours. If you work between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., that means not scheduling (or answering) calls outside of those hours, Wright says.

Other work boundaries might look like: not bringing work home on weekends, delegating work when necessary, not doing tasks outside of your job description, or limiting how much you share about your personal life outside of work with your coworkers.

According to Amy Cooper Hakim, PhD, an industrial psychologist at the Cooper Strategic Group in Boca Raton, Florida, a productivity consulting service for work environments, here are some healthy boundaries you can set at work (and these are especially important if you’re working remotely):

  • Set working and nonworking hours. (If it’s an option to choose to work during the hours that you are most productive, talk with your manager about it.)

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