How to Protect Your Boundaries to Avoid Future Transgressions

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Set Boundaries, Find Peace" by Nedra Glover Tawwab. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What’s the best way to deal with personal boundary violations? How can you protect your boundaries and ensure that people take them seriously?

Boundary violations often happen as a natural part of the boundary-setting process. Even the most respectful people will take a little time to adjust to new boundaries, and in the meantime, they’ll likely slip up and default to old behaviors. That’s why you need to be proactive in reinforcing your boundaries.

Therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab explains how to protect your boundaries to prevent future transgressions.

Take Action to Reinforce Your Boundaries

Protecting your boundaries is just as important as initially communicating them. According to therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab, you need to restate your boundaries so that others know you’re serious, and set consequences for boundary violations.

It’s important to repeat your boundaries because people need to hear a piece of information many times in order to internalize it and make necessary adjustments. In addition to helping others internalize your boundaries, repetition lets others know that you’re serious about your boundaries, and that they haven’t changed since the last time you spoke.

Repetition Is an Interdisciplinary Communication Tool

The kind of repetition that Tawwab recommends for reinforcing boundaries can also be a useful tool for communication in other areas of your life. In the business world, experts describe how repetitively communicating helps keep workplace teams on the same page. Especially in a modern remote workplace, where employees may clock in on different days and from different time zones, communicating information multiple times can help ensure that nobody misses out on important information.

In addition to helping keep employees on the same page, repetitive communication can be an important tool for strengthening your organization’s values and identity. In The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive, author Patrick Lencioni argues that having frequent conversations about your company’s values can help employees feel a sense of camaraderie and purpose in their work. In both business and boundary-setting contexts, repetition helps people internalize important information.

As with communicating your boundaries, the best time to restate boundaries is when violations occur. While it can be tempting, don’t let things slide even once, as this sends the impression that your boundaries aren’t serious and don’t always apply.

(Shortform note: When correcting unwanted behaviors, some authors suggest that taking a positive approach to the conversation will make it easier for the other person to accept your boundaries. Avoid scolding the other person; instead, express your confidence in them, and encourage them to do better next time.)

Finally, Tawwab notes that you should decide in advance what to do if someone continues to violate your stated boundaries. This may include consequences. Consequences can feel mean, but they often help others to understand that you’re serious about your boundaries. And, even if others choose not to adjust to your boundaries, consequences can also protect you from further harm and discomfort.

For example, suppose your boss routinely asks you to work weekends, despite the fact that your contract specifies you’ll have time off on Saturdays and Sundays. When stating your boundaries, you could include as a consequence that when asked to work on the weekend, you won’t respond and won’t come in. Even if your boss refuses to respect your boundaries and continues to pester you, this consequence protects your boundaries and your time.

Natural Consequences as a Boundary-Setting Tool

If you’re struggling to identify fair consequences for boundary violations, consider taking advantage of natural consequences. Originally a parenting concept, natural consequences are exactly what they sound like—unwanted outcomes that result from someone’s choices. Parenting experts argue that you should allow children to experience the natural consequences of their behaviors whenever possible, as it gives them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes firsthand.

In a boundary-setting context, natural consequences hold similar advantages. They help the other person directly learn from their mistake, without you having to engage in punishment. Consider the previous example, in which your boss asks you for extra help on the weekends. By refusing to go in on weekends, you set a natural consequence. Instead of attempting to discipline your boss, you simply allow him to experience the results of his own scheduling and staffing errors.
How to Protect Your Boundaries to Avoid Future Transgressions

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  • How to transform the relationships in your life with boundaries
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  • A step-by-step guide for identifying and communicating your boundaries

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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