How To Set Boundaries People Will Actually Respect

Early in my career, I remember a phone conversation with my boss that somehow descended into a profanity laced outburst from my boss.  I don’t remember the conversation topic but I do remember mustering the strength and courage to let my boss know that while I understood the situation was frustrating, I preferred not to be spoken to in that manner.  I thought for sure I would be fired but the boss quickly apologized and it never happened again. Boundaries ensure that you are able to operate at your best each day. They create the environment that feeds your soul and causes you to rise to new levels of performance.  Boundaries also protect us from people and influences that distract and even harm us. What boundaries do you need to set?

Set the expectation.

We all have different values and ideas on what we think is acceptable.  Decide on what is important to you and why so you can clearly and concisely communicate that to the people it will affect.  A boundary is you simply saying “no” to certain behaviors and some people have a hard time saying “no.”  Address your emotions around that.  In addition, you do not owe anyone a long explanation on your whybut if you want to share your why, that is your choice.

Don’t look for agreement.

People do not have to agree or even like your boundary.  It doesn’t really matter if they even understand it. What’s important is that they respect the boundary as something that is essential to your development and well-being.  Stop looking for validation.

Start small and build.

Try not to give people a long laundry list of all your boundaries all at once.  Start with the most important ones for the environment you are in.  As you build your relationships, you will determine which boundaries need to be shared.

Be consistent.

Boundaries are violated when you don’t consistently enforce them or people had no clue it was even a boundary.  Once you set a boundary, it is imperative that you systematically and consistently do everything in your power to maintain it.

You can have short-term boundaries.

Some boundaries are only needed for a short period of time.  If that is the case, let those around you know that.  Maybe you are training for a marathon and need to stay away from all the junk food in the office or you have a pressing deadline and need no distractions for a few weeks.  Whatever the case, you need to activate and deactivate the boundary as needed and inform the people that it affects.


  1. Alwayn Leacock on March 19, 2019 at 5:25 AM

    I had a similar experience in 2008 after my father and sister died within week of each other. I was struggling terribly with grief not sleeping well. The route to work had major reconstruction and no matter how early I left home I seem to get caught at this junction. I would telephone into the hospital which was literally five minutes away to explain. This morning arriving ten minutes late the lead clinician decided to use profane language. I just told him in no uncertain terms that whilst he was within his rights to admonish he had had no right to use such language and I brought a complaint against him. I also left that job ironically they could not find a replacement and even though my next job was secured I delayed this old job for three months

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