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How to Set Boundaries: 8 Ways to Draw the Line Politely

One of the most important yet overlooked social skills is setting boundaries. 

Boundaries are rooted in clear communication. 

As Brene Brown says: “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” The clearer you can express your boundaries, the more likely they will be respected. While you may need to repeat yourself a few times, don’t feel the need to apologize or explain your boundaries. 

Like an invisible fence around the perimeter of a yard, boundaries establish where your space ends and someone else’s begins. If a dog can recognize and respect that perimeter, so can everyone in your life. 

Here’s exactly how to set boundaries that protect your mental, physical, and emotional well-being so that you can foster healthy relationships at work, at home, and in social circles.

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

Healthy boundaries are the limits you place around your time, emotions, body, and mental health to stay resilient, strong, and content with who you are. These empowering borders protect you from being used, drained, or manipulated by others.

Watch our video below to learn how to say no:

You can set boundaries around:

  • Emotional energy
  • Time
  • Personal space
  • Sexuality
  • Morals and ethics
  • Material possessions and finances
  • Social media 

Boundaries can be set with:

  • Family 
  • Friends
  • Romantic relationships
  • Coworkers
  • Strangers

Though they aren’t as blatantly clear as a fence, wall, or “no trespassing” sign, healthy boundaries communicate what you will and will not tolerate to others. In short, boundaries empower you to take charge of your life. 

Healthy Boundaries vs. Unhealthy Boundaries 

People with strong boundaries tend to have lower stress levels and higher self-esteem because they prioritize their well-being above all else. 

On the other hand, people without boundaries may inadvertently let others take advantage of them. 

They may lack self-confidence, a sense of purpose, or a clear identity to guide them through life. Counselor Dr. Dana Nelson writes1 , “In work or our relationships, poor boundaries lead to resentment, anger, and burnout.”

People without boundaries can be easily persuaded into things they don’t want to do because they may act out of guilt or obligation rather than self-love.

Signs of Healthy BoundariesPotential Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries
Protect yourself from getting taken advantage ofVulnerable to being “used” or taken advantage of
Own your timeOver-commit your time to others and leave little time for yourself
High self-esteem and self-respectLower self-esteem and critical inner dialogue
Prioritize time for yourselfGive a lot of their time to other people
You only take on responsibilities you can handle; you don’t overcommit yourselfFeeling exhausted or burnt out by overwhelming commitments and responsibilities
Authentically say “no” if you don’t have the energy or capacity to do somethingHave a hard time saying “no”
Set limits for others without feeling badFeel guilty for expressing boundaries
Strong sense of identity and directionChange yourself to fit in with different people
Take care of your own problems and understand that you cannot heal other people’s issues for themTake on other people’s problems as your own
You communicate your needs and wants; you prioritize your self-careYou put other people’s needs and wants before your own

If you’re tired of living your life for other people or find yourself exhausted by all the commitments you’ve made to others, it’s time to set some boundaries and reclaim the power of your time, energy, and mental well-being.

8 Effective Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting boundaries comes down to communication. Communicating your needs and desires is vital to defining your boundaries and living a more liberated existence. 

Visualize and Name Your Limits

The first and most important step to defining your boundaries is to make them concrete. Boundaries are often confusing and abstract because they feel invisible daily. 

However, by visualizing your boundaries and writing them down, you can get much more clarity on where you want to draw the line between you and other people.

Set aside some time to reflect on the state of your life. Ask yourself:

  • What is causing me unnecessary stress or discomfort?
  • What do I look forward to each day versus what do I dread?
  • Who or what gives me energy?
  • What areas of my life do I feel exhausted by?
  • What makes me feel safe, supported, and valued?

Draw a large circle on a blank piece of paper. Inside the circle, write everything that makes you feel safe and stress-free. 

For example:

  • A daily routine
  • Words of affirmation from your partner
  • Hugs from your loved ones
  • Leaving work stress in the office
  • Clear communication from your loved ones
  • Freedom to decide how you spend your free time
  • Saying “no” to energy vampires 
  • Autonomy over your body

On the outside of the circle, write down anything that causes discomfort, pain, annoyance, or emotional exhaustion. These are the people or situations that are pushing the limits of your boundaries. 

For example:

  • Your mom is telling you what to do with your life
  • Working after-hours on projects instead of prioritizing your self-care
  • Worrying about what certain people think about you 
  • Your cousin is asking to borrow money
  • Your coworker constantly dumping her relationship problems on you at lunch
  • Your roommate eating your food from the fridge
  • Your boyfriend/girlfriend controlling who you talk to or hang out with
  • Strange people at the bar touching you without asking
  • Acquaintances asking deep or intimate questions about your life

This circle represents a visible manifestation of your limits. It’s time to take anything outside the circle and determine how you can define a boundary that will prevent or eliminate those issues in the future. 

Openly Communicate Your Boundaries

One of the biggest mistakes people make is setting boundaries in their minds but not openly sharing them with the people in their lives. Sometimes, people assume that you should know their boundaries. But if they didn’t communicate where they’ve drawn the line, how will you know when you’ve overstepped it? 

This can seem daunting and scary, but it can feel like a relief once you get it out. As social psychology researcher Brene Brown says2’s%20simple%20but%20transformative%3A%20Clear,Unclear%20is%20unkind. , “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” Once you know your boundaries, you have to communicate them. 

Take a deep breath, gather your resolve, and assertively express your needs in a kind, direct way. Here’s how:

Type of Boundary What to Say
Time Boundary“I can only stay for an hour,” or “If you’re going to be late, please let me know ahead of time.”
Energy Boundary“I don’t have the energy to help you with [their request] right now, but maybe [this resource] can help.”
Emotional Dumping“I understand you’re having a hard time, and I want to be there for you, but I don’t have the emotional capacity to listen right now.”
Personal Space Boundary “It makes me feel uncomfortable when you [touch or action]. I’ll have to leave if you can’t respect my space.”
Conversational Boundary “This is not a topic I’m willing to discuss right now.” 
Comment Boundary“I don’t find those types of comments funny.”
Mental Boundary“I understand we see things differently, and I respect your opinion, but please don’t force it on me.”
Material Boundary“Please ask me first before borrowing my [possession]” or “I would appreciate it if you didn’t touch my [material thing].”
Social Media Boundary“I don’t feel comfortable with you posting that on Instagram.”

Fortunately, once someone knows your boundaries, most people will respect them and apologize if they accidentally cross the line. Without clear communication, the lines become blurred, and you can quickly find yourself crossing into more dangerous territory, getting burned out, taken advantage of, or even neglecting your needs. 

The more clear and direct you can be about communicating your boundaries, the easier it will be to uphold them. Boundaries are like the “rules” of a relationship. When clearly displayed for all parties involved, it makes it much easier to respect them. 

Reiterate and Uphold Your Boundaries

Just like the invisible perimeter fence around a yard protects a dog from running into the street, boundaries protect you from overextending your mental and emotional well-being. 

But the dog has to be trained not to cross that line. They have to understand where their yard begins and ends. It takes time, repetition, and patience.

The same is true of human boundaries. Not everyone will understand or respect your boundaries the first time. It’s important to stand firm in your decision while kindly reminding them of your needs when necessary. 

A dog will get very confused if the yard ends at the bushes one day but extends to the sidewalk the next. If someone doesn’t initially respect your boundary, remind them, but stay consistent with your original decision. 

Pro Tip: Avoid shifting your boundaries for somebody else’s comfort. If you said, “I don’t feel comfortable with you contacting me about work after hours,” you probably don’t want to send the message, “Sometimes it’s OK for you to text me late at night.” While it may be awkward or uncomfortable initially, a person who truly wants to be in your life will respect your decision. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Say No

Have you ever met someone who seemed to say “yes” to everything? People afraid to say “no” often end up with an overflowing plate of duties and responsibilities that they can’t keep up with. They tend to forgo their self-care as they frantically try to meet everyone’s demands and things they say “yes” to. 

“No” is a powerful word. It sounds strikingly similar in dozens of languages and can be recognized by simple gestures or facial expressions. 

Yet many people today have been programmed to feel guilty for their “no’s.” In reality, saying “no” clearly draws a line in the sand. It expresses courage, self-love, and sovereignty over your daily decisions. 

Remember that every “yes” and “no” shapes your reality. You can choose how you will spend your time and energy. If something doesn’t feel right in your gut, you probably shouldn’t do it. The word “no” is essential for healthy boundaries. 

If you need help saying “no” more often, check out our 6 Effective Tips to Politely Say No.

Action Tip: Saying “no” doesn’t have to be rude but doesn’t require an apology or an explanation. Notice where in your life you say, “I’m sorry, I can’t” or “Maybe, let me get back to you” when you just mean “no.”” Pay attention to how you can shift these simple conversations to more clearly draw a boundary instead of leaving another person waiting for a clear answer. The clarity of your communication will ultimately benefit all parties involved. 

Use The Bubble Strategy For Physical Boundaries

OK, so we’ve covered some mental tips to set solid boundaries. But what about actual physical boundaries?

If you, like me, are sensitive to physical proximity in dense settings like public transportation, concerts, or busy city streets, this tip is for you.

The Bubble Strategy encompasses using your body language to create a “bubble” around you—like a nonverbal bubble that says, “This is MY space!”

Here are some tips you can use:

  • Stand Like a Triangle: Begin by adopting a stance known as the “Triangle Base.” Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, creating a stable and grounded posture. This stance not only provides physical stability but also subtly marks your territory. Opposite that might be having your legs close together, taking up minimal space. Your instincts might tell you to go this way to appear less intimidating, but to others, it might signal invasion!
  • Utilize Nonverbal Cues: Body language speaks volumes. Cross your arms lightly (avoid appearing defensive) or hold an item in front of you (a bag, a book, or a coat) to create a physical barrier. These actions clearly convey your need for personal space without uttering a single word. Want more on body language? Check out 23 Essential Body Language Examples and Their Meanings
  • The Polite Pivot: If someone encroaches on your space, execute a slight turn away from them. Think something like 30-45 degrees. This turn, called the “Polite Pivot,” subtly increases the distance between you and the other person without causing confrontation.
  • Strategic Positioning: In overcrowded settings, position yourself near stable structures like walls, columns, or railings. These physical barriers can act as natural deterrents to crowding and provide a buffer zone, allowing you to maintain a comfortable space bubble.
  • The “Anchor” Technique: Use personal belongings to your advantage by placing them strategically around you, acting as “anchors.” For example, setting a backpack on the ground next to you while standing or placing a coat on the seat beside you can dissuade others from coming too close. However, be mindful and respectful of others’ space needs (as well as your tolerance for potential theft); this technique should be used sparingly and only in truly overcrowded situations.
  • Practice the “Mirror Shield”: When verbal communication is necessary (such as asking someone to move slightly), mirror the other person’s body language briefly before communicating your request. This establishes a subconscious rapport, making them more likely to respond positively to your need for space.
  • Advanced Mental Preparation: Before entering a crowded setting, prepare mentally by visualizing your personal space as a protective bubble around you. This psychological strategy can increase your comfort level and reduce anxiety about personal space invasion.

Take Time for Yourself

Amidst our fast-moving world, self-care can feel selfish or even frivolous. But the science of self-care is clear: taking alone time for yourself is linked to more confidence3 , greater creativity4 , more emotional intelligence5 , and more emotional stability6 in tough situations. It can even help prevent burnout

Action Tip: For the next month, set aside a 2-hour block of time on your calendar each week specifically for “me time.” Let your close family and friends know that you won’t be available during this time. Whether cooking a healthy meal, getting outside, taking a rest day, hitting the yoga studio, or just lounging on the beach with a good book, creating time for yourself is crucial for holding healthier boundaries. 

But what does self-care have to do with boundaries? 

Solitude allows you to reflect on your life and your values. The time you set aside for self-care can help bring more clarity into your relationships with other people, ultimately helping you define your boundaries. 

To many, this may seem selfish. Modern society’s tendency toward self-sacrifice and workaholism has led many people to dismiss their boundaries or sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of pleasing others. Ironically, this can often have the opposite effect than they’d like. 

The truth is that self-care and healthy boundaries are not selfish; they are a form of self-love that leads to deeper relationships and more fulfilling experiences. 

As the saying goes, you cannot pour from an empty cup. Healthy boundaries are a way to fill your cup to offer more joy and help to the world. 

Use Polite Deflection to Decline Invitations

A simple “no” when someone invites you somewhere might be useful, but it also might give off the wrong vibe. However, declining invitations tactfully with deflection can net you brownie points without causing offense or burning bridges (yay!). Deflection is particularly useful in professional settings, or with acquaintances, you wish to maintain a positive relationship with.

To deflect an unwanted invitation…

  1. acknowledge the offer (appreciatively),
  2. state a non-specific commitment as the reason for your inability to attend, and 
  3. propose a different activity, alternative, or meeting time that suits you better.

For example…

Imagine you’re at work, and a colleague, Jordan, has invited you to another after-work social event. You’ve attended these before and found them unproductive and draining. Instead of giving a flat “no,” which might seem unfriendly, try this:

“Hey Jordan, thank you for the invite. I’ve been focusing on balancing my personal and professional time lately, and I’ve found that quiet evenings help me recharge and be more productive at work. But I appreciate you including me, and I hope everyone has a great time! Let’s catch up tomorrow about how it went.”

Notice the bold parts accomplish all three parts of deflection. This script acknowledges the invitation positively, provides a clear yet personal reason for declining that’s hard to argue against, and maintains the relationship by expressing interest in the event’s outcome.

Pro Tip: If confrontation is challenging, frame your declinations regarding personal goals or needs rather than the request. This shifts the conversation from what you’re turning down to why you’re doing so, which people are more likely to respect and accept. Plus, it positions you as self-aware and committed to personal growth, which can increase others’ respect for you.

Set Your Digital Boundaries

After working remotely for the last few years, I’ve learned several special tips and tricks that can help separate your work life from your personal life… but the catch is you must prioritize your work-life balance.

Here are some handy tips to help you on your work-life balance journey:

  • Digital Zoning: Are you using Google Chrome or Safari? These browser apps can be great, but it may be helpful to create “zones” that separate work from personal life (you can also add new users if you’re on MacOS). These zones let you create different user profiles on your computer for work and personal use. Taking advantage of zones is a must for me! This helps mentally distinguish between “work mode” and “personal mode” and keeps distractions at bay while working. Additionally, leverage app blockers7 during work hours to minimize non-work-related notifications.
  • Scheduled Unavailability: Set clear “office hours” and communicate them to your colleagues, friends, and family. Use calendar sharing and status updates in communication tools to visibly mark your availability. Incorporate the technique of “Time Blocking” to dedicate specific hours to focused work, and then signal the end of your workday by setting an automatic “out of office” reply or changing your status to “offline.”
  • Virtual Commute: Create a ritual to start and end your workday, mimicking a physical commute. This could be a short walk, a meditation session, or coffee in a specific spot. This practice helps signal the transition between work and personal time to your brain, creating a psychological boundary that enhances work-life separation.

Pro Tip: Integrate mindfulness practices into your boundary-setting routine. Take short breaks throughout the day to practice mindfulness or breathing exercises. This can help reset your mental state and reinforce the boundaries between work stress and personal peace.

How to Enforce Boundaries with Persistent Individuals

Ever been in a situation like this?

  • “Want to go to the bar tonight? C’mon, it’ll be fun!”
  • “No, thanks!”
  • “Seriously? It’s Friday night!”
  • “I said no, thank you though.”
  • “I’ll buy you a drink!”
  • *facepalm*

We all know that one person (or two, or three…) doesn’t take “no” for an answer. How do you say no to someone who completely erased “no” from their vocabulary?

  • Assertive Repetition: Keep your responses consistent and firm each time the persistent individual tests your boundaries. Use clear, concise language without embellishment or justification, which can provide loopholes for persistent individuals to exploit. For instance, if someone keeps asking you to lend them money, respond with, “As I mentioned before, I’m uncomfortable lending money; thank you. This stance hasn’t changed.”
  • Tactical Disengagement: What happens if they disregard what you say? Politely end the conversation and remove yourself from the situation. This could mean walking away, hanging up the phone, or ending an email thread. Give them a clear indication that boundary-crossing behavior will not be entertained.
  • The Broken Record Technique: What if you can’t just walk away? Consistently repeat your boundary statement without variation. This technique is effective because it leaves little room for negotiation or misunderstanding. It signals to the persistent individual that your boundary is non-negotiable.

Real-life Example: Imagine you have a coworker, Alex, who constantly interrupts your lunch break to discuss work-related matters despite repeated requests to respect this time. Utilizing the advanced techniques:

  • Assertive Repetition: Each time Alex approaches with a work-related matter, you restate, “Alex, I value our collaboration, but my lunch break is my time. Please respect that boundary.”
  • Tactical Disengagement: If Alex continues to intrude, say, “I need to stick to my boundaries, so I’m going to move to the break room where I can have some quiet time. We can discuss this after my break.”
  • The Broken Record Technique: If Alex attempts to follow or persists, keep stating, “I’m on my lunch break now. We can talk later.” Do not deviate from this phrase, and continue with your intended break activity.

Pro Tip: Confronting people CAN be hard! And it’s nothing to be shameful about. If confronting others directly is challenging, try to write down your boundaries and the consequences of crossing them in an email or letter, and send it to them afterward (after a polite “I’ll get back to you later”). This allows you to maintain boundaries without confrontation and provides a written record of your boundaries, which can be referred to later if needed. This approach is particularly effective for introverts who struggle to express themselves under pressure or prefer time to organize their thoughts.

How to Create Work-Life Boundaries

Research shows8 that blurred work-life boundaries are linked to emotional exhaustion. This is more relevant than ever amidst the massive shift to remote work-from-home scenarios. But workaholism can manifest in many other ways as well:

For example, John is a high-achieving lawyer who takes great pride in his work. However, he often finds himself staying extra late hours in his home office, compulsively checking emails, and neglecting quality time with his family. He is regularly stressed and constantly thinks about new clients and cases, from when he wakes up to when he goes to bed. 

John often jokingly describes himself as a “workaholic” but inwardly associates his job with his identity. He doesn’t have any work-life boundaries, and his mental, emotional, and physical health are suffering as a result. 

Ways to Set Boundaries as a Workaholic:

  • Set clear work hours (such as 9 to 5 with a 1-hour lunch break)
  • Follow a morning routine centered around self-care
  • Avoid checking your phone while with family and friends
  • Tell your coworkers or employees that you are not available during certain times
  • Define a space in your home that is only for work (avoid working on your bed or from your couch) 
  • Delegate tasks or hire new employees to help reduce your stress levels
  • Try a new hobby that is unrelated to your work
  • Keep separate sets of “work clothes” and “lounge clothes” to allow you to mentally shift between boundaries 
  • When you close your laptop, mentally allow yourself to “clock out” for the day

Workaholism is a real problem that results predominantly from a lack of boundaries around time and energy. 

How to Set Boundaries in a Romantic Relationship

Romantic relationships can be the hardest areas of your life to set boundaries. Despite what the movies tell us, giving your whole self to somebody else is not necessarily healthy. And honestly, nobody should expect you to. 

Healthy boundaries are vital to healthy relationships. They define who is responsible for what when you see each other, how you interact, and what each partner needs to feel safe and respected. Perhaps most importantly, relationship boundaries prevent codependency. 

Suppose a romantic relationship begins taking over your life and impairs your work or relationships with friends and family. In that case, it may be time to step back and re-evaluate your boundaries. 

The three most common romantic areas that are lacking in boundaries include: 

How Much Time You Spend Together

If you or your significant other tries to spend every waking hour together, you may lack a boundary around your time. 

Relationship counselor Garrett Coan advises9,and%20invested%20in%20your%20relationship. the “70/30” rule as a general guideline: the happiest, most harmonious marriages spend about 70% of their time together and 30% apart. 

This may be more skewed toward 50/50 or 40/60, depending on the stage of your relationship, but the moral of the story is that nobody should take up all of your time. Time with a romantic partner must be balanced with time for friends, family, and yourself. 

You can gently and lovingly express that you need more time to yourself to bring the best version of yourself into the relationship. This may manifest as simple boundaries like, “Sundays are my days for myself.” 

Setting Physical and Sexual Boundaries

Physical boundaries are important at every relationship stage, but especially in the heat of a new romance. It is imperative to ask for permission before kissing, hugging, or touching a romantic partner for the first time. 

Moreover, there needs to be conversations about how comfortable each person is with things like publicly displaying affection, holding hands, or any other form of physical boundary. 

Maintaining autonomy over your body while respecting the physical or emotional boundaries of your sexual partner is crucial to maintaining a healthy connection. This can include consent, privacy, expressing your preferences and desires, and having a mutual understanding of your partner’s physical and emotional needs. 

For example, suppose a man sees a woman who has a history of sexual abuse or trauma. In that case, he can respect her sexual boundaries by regularly checking in about her comfort with different types of physical intimacy. If she expresses that a certain experience was triggering for her, he needs to respect that boundary to maintain her trust. 

More commonplace examples of physical boundaries include avoiding overt PDA while at a social gathering or simply asking someone before hugging them. 

Respecting Emotional Boundaries

Perhaps the most complex of all, emotional boundaries are the guidelines surrounding how you and your partner express your feelings to each other. 

How do you talk to each other? Do you listen intently to your partner’s needs or only focus on your own? What topics do you avoid discussing? What tones of voice do you use? How do you apologize and resolve the situation when you get into arguments? 

Examples of Emotional Boundaries:

  • “Let’s not discuss that topic at tonight’s dinner.”
  • “It makes me uncomfortable when you bring up [painful topic]. Can we please keep that between us?”
  • “I need some time to think about this situation.”
  • “I will not tolerate being called names.”
  • “I want to support you in this hard time, but I cannot be your emotional dumping ground. Maybe you can reach out to [a therapist, your mom, etc.]”

Pro Tip: For more amazing advice on how to (properly) argue, read on: 9 Conflict Resolution Tips to Win An Argument Like a Jedi

A Note on Emotional Dumping

Unlike venting, emotional dumping is sporadically dumping traumatic feelings, thoughts, and emotions onto a partner or even a stranger. Whether you are the giver or receiver of emotional dumping, it can be a difficult boundary to navigate. 

A person trying to release their emotions can express extreme vulnerability. But vulnerability can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, vulnerability is the key to establishing deep romantic connections. However, it can also lead to breaches of trust or even over-sharing. 

Everyone experiences heavy emotions that they sometimes need to vent about, but using your romantic partner as an emotional dumping ground can significantly strain the relationship. After all, significant others are not therapists. 

How to Set Boundaries With Parents

Set this boundary for yourself and your partner by compassionately saying, “I want to be there for you, but I don’t think I can support you in this way.” You can also suggest a third-party professional to potentially help with the situation. Remember to always show empathy but demonstrate that you feel uncomfortable receiving intense oversharing

When it comes to parental boundaries, it’s a whole different ball game. As a child, it can be incredibly confusing to have your caretaker lean on you for support or express inappropriate emotions in front of you. As an adult, you, fortunately, have more freedom and awareness to navigate boundaries with your parents. 

Either way, boundaries need to be established. Whether young, adolescent, or adult, children need to know that they have certain privacy from their parents, for example, a boundary around their parents reading their diaries or entering their room while changing clothes.

In the reverse scenario, children also need to know the guidelines around their parents’ privacy and comfort level. Parents who want to set boundaries with their children may simply tell their kids to always knock before entering their bedroom or to ask before using certain household items. 

Young adults may need to set boundaries around their parents’ guidance for suggestions. Parents often have an idea of how they want their child to live their life, and even if it is well-meaning, it can be harmful to your sense of freedom and self-sovereignty. Adults can draw this boundary by expressing to their parents that they prefer not to receive unsolicited advice or judgment about their decisions and will ask for help when needed. 

How to Set Boundaries with Children

Setting boundaries with children can be tricky—how do you find the right balance between finesse and caring?

One great tip I learned is to, instead of just saying “no,” try to design a set of choices available to your child.

For example, start by identifying daily scenarios where your child can exercise choice, such as selecting an outfit, choosing a snack, or picking a bedtime story. However, limit the options to those you find acceptable. For instance, instead of asking, “What do you want for a snack?” offer two healthy options: “Would you like an apple or banana for a snack?”

This approach teaches children to make decisions within their set predefined boundaries.

Ensure that your options are clear and concrete, particularly for younger children. Ambiguity can lead to confusion and frustration!

Pro Tip: Try to also utilize positive reinforcement. Whenever your child makes a choice that aligns with the boundaries you’ve set, acknowledge their decision positively. For example, if they choose a healthy snack with your options given, praise their choice by saying something like, “Great choice! Apples are really good for you, and I’m proud of you for picking a healthy snack.”

How to Set Boundaries With Friends

While friendships are vital to your health10 and happiness, they can often be taxing when they have no bounds. Needy friends may expect a lot from you and not always give back in return. If you need to establish more boundaries with your friends, it all begins with the confidence to say “no.” 

If you’re a people pleaser, this can be especially challenging because you want to make everyone happy. You may have difficulty saying “no” to someone asking for your help or attention, even if you don’t have the energy or time to do it. 

There also could be some personal work involved. If you have a fear of rejection or a need for validation, it may be harder to delineate your boundaries. But the friends worth having tend to understand and respect your priorities. Saying “no” is not a massive betrayal or letdown; it’s simply a skill you can practice to help establish more boundaries within friendships. 

Ways to Set Boundaries with Friends:

  • Set aside time specifically for yourself
  • Let your friends know when they can expect a response from you (set this boundary so people don’t get upset if you don’t respond to their text or call right away)
  • Clearly express when you feel overwhelmed, ignored, or unheard
  • If you’re afraid to say “no,” start saying, “I’ll get back to you,” and think about things before you provide an answer
  • Let your friends know that you have personal goals and dreams you are working towards
  • Only offer to help friends with things that you truly have the capacity for; otherwise, suggest alternative ways they can get help with the situation


  • Communicate that you are there for them, yet you also prioritize yourself now.

Pro Tip: Use our 11 expert tips to stop being a people pleaser and feel more confident and authentic in your friendships. 

Why Do You Need Boundaries? 

Personal boundaries are at the root of a fulfilled, balanced life. Without them, people can quickly lose themselves in their work, relationships, familial obligations, or service to others. They can even be exploited or taken advantage of by people who do not respect them. 

These borders help define what you are willing to say “yes” to and what you decide to say “no” to. They give you a sense of agency and sovereignty over your decisions. 

Like an internal compass, boundaries can all start with a “gut feeling” that tells you when you have the time or energy to devote to something versus when you need to say “no.” 

Good boundaries free you to live life on your terms. 

Reclaim Your Energy!

If you want to reclaim your energy, time, and power, setting boundaries is crucial to your personal growth journey. 

While it may seem daunting, setting boundaries doesn’t need to be complicated:

  1. Define your limits (what supports you versus what detracts from your well-being)
  2. Openly communicate your boundaries to people in your life
  3. Remind people, if needed (but always stick to your boundaries)
  4. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to things that don’t serve you
  5. Create a bubble of personal space in crowded situations
  6. Take time for yourself
  7. Politely and gracefully decline invites
  8. Create a digital routine that separates work from personal life

The bounds of your life will shape your growth and relationships with people around you. You only have so much time, energy, and emotional capacity. If you don’t protect your well-being, nobody else will. 

Hopefully, by establishing clear boundaries, you can find more freedom to express yourself and live a more joyful life fully.
If you seek more confidence to lay out your boundaries and fulfill your greatest potential, check out our guide on How to Be More Confident: 11 Scientific Strategies For More Confidence.

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