What Does Boundary Setting Have To Do With Conflict Resolution?

Turns out more than you would think. How do you typically respond to conflict? If you tend to either rebellion or compliance, you probably haven't had much practice setting boundaries. Clearly, Boundary Setting is not typically a part of a child's education. Rather children are conditioned not to set boundaries as a way to avoid the negative reactions of others. The ability to set boundaries -- to take care of yourself -- begins with the belief that your "self" is worth caring for.

If you've learned that taking care of yourself results in conflict, rejection, or abandonment, it's likely that you will avoid when you need to set a boundary, rather than take the risk. Plus you've likely had a shortage of good role models. Most adults tend to fall into one of two categories: Bulldozers or Doormats.

"Bulldozers" seem to be taking care of themselves. Bulldozers need to win, to have their needs taken care of, and feel entitled to do so at the expense of the others. This is not boundary-setting. Boundary-setting considers the needs of the others, although it does not always accommodate them. In other words, "My way or the highway" is bulldozing, not boundary-setting.

"Doormats" function as though they had no boundaries. They are agreeable, nice, FINE. (At least until their resentment builds up and needs to be released ALL at once, after which they can make the meanest Bulldozer look pretty tame.) Doormats are terribly accommodating, but do so at the expense of their own needs. They tend to be on the losing end of most conflicts. However, by not sticking up for themselves, they can not only avoid many conflicts, but they also get to "look good," be self-righteous, and validate a self-perception of helplessness and victimization. So when you think about it, there's a great payoff for being a Doormat, but there's also a high price to pay in the loss of one's self.

Clearly, these patterns have nothing to do with boundary-setting, although Doormats often function in the hope that being "nice" enough will inspire the people around them to figure out and accommodate their needs. Boundary-setting always takes one's own needs into account and relies on honest and direct communication, (rather than manipulation and clairvoyance). Thanks to janeblustein.com

Things You Should Know
About Boundary Setting

  • Good, Decent People Set Boundaries. Establishing boundaries makes you a safe person. People know where they stand with you. Boundaries are the way we take care of ourselves. We have both a right and a duty to protect and defend ourselves.

  • Generous People Set Boundaries. If you don't set boundaries you are giving yourself away. With boundaries you only give what you want which means you can afford to be generous to more people over a longer period of time.

  • Boundaries Allow Others to Grow. Because it makes others conscious of their behavior thus allowing them to change.

  • Boundaries Allow You To Get More of What You Want, and Less of What You Don't. Boundaries not only protect you from unwanted behavior, they also foster the behavior that you want.

  • Effective People Set Boundaries. Because doing so keeps you in control of your time and efforts which akes you feel better about yourself. This leads to your being more effective.

  • Stick to Your Guns. In order for boundary setting to work for you, you must develop a commitment to uphold what is right and true for you. You must act consistently in upholding your boundaries.

  • Practice Makes Perfect. If this is not familiar behavior it will feel awkward and unnatural at first, but anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first. People may not like it at first that's natural they are used to getting their own way with you. Keep it up. With practice you will get more skillful and graceful.

Examples of Personal Boundaries

People May Not

  • Criticize Me.

  • Humiliate Me.

  • Invade My Personal Space or Belongings.

  • Lie to Me.

  • Make Derogatory Comments About My Appearance.

  • Take Advantage of Me.

  • Take Their Anger or Frustrations Out on Me.

If we don't respect ourselves how can we expect to get respect from others?

Benefits of Boundary Setting

  • Contribution to Others' Well Being.

  • Freedom From Bad Behavior, Fear or Pain.

  • Increased Self Esteem and Self Respect.

  • More Respect From Others.

  • Requirement for Honest, Direct Communication.

Examples Of Boundary Setting

  • Anger - "You May Not Continue to Yell at Me. If You Do, I Will Leave the Room and End This Meeting."

  • Buy Time - "I Have a Policy of Not Making Snap Decisions. I Need Time to Think and Reflect on What I Want To Do. If You Need an Immediate Answer It Will Be No."

  • Criticism - "It's Not Okay With Me for You to Want Comments About My Weight. Please Stop. If You Don't I Won't Be Able to Continue This Conversation."

  • Extra Commitments - "Although This is an Important Issue To Me, I Must Decline Your Request for My Help at This Time. Or I Need to Honor My Family's Needs."

  • Money - "I Won't Be Lending You Anymore Money. I Care About You and You Need to Start Taking Responsibility for Yourself."

Guidelines For Setting A Boundary

  • Back Up Boundary Setting With Action.

  • Be Direct, Firm and Gracious.

  • Don't Debate, Defend or Over-Explain.

  • Have Support Easily Available on the Sidelines in the Beginning.

  • Stay Strong, Don't Give In.

REMEMBER, It is Not Enough to Set Boundaries, It is Necessary To Be Willing To Do Whatever It Takes To Enforce Them. Which is the Role for


  • Set Forth Clearly and Non Emotionally.

  • Actions You are Willing to Take.

  • May Allow For Gradual Change.

  • May Be Negotiable Rather Than Rigid Lines in the Sand.


  • "If you break plans with me by not showing up or calling me, I will confront your behaviors and let you know how I feel."

  • "If you repeat this behavior, I will consider it to mean that you do not value my friendship and I will have no further contact with you for the next month."

  • "If you continue (offensive behavior) I will leave the room/house/ ask you to leave."

  • "If you continue to repeat the behavior I will consider all of my options including leaving the relationship."

  • "If you continue to ignore my solutions or suggestions, I will assume that you are not interested in receiving help from me and I will stop working on your case."

  • "If you are not ready to end a relationship or conversation don't say you are until you really are. If people are unwilling to respect your boundaries, they are not true friends or people you want to spend time with."

Setting personal boundaries and limits can be very important in how you lead your life and the quality of the relationships you have.

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