One of the biggest reasons I have lost friends is because they were the ones who were not able to set boundaries, and I have waltzed straight across their line without realising. Here is how I set boundaries in my friendships.
Let’s start at the beginning:
- Do you know what your own boundaries are?
- Do you know what conversations you find triggering or distressing?
- Are there certain activities you’re uncomfortable with being around, like drinking or drugs?
If you haven’t even thought about this before, then think about it and write them down and see the boundaries appear before you. Once you’ve done this, then you can work on setting them within your friendships. You may not know all of them until you are put into a specific situation, but it’s beneficial to have a good idea to start with.
So, you’ve worked out your boundaries, now what?
You need to establish these boundaries. Not every boundary will be set with each and every friend. For example, if you disliked it when people took drugs whilst you were around, you would most likely set this with your friends who took drugs, although it might be something you mention to those who also don’t.
You can do this verbally by actually saying, “it makes me uncomfortable when you do X,Y,Z” or “please can you not X,Y,Z when I’m here”.
You can also do this physically by removing yourself from the situation.
However, if for example, you want to go on a night out with these friends but you would feel uncomfortable if they took drugs, tell them. Your friends aren’t mind readers and neither are you, so communicate, establish these boundaries, and fall outs and bad situations can be easily avoided.
You established a boundary and your friend didn’t respect it? Honestly, I personally wouldn’t hang around to wait for them to learn. Friendships are based on trust, and if you can’t trust your mate to respect your boundaries, what can you trust them with?
Perhaps this may be a little drastic for you, so let’s talk through some softer options.
The first step is to pull them up on it.
“I said I wasn’t comfortable with that, why did you carry on/do it?”
“I am trying to set a boundary here, please can you respect that?”
“You aren’t respecting my boundaries, was there something about the way I set them that was unclear or you need re-explaining?”
It may be that the person forgot, or that they weren’t aware that what they did came under that boundary. Expressing that you aren’t happy is the best way to address this. And if they carry on? Get rid of them.
Setting boundaries is a fantastic way to strengthen friendships and reduce the amount of problems you will face in them. I have found that I am much more comfortable with my friends that say “hey, I actually didn’t like that you said that” than those who don’t.
It’s hard to shift from a people-pleasing mindset, where you’re afraid to upset your friends by speaking up, into a self-affirmative mindset, where you can establish boundaries. Your world will change when you begin to do this, and for the better, I promise.
My name is Hannah and I am a first-year psychology student at Northumbria University. I have a big passion for sexual health, feminism, and shouting at men. I started my blog about a year ago and my love has grown ever since. I have big plans for the next year, so watch this space!