The Real Reason Your Boundaries Aren't Working

Establishing boundaries is one thing. Making sure other people respect them is another.

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We've all tried to set boundaries at some point, only to have it completely backfire. Looking back, we might've wondered what went wrong.

Were we not assertive enough? Or were we maybe too soft?

Understanding why our boundaries didn't work is key if we want to try again.

So, why didn't they work the first time? And what can we do to ensure they work the next time around?

Therapist Sam Dalton digs into the real reasons why your boundaries might have flopped.


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The Reason Your Boundaries Aren't Working

Your boundaries might have failed because you were uncomfortable feeling a little discomfort.

Dalton explains, "You're not taking the time to figure out how to experience the discomfort of knowing you have made somebody else uncomfortable."

You're not used to this feeling, so you'll try to backtrack to satisfy the other person. You don't want to be a hindrance and listen, I get it.

However, long-term this is bound to fail. As time continues, you'll find yourself feeling frustrated because your boundaries aren't being respected.

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This can affect your relationships, as others might not get why you're so upset and you may struggle to explain it yourself.


So, be firm in your boundaries to save yourself from this heartache. Be comfortable with silence or tension, and be aware of your threshold for discomfort.

But It's tough to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. So, how do we get there? Psychologist Dr. Michelle Rozen offers some tips on learning to set boundaries and say no.

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How To Effectively Say No

1. Be clear and direct.

Want to set better boundaries and learn to say no? It would be best if you learned how to be direct and clear in your communication.

Dr. Rozen says, "State your decision firmly and succinctly, without feeling the need to overexplain or apologize excessively."


Don't justify your reasoning and simply say, "Those are my boundaries and I hope you'll respect that."

2. Use "I" statements.

When you're setting boundaries, it's common for others to feel offended, thinking the boundaries are aimed at them.

To avoid this, try using "I" statements to explain your decision. For example, say, "I decided to establish this boundary because I feel uncomfortable when people touch my hair."

Using "I" statements shifts the focus away from blaming others and places responsibility for your emotions on yourself.

Just remember, avoid over-explaining, as it can make you appear unsure and meek about your boundaries.

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3. Be firm and persistent.

Unfortunately, there will be people who challenge your boundaries. They might feel uneasy when you express your boundaries, leading them to try to breach them to test your limits.


So, be persistent and firm in your boundaries.

Dr. Rozen writes, "It’s important to remain firm and persistent in your response. Remember that you have the right to set boundaries and prioritize your well-being.

If you need to restate your boundaries, do it calmly and firmly. Say, "I understand where you're coming from but my answer is still no."


Will they be offended by this? Absolutely. However, with persistence, they will eventually learn to accept your new boundaries.

Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is tough. Being firm in saying no is even tougher. But with practice, time, and patience, you'll be able to set firm boundaries smoothly.

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Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career, and family topics.