Put Up Your Boundaries!

It’s almost impossible to be successful without firm and clear boundaries.

We naturally respect people who have strong boundaries.

A boundary simply defines what people can and can’t do to you or, do around you.

Some folks just put in boundaries without even thinking about it and we like that as ‘we know where we stand . People love to know where they stand – they have clarity. People love clarity.

If I asked you to name your top boundaries, could you rattle them off without much thought?

For example, you may already have in place the obvious boundary that people can’t punch you on the nose or pat your backside, but do you have in place the boundary that people can’t lie to you, give you unsolicited feedback, show up late, complain, be cynical, waste your time, gossip about others or make negative remarks?

It takes much less energy to put in place strong boundaries than it does to deal with people who are constantly trampling over them.

Until you learn to deal with others undesirable behaviour it would seem life has this knack of keep sending that type of person your way. You can run but you can’t hide from your inability to deal with certain people!

I spent years avoiding the contentious types and heavens knows they showed up everywhere until I learnt how to handle them.

BIG falsehood. Often people have woolly boundaries as they ‘want to be liked’. Contrary to popular views, strong boundaries make you more popular – you got it – people like to know where they stand.

The Strategy.

Write down at least ten boundaries that you currently don’t have, but would like to have or, need to more firmly establish:

  1. ____________________________
  2. ____________________________
  3. ____________________________
  4. ____________________________
  5. ____________________________
  6. ____________________________
  7. ____________________________
  8. ____________________________
  9. ____________________________
  10. ____________________________


Establishing Boundaries 4 Step Process:

  1. Inform. Inform the person of the behaviour or action that compromises your boundaries. The key is to use a neutral tone of voice, free of edge or judgment. E.g. ‘Are you aware Bill that you always show up late when we arrange to meet?”
  2. Request. Make a request that is clear and precise and lets the person know what you want. E.g. ‘John, I would ask that you do not give me advice unless I ask for it. I value your opinion so I will ask for it when I want it. Thank you.
  3. Demand. Explain in no uncertain terms what you require and the consequence if they cannot adhere to that demand. E.g. ‘Jean, I insist you do not make undermining comments about me or around other people. This is a deal breaker. If you continue to do that I will consider ending our relationship.’
  4. Leave. Walk away from, end, leave the job, relationship, situation or company  without resentment or judgment as you did all that you could do.

With acknowledgment to:


Paul Fox

Paul Fox has been active as a Construction Industry Performance Coach for the last 20 years and remains at the forefront of Collaborative Working and High Performance Team Behaviours. He disrupts the status quo of individuals, project and senior teams who want exponentially more output with much less struggle.


  1. graham reeve Says: September 13, 2011 at 7:40 am

    Paul – I could n’t agree more with page 1.

    Page 2 – I propose that your own actions [ a) in the way you respond to people / situation and b) in the way you carry yourself every day ] will communicate the boundaries in which you will operate/perform.

    To me boundary setting is not simply a mechanical conversation.

    What do you think?

    Graham Reeve 13/09/2011

    • I agree Graham that we often make our boundaries loud and clear to those around us by our demeanour and character. In saying that, I also believe that A) we often ‘deliver covert messages’ about our boundaries that we think are clear – but they are not! (They say the more we get comfortable with someone, the more we expect them to read our minds). B) Often, those people who are trampling our boundaries, for whatever reason, are blind to our to our natural boundaries and we just have to give them real clear, direct information.

      Great to hear from you and hope you are still swimming? (I am competing at http://www.onemileswim.co.uk/aboutus.html in a couple of weeks)