Do you have internal rules about how you expect the people in your life to treat you?  Are you comfortable speaking up for yourself when someone crosses one of those lines?  Are you able to say no when you don't want to participate in something you've been asked to consider? 

Your ability to speak up for yourself, and to say no are directly related to your ability to set boundaries.  In this lesson, I'd like to explore what a boundary is, and identify where you may need to set and enforce boundaries in your life.


A boundary is a limit, or a behavioral line which cannot be crossed.  The manner in which you allow others to interact with you is governed by the interpersonal boundaries you've defined in your life, and your enforcement of these boundaries is the primary way you protect your emotional self.

When I work with someone to establish a personal system of boundaries we focus on three areas of behavior.  They include; the manner in which you are spoken to, the requests that are made of you, and the physical space surrounding you.  Let's take a look at each of these areas.

Word Boundaries
The manner in which another individual speaks to you is reflective of both the level of respect that person has for you, and the standard of behavior the person holds themselves to.  While you cannot impact the standards of another person, you can require a standard of communication for their interaction with you.

I'll use my own boundaries as an example in this area.  I will not allow another person to raise their voice when speaking to me, to speak sarcastically or caustically to me, or to direct mean spirited teasing at me.  I have clearly defined my parameters for acceptable behavior in this area, and I am willing to enforce them when necessary.

Requirement Boundaries
Requirement boundaries are applicable to the expectations that another person has about how you will allocate and invest your resources.  When another individual makes a request of you which you'd prefer to decline, you're in your requirement boundary zone.

I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't support the people in your life.  I am suggesting that in the event that you'd rather not participate in something, and you find yourself doing so out of a sense of obligation, you're not being true to yourself   It is in these instances that you may want to consider establishing clear boundaries.

Physical Boundaries
Have you ever had a conversation with an individual who continually moved into your space?  Have you known a person who repetitively touched you as you spoke with them?  These people lacked an understanding of physical boundaries.

A physical boundary supports your ability to create and maintain an acceptable level of space around you.  Your boundaries in this area will govern how close someone may stand to you, and the physical manner in which they may interact with you. 

Define Your Boundaries

You show people how to treat you every time you interact with them.  If you allow someone to tell a joke at your expense, laughing on the outside while wincing on the inside, you're teaching them they can bully you.  If you allow your mate or children to leave their personal items all over the house, cleaning up after them as you move through your home, you're teaching them you'll clean up after them. 

Take a few moments to decide how you'll require others to treat you.  As you do so, stay focused on the respect, appreciation, and consideration you know you deserve.

Enforce Your Boundaries

The successful enforcement of interpersonal boundaries requires clear communication.  The five part model outlined below is used quite regularly in the coaching industry, and will support you as you embrace your own process. 

  • Inform - Clearly describe the problem.
  • Define The Unacceptable -Let the other party now what about their behavior was not acceptable.
  • Share Your Emotions - Let the other person know how the situation made you feel.
  • Request The Solution You Seek - Ask the other person for the solution you seek.
  • Let Them Know Their Alternatives - Let the other person know what you plan to do if they won't comply with your request.

The process of setting and enforcing boundaries is not an easy one, but it will be well worth your effort.  Your ability to maintain space in your life - physically, emotionally, and mentally - will directly contribute to your developmental success.  Your inability to do so will seriously detract from the growth you could experience. 

Author's Bio: 

Life and business coach Kim Fulcher is an entrepreneur, executive, author, speaker, and accomplished professional coach. She has achieved national recognition in personal and professional development, and is a widely recognized expert in the field of professional coaching. Learn more about Kim, her community for women and her personal development network at