Happy Mental Health Monday, HMT family! Welcome back to our blogpost series on BOUNDARIES and how to set healthy ones in different areas of our lives. We have already covered what boundaries are, why they are important, and how to set healthy boundaries with co-workers and supervisors. If you missed any of the previous posts in this series, check them out here.
Today, we will continue discussing the art of setting healthy boundaries, but with an emphasis on nurturing friendships. Boundaries aren't just for business or romance; they're also the secret sauce for maintaining those precious connections that make our lives richer. In this blog post, we're going to talk about why it's important to set healthy boundaries with friends, how to do it in a way that feels natural, and share some useful tips to help you keep those invaluable friendships alive and thriving. So, let's get into it and learn how to make sure our friendships are built on respect and understanding.
"Boundaries...[are] the secret sauce for maintaining precious connections."
Friendship Boundaries Matter
Friendships are one of life's most precious treasures. They are built on trust, respect, and mutual understanding. They bring joy, support, and a sense of belonging to our lives. However, to maintain these valuable connections, it's crucial to establish and maintain healthy boundaries with friends. Here's why they matter:
1. Emotional Wellness
Boundaries protect your emotional well-being. They help you maintain a sense of self and prevent you from becoming emotionally drained by constantly catering to the needs of others (people-pleasing).
Setting boundaries demonstrates self-respect, and it encourages your friends to respect you too. How you respect yourself sets the tone for how you want others to respect you.
3. Clear Expectations
Boundaries provide clarity. When both you and your friends understand what's acceptable and what's not, it reduces the potential for misunderstandings, conflicts, or fights.
Tips for setting boundaries with friends
1. Understand your needs and limits
The first step in setting healthy boundaries with friends is self-awareness. Take time to reflect on your own needs, values, and limits. Consider what makes you comfortable or uncomfortable in different situations. Understanding yourself better will help you to communicate your boundaries better.
2. Open Communication
You cannot communicate just any way and think that it will be well received. Effective communication is key. When discussing boundaries with friends, be open and honest. Choose the right time and place for these conversations, and use "I" statements to express your feelings and needs. For example, say, "I feel overwhelmed when we spend too much time together" instead of placing blame on your friend or ghosting them without a conversation at all.
"You cannot communicate just any way and think that it will be well received. Effective communication is key."
Your communication cannot be completely effective if clarity is not used. Clearly define what you're comfortable with and what you're not. Setting clear expectations will help to prevent misunderstandings and ensures that both you and your friends are on the same page. Whether it's about personal space, time commitments, or sharing personal information, be super clear (respectfully) about your boundaries.
3. Assertive vs. aggressive
Setting boundaries doesn't mean being aggressive or confrontational. It means calmly and confidently asserting your needs in a respectful manner. Avoid being passive and sacrificing your needs to avoid conflict. Doing so can lead to resentment over time. Instead, strive for assertiveness – maintain eye contact, speak firmly, and say what you need to say in a calm tone.
You can read more about assertive communication here.
4. Learn the power of "no"
Saying "no" can be hard, especially if you consider yourself to be a people pleaser. However, it's important to remember that saying no is a healthy and necessary part of maintaining boundaries. When you're unable or unwilling to do something, kindly decline and explain your reasons. True friends will understand and respect your decision.
Sometimes, even an explanation is not needed; simply a "no" or "I don't have it in me" should suffice.
5. Recognize Red Flags
In some cases, friends may not respect your boundaries - despite your efforts to communicate them clearly. If a friend consistently disregards your boundaries, it may be a sign of an unhealthy relationship. Do not ignore the red flags in these situations! Consider whether that friendship is worth preserving or if it's time to reevaluate and separate. It is okay to step away from a friendship if your boundaries are repeatedly being violated. Again, this is despite you being clear about your expectations of the friendship.
7. Be Open to Feedback
No relationship is a one-way street, and nurturing healthy friendships is no different in this case. Just as you communicate your boundaries to your friends, be open to hearing your friends' needs and boundaries as well. Encourage open and honest dialogue, and be willing to adjust your boundaries when necessary.
Life is ever-changing, and your boundaries may also change over time. As you grow and mature, so may your needs and limits. Periodically re-evaluate your boundaries and adjust them as needed to ensure they align with your current circumstances and priorities.
In a Nutshell
Healthy boundaries are the foundation of strong and enduring friendships. They allow you to maintain your individuality, protect your emotional well-being, and foster respect and understanding in your relationships. Remember that setting boundaries is an ongoing process, and it requires open communication, self-awareness, and a willingness to assert your needs. By nurturing these skills, you can cultivate deep and meaningful friendships that bring joy and fulfillment to your life.
Bree Vanley is the CEO of Heart Matters Therapy, PLLC. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the State of Arkansas and Texas, who focuses primarily on anxiety, grief, and trauma. She is committed to helping individuals enhance their emotional and mental health. For more information, please click here.