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Setting Boundaries, Part 2: You have your permission slip, now let's talk approach!

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” - Brene Brown


In the last blog post about boundaries, we established that you are allowed to say no. Moreso, you are worthy of boundaries, and you are deserving of relationships that respect your needs and honor your boundaries. It can feel really daunting to set boundaries with people close to us, but in this post we’ll go through a technique that might help you feel a little bit more comfortable expressing your needs to those around you.


In the previous post, I shared some resources to get you started and help you evaluate your needs and values. If you need a reminder, you can find that post at https://www.beyondnewtown.com/post/boundariespartone. The reason it’s so important to understand our needs is that it helps us navigate where we may need to set boundaries and can also be a great tool to help verbalize why a boundary is important to us. There are countless ways that you can set boundaries with people in your life, but one method you can try is using a format from an approach called Non-Violent Communication (NVC). Non-Violent Communication is a model that aims to center compassion as the basis of our communication with others. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read about the model at https://www.cnvc.org/node/6856.


An important belief in the NVC model is that we all share basic human needs and that we are all attempting to get our needs met when we are interacting with others and in the world. Through using the understanding of our needs and the NVC model of communication, we can set boundaries clearly and compassionately. The four components of the NVC model are observations, feelings, needs, and requests (https://www.cnvc.org/training/resource/book-chapter-1) .


We can use these four components to communicate with others, and it can be extremely helpful when setting boundaries.


You would start by saying something like:

“When you _____ “ and then insert an observation without judgment.


Then you would state your feeling as an “I” statement:

“I feel _____”


Followed by an explanation using your need:

“because I _____”


The final step, and where you have the ability to set a boundary, comes with the request:

“Would you be willing to_____?” or

“I would like you to_____.”

Here is an example of how the four components may sound together:


“Mom, when you make comments about what I’m eating, I feel angry and self-conscious because I need independence and safety when eating. Would you be willing to stop making comments about my food while I’m eating?” You could also say “I would like you to stop commenting on my food while I’m eating” if you prefer to not phrase it as a question.


Although this example may still feel scary to think about putting into practice, it allows you to have a format for communicating, while being sure you share your feelings and needs clearly, therefore allowing the person you’re communicating with to understand how the situation is really impacting you. Ending the statement with a request gives the person on the receiving end a specific idea of what they can do differently.


To provide another example, I may have a need to be understood when talking with a support. This may mean that it’s important for me to feel like the person I'm talking to is giving me their full attention in order for me to feel safe and feel like they are really hearing what I’m saying. If this person is scrolling on their phone while I’m trying to talk to them, I may feel disconnected and discouraged from sharing more, which may lead me to shut down and not share any more. If I’ve never expressed to this person that it’s upsetting to me when they aren’t really paying attention to what I’m saying, I can’t expect them to know (even if it seems obvious). Therefore, this is an opportunity to use the NVC model and set a boundary. This could sound like “Hey, when you’re scrolling on your phone while I’m trying to talk to you, I feel disconnected and discouraged because I need to feel understood and heard when sharing something vulnerable. Moving forward, can you please put your phone away before we have a conversation?”


With both of those examples, it’s clear how the person is feeling and what they are needing from the person they are communicating with. It’s also clear what they are requesting of the person on the other end. If you want to put this into practice, it may be scary thinking about how the other person is going to respond. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to respond warmly to our boundaries, but it’s important to remember that you are not responsible for someone else’s reaction to your boundaries. You are worthy of setting boundaries, even if it makes someone else uncomfortable. The hope of utilizing Non-Violent Communication as your format for communication is that using compassion as the basis of your communication can sometimes lead to it being better received rather than approaching the communication from a place of frustration and anger.


If you want to explore the idea of using the NVC model to set boundaries in your own life, you can find their feelings inventory at https://www.cnvc.org/training/resource/feelings-inventory and a list of needs at https://www.cnvc.org/training/resource/needs-inventory. So, one more time, a reminder of some affirmations to keep in mind when it comes to boundaries:


You are worthy of boundaries.

You are deserving of relationships that respect your needs and honor your boundaries.

You are allowed to say no.



Fie Or'Rourke, LPC, therapist in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for therapy for eating disorder therapy, boundaries, body image, trauma, teens and adolescents, bucks county, pa


- Fie O'Rourke, M.Ed., LPC, CAADC

Licensed Professional Counselor


To read Fie's full bio, check it out here!




If you want to learn more about services at Beyond, please visit us here: www.beyondnewtown.com/services !

Beyond Therapy and Nutrition Center eating disorder therapy and nutrition HAES binge eating disorder, anorexia, weight stigma, pennsylvania, delaware, new jersey, florida

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