When we spoke with Zar about how to deal with toxic family members, she made an excellent point about boundaries and what we think they sound like, versus what they actually need to sound like in order to be effective.
“It’s become something of a buzzword, this idea of boundaries, and I think sometimes it’s confusing in terms of what it actually means,” Zar tells mbg. “We think that setting a boundary sounds like, ‘Hey, Mom, don’t call me while I’m at work.’ But what it actually sounds like is, ‘If you call me during the workday, I won’t pick up.'”
The difference? The second example is coming from an empowered place. It’s not a question, it’s not asking permission, and you’re not relying on the other person to honor your boundary. You’re clearing telling them: If this is how you’re going to behave, this is how I’m going to respond.
“It’s about what your action is going to be, instead of relying on someone else to do an action that’s within your boundary,” Zar explains. “It puts you in the driver’s seat. It puts you in control.”