Emotional Intelligence 101: How To Set Good Boundaries

By on January 30, 2013
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Are you able to just say no?

During client sessions, I’ve found that one area where women are frequently challenged is in setting firm boundaries. As in: “Here’s what I can do, here’s what I can’t do, and here’s what I won’t do.”

Perhaps it’s based on an old habit, reinforced since childhood, of trying to play nicely, get along, make amends. For many of us, this has translated into a reflex of people pleasing.

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In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, when we get drained by filling others’ tanks and not refilling our own, we become ineffective with the people around us. And we sideline ourselves at the same time.

What’s a better way?

Today, let’s look at ways to set healthy boundaries.

A main tributary of emotional intelligence (or EQ) is knowing and understanding ourselves. This does not require 25 years on the Freudian couch. Sometimes it just requires that we slow down, reflect, and re-affirm something we knew to be true all along.

One way to grow your aptitude of self-awareness is to become clear about what you can and cannot do. Here are some ways to build a healthy self-awareness of your own boundaries:

1. Remind yourself that you are not indispensable. Ultimately, there is no outcome that hinges on you and you alone. Repeating this mantra frees you to practice number 2 below.

2. Look for ways to delegate to others. This gives another person an opportunity to solve the problem – a win for you, and a win for them. Becoming aware of what you don’t need to do is reinforced by seeing what others actually can do.

3. Get better at saying no. If you feel it is reasonable to say no, but the other party remains insistent: consider that the issue may not lie with you but with them. You may have a valuable insight to bring to the table that the other person doesn’t see. In that case, rather than giving into the other person’s agenda, you should continue to negotiate the situation. Your ‘No’ may be the best thing for both sides.

4. Apologize selectively, not reflexively. Don’t reflexively apologize, unless it is genuinely called for. As women, we tend to preface difficult statements or small missteps with, “I’m sorry.” This reinforces the idea that we are responsible for all sorts of minutiae that in fact have nothing to do with us. So get back in the habit of being responsible for the space that is truly your own!

5. Celebrate and appreciate. We all enjoy achievement and are motivated to get to our goals. However, non-stop striving leads to burnout. The line between being driven and going into overdrive is often a thin one. One way to manage that is to scope back and take an overview of your accomplishments. Appreciate and delight in what you’ve already done! Take the time to acknowledge your successes – and what you’ve been gracefully given.

This week’s food for thought: Do you feel that your Yes’s and No’s are clear? Do the people around you respect your boundaries?

This week’s action steps: Find two or three situations this week where you can practice setting clear boundaries. Delegate a task. Give a firm no when it is warranted. Celebrate and be grateful for your accomplishments! You will grow your self-awareness EQ, and find yourself feeling refreshed and refueled.


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Originally posted on:  Coaching with Dr. Ann

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Emotional Intelligence 101: How To Set Good Boundaries