Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships. A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships. A person who always keeps others at a distance (whether emotionally, physically, or otherwise) is said to have rigid boundaries. Alternatively, someone who tends to get too involved with others has poor boundaries. Also, keep in mind that having poor boundaries is also a form of giving your power away.

Healthy Boundaries:

  • Values own opinions.
  • Doesn’t compromise values for others.
  • Shares personal information in an appropriate way (does not over or under share).
  • Knows personal wants and needs, and can communicate them.
  • Accepting when others say “no” to them.

Poor Boundaries:

  • Overshares personal information.
  • Difficulty saying “no” to the requests of others.
  • Over-involved with other’s problems.
  • Dependent on the opinions of others.
  • Accepting of abuse or disrespect.
  • Fears rejection if they do not comply with others.

Rigid Boundaries:

  • Avoids intimacy and close relationships.
  • Unlikely to ask for help.
  • Has few close relationships.
  • Very protective of personal information.
  • May seem detached, even with romantic partners.
  • Keeps others at a distance to avoid the possibility of rejection.

Most people have a mix of different boundary types. For example, someone could have healthy boundaries at work, poor boundaries in romantic relationships, and a mix of all three types with their family. The appropriateness of boundaries depends on the setting. What’s appropriate to say when you’re out with friends might not be appropriate when you’re at work. Some cultures have very different expectations when it comes to boundaries. For example, in some cultures, it’s considered wildly inappropriate to express emotions publicly. In other cultures, emotional expression is encouraged.

Preparation: Have your journal ready to take notes.

One Minute Meditation: Take a moment to relax, take a few deep breaths and center yourself.

Begin the Session: Ask yourself the following questions…

Think about a person with whom you struggle to set healthy boundaries. This could mean that your boundaries are too rigid (you keep your distance), too poor (you open up too much), or there’s some other problem that isn’t so easily labeled. Who do you struggle to set healthy boundaries with?

Boundary Categories: What categories would you choose to describe your relationship with this person you listed above?

  • Physical Boundaries
  • Intellectual Boundaries
  • Emotional Boundaries
  • Sexual Boundaries
  • Material Boundaries
  • Time Boundaries

Take a moment to imagine what it will be like when you begin to establish healthy boundaries with this person.

  1. What are some specific actions you can take to improve your boundaries with this person?
  2. How do you think they will respond to these changes?
  3. How do you think your life will be different once you’ve established healthy boundaries with this person?

Focus the session: What was the most significant part about this session? Focus the rest of the coaching session around that.

Create an action plan: What action are you willing to take? Write it down.

When using this exercise with your client: Go through questions and focus on important aspects of your client’s answers. Ask your client what actions they are willing to take to create better boundaries with this person.

Close the Session: Thank your client. Acknowledge them for being so open and willing to look at these areas of their life with you. Use the 1-10 scale. Schedule a follow-up session.