I am thinking about boundaries again. Especially how to approach them from outside, that is, how to behave around someone’s boundaries.
Respect. By accepting the boundaries someone builds, you show that you have respect for them; and for the behaviour they accept around them. It is then your choice to either abide by their wishes or simply limit your communication with them. Believe it or not, these are both healthy choices. What is unhealthy is to probe, poke and guilt people over their boundaries.
Why are you being this way?; I thought we were closer than this; Surely this doesn’t apply to me; I know you said this wasn’t okay but I hope you don’t mind…
None of these are helpful to the person trying to establish a certain way of life. Consider this, we already associate boundaries to be culturally sensitive or when someone is going through something tragic. You wouldn’t joke with someone about an accident or make fun of their culture (I hope). Boundaries are similar. They are guidelines anyone is allowed to set around themselves to remove draining or inappropriate behaviours.
Clarification. If you truly wish to be close to someone, you need to ask how close is alright. Often times, the person setting the boundaries isn’t clear about them. Then it is up to you to ask them what is acceptable and what is not. The difference this little step makes cannot be overestimated. You may just help them realize and actualize their thoughts!
Hey, I wanted to talk to you about ______. Are you comfortable talking about it?; Is it okay if we talk about this?
And these do not have to be recurring everyday questions that strain relationships. Ask someone to clarify their boundaries and have a conversation. That lays a path forward for you both. What they need and what you can provide laid bare. This is not a promise of alignment, rather a clear view of how you can communicate in the future.
Honestly, it can be frustrating or even scary when someone puts up boundaries. Especially when you feel like you’ve done nothing wrong. Try and remember then that we’re all human. Sometimes it takes people a while to figure out what is and isn’t acceptable to them. They’re not laughing and celebrating as they create this distance between them and others. This is an ordeal for most people.
Be human in accepting boundaries.
"Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously" - Prentis Hemphill