Boundaries can vary from one person to the next. While one person may be fine, hugging someone they just met another may not. However, there are many boundaries that most people from every community and culture agree upon. Therefore, it can be very frustrating and confusing when someone crosses these boundaries. What are you supposed to do when someone crosses your boundaries?
It is perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable and caught off guard when someone crosses your boundaries; however, there are some steps you can follow in order to get you through the experience.
Begin by confronting the situation. You want to make sure to determine what the problem is. This can be incredibly challenging for many people because many of our boundaries go without being said. Many people are not even able to define what is going on at the moment that it is happening, and that is perfectly normal. Things such as feeling disrespected, inappropriate language or conversations, or invasions of personal space can take time for you to identify.
Now it is time for you to decide how you feel about the situation. Do you feel uncomfortable about the boundary that was crossed? Does it make you feel frightened or offended? If you want the other person to understand why the behavior was inappropriate or if you need to speak to your boss or another authority figure, you need to know how you feel about what happened.
Think about what you want as a result of a conversation with the other person, if you choose to have a conversation with them. What would the resolution be that you are looking for in the situation?
For example, if someone is always putting their hand on your back and it is making you feel uncomfortable, chances are that you would want them to stop touching you. Are you able to communicate this clearly to them?
Or maybe someone posted their political opinions on your social media page, which you want free from political posts. Are you able to tell them not to do that and explain to them that you will block them from your page if they do it again? Are you able to stick to what you say?
If this is happening at work regularly, make sure that you are recording as much information as possible. Try to get as much on video as you can. If you can’t get it on video, wrote down everything that you can about what happened what was said, how many times you told the other person to stop disrespecting your boundaries, and that they were making you uncomfortable. Write down the day and the time as well. All of this is extremely important information that could help you later on.
What if it happens again? Sometimes people think that you are joking the first time that you confront them, or they think that you will not stick to what you say. They want to see how far they can push you. If a person has been warned and crosses your boundaries again, simply say, “Maybe I wasn’t clear the first time; however, I told you that…” follow up with what you said was going to happen if they crossed those boundaries again and then do it. Do not give them another chance to cross those boundaries.
If this means that you have to report them to HR, then do so. If you need to block them on social media or remove them from your life or whatever you need to do, just do it.
Accept that everyone is not going to care about your boundaries and feelings. I know no one wants to hear that right now but let’s really get real here. There are lots of people out there who are not going to respect your boundaries. We can always hope that the best in people will shine through, but it just doesn’t in some. Those are the ones that will cross your boundaries and not care. They will continue to cross your boundaries as long as you continue to interact with them.
Personally, I would not invest too much of my time or energy into this type of person. You can’t change or talk to these people. They will never care that they are making you uncomfortable. The only thing that you can do is to laugh their behavior off and move on with your life.
It is best to not even let this type of person know that they are getting to you because that will take the power away from them. When they can’t get a reaction from you, it’s no longer fun for them. It is almost like a cat playing with a mouse. As long as that mouse is still trying to run away, it is fun to play with, but as soon as it stops fighting, it’s no fun anymore.
People can cross boundaries in all different types of ways. Sometimes they will try to get us to change our no into yes to get their way. They may borrow things and never return them. People invade our personal space by getting too close to us at the grocery store, touching our hair, or rubbing pregnant bellies without ever asking. They try and tell our kids what to do, make inappropriate comments, and touch our bodies as if they had some right to.
Most of the time, people are not crossing our boundaries on purpose. Since no two people have the same boundaries and no one can read another person’s mind, it is almost impossible to know if we are crossing someone’s boundaries without them telling us. However, whether the person is crossing boundaries on purpose or not, it is up to you to make sure that you let them know about it.