People often are at a loss when it comes to setting limits. Many hate setting them, others over use limits and still others think they’re setting them yet aren’t. So what’s the low down on limits? Why do we need them, when do we need them and what a limit is not.
First off, limits are absolutely necessary for healthy relationships—they are your set of operating instructions that help others know how to treat you. If you have no limits then you will eventually become sad, frustrated and resentful in your relationships. We teach people how to treat us and limits are one way we do that. If you have none than you teach others that they can treat you however they’d like and you’ll always be there. Sending someone the message that you’ll always be there no matter how they treat you is a dangerous message.
Setting limits is necessary when:
1. We don’t like how someone’s treating us.
2. We find ourselves getting resentful about someone’s behavior and angry that they’re not stopping it.
3. When someone else’s behavior is negatively impacting our life and state of mind.
4. When we’ve repeatedly complained, yelled, cried and/or begged for change yet it doesn’t happen.
Hoping and wishing for change, seldom produces change. And while setting a limit does not guarantee that change will happen in the way you want it to happen, it does however, allow you to teach others how to treat you. Setting a limit also sends you the message that you’re worthy of having you’re back.
People often get confused about limits. The bottom line is limits are action steps. They are not threats, complaints, pleas or requests. Yelling and screaming at someone is not a limit. Refusing to speak to someone is not a limit and nor is giving someone the cold shoulder or acting like you’re angry. If the only thing you’re doing in response to someone’s poor behavior is talking about it—to him or her or to others—chances are high that you are not setting a limit. A quick tip for thinking about limits is to think in terms of: “If you continue to do–or not do (fill in the blank), then I will do (Fill in the blank).” For example, “If you ride your bike before you finish your homework, then I will take your bike away for a week. If your child rides the bike prior to completing the homework, then you follow through and take the bike. If you don’t follow through with the limit then you did not set a limit—you made a threat.
In life and relationships, limits are necessary. Setting a limit is not mean, unfair or cruel unless you set them in such a way that they are unfair or cruel—that of course is not about limit though—that’s about your approach to them.
For more information on how to set a limit, what to do when the limit you set isn’t working and how to tell the difference between when to set a limit versus simply make a request, join me in my upcoming teleclass “The Art of Setting Limits”. http://lisamerlobooth.com/the-art-of-limit-setting/
Challenge: Pay attention to the role limit setting plays in your life. Remove threats and complaints from your life practices and instead ask for what you want or set a limit when it’s necessary to do so.