Like any relationship, friendships need personal boundaries. No matter how close you are with your friends, you still need your personal space, both physically and emotionally, otherwise you might feel uncomfortable. Usually, such boundaries happen naturally in a friendship, but sometimes they need to be established. How to set boundaries in a friendship?
Identify the needed boundaries. Boundaries in a friendship can be physical and emotional. As far as physical boundaries are concerned, abusive behavior of any kind is unacceptable. That's the easy part. But what about seemingly acceptable behavior that can lie outside someone's personal boundaries?
For example, some people are okay with friendly hugs or sharing a bed with a friend during a sleepover, and others think that such things require a certain level of intimacy in a relationship. Make a list of things you are and are not comfortable with to identify your physical boundaries.
Emotional boundaries are just as important as physical ones. If there are actions and behaviors of your friends that make you uncomfortable, there is nothing wrong with letting your friends know about it. Some people enjoy friendly teasing, banter and jokes, while others get upset when they find themselves on the receiving end of a joke, however good-natured this joke may be.
You have the right to be sensitive about things, and your friends should respect this right. Just as in the case of physical boundaries, emotional abuse of any kind is unacceptable. Verbal abuse, brutal honesty, gossiping, emotional manipulation, and backstabbing lie outside most people's emotional boundaries.
Be subtle at first. Giving your friends a list of your physical and emotional boundaries is presumptuous: people don't come with instructions. As we've already mentioned above, boundaries usually happen naturally. If your friend happens to cross a boundary of yours they are not aware of, hint them that you don't appreciate this kind of behavior.
For example, if you don't like late phone calls and your friend calls you, let it go to voicemail. If it is something serious, you can call them back. If it isn't, the next time you see your friend tell them that you go to bed early and never answer late phone calls.
Learn to say “no”. Friends are supposed to look out for each other, but that doesn't mean that you absolutely must put your friends' desires and problems above your own. If your friend wants to hang out, but you don't feel well or have an important exam tomorrow, just say no. A good friend will understand. You can make it up to them later, but if you don't, it's totally okay. Friendship is important, but sometimes it is not the most important thing on your agenda. You should be able to set your priorities straight in any given situation.
Don't be afraid to enforce your boundaries if necessary. If a friend doesn't understand your subtle clues about your comfort level and keeps pushing your boundaries, you need to be less subtle. Of course, it doesn't mean that you have to be rude, you just need to be very clear. Don't let it slide hoping that one day your friend will realize that they are making you uncomfortable. Some people can be extremely oblivious.
Be aware of your friends' personal boundaries. A friendship is a two-ways street. If you want your friends to respect your personal boundaries, you must respect theirs, however weird they might seem. It's the golden rule of human interaction: treat others how you want to be treated.
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