8 Common ways that people cross personal boundaries
It’s difficult to communicate respectfully with other people if we don’t understand what healthy boundaries actually looks like in real life.
Unfortunately, because we are often at a loss when it comes to identifying boundary violations, we cannot figure out what actually happened in the various interactions in our life. What we do usually know is that we were in a situation with someone and we felt discomfort. Something didn’t feel right, but we couldn’t quite understand or identify what actually happened, which makes it difficult to both analyze the situation and take constructive action next time one finds oneself in such a situation.
To help identify this paradigm in a more concrete way, here are some of the most common boundary violations. For each of the boundary violations listed below, ask yourself the following questions to determine if you are on the giving or receiving end a boundary violation.
1. Giving someone advice when the person didn’t ask for your opinion
- Do I give other people advice without them asking me for it?
- Is someone else giving me advice without me asking for it?
2. Telling another person how they ‘should’ think or feel or live their life
- Do I tell other people how they should think, feel, or live their lives when they didn’t ask me for my advice or opinion?
- Is someone else telling me how to think, feel, or live my life when I didn’t ask for their advice or opinion?
3. Judging another person’s lifestyle and making him or her ‘wrong’ because he/she is different than you
- Am I making someone ‘wrong’ because he/she is different from me?
- Is someone else making me ‘wrong’ because I do things differently than they do?
4. Telling someone you know something better than he/she does or how the person is actually thinking or feeling
- Do I tend to tell other people that I know something better than they do, or how they are thinking or feeling?
- Is someone else telling me that he/she knows better than I do what or how I am thinking and feeling?
5. Making someone else responsible for how you feel or what you are saying and doing
- Am I blaming someone or making someone else responsible for how I feel or for what I am saying and doing?
- Is someone else blaming me or making me responsible for their feelings or for what they are saying or doing?
6. Touching another person’s body without their permission
- Do I touch other people without their permission?
- Do other people touch me without my permission?
7. Going through another person’s personal possessions (like their phone or computer or bag) without their permission
- Do I go through someone else’s personal possessions without their permission?
- Is someone I know going through my personal possessions without my permission?
8. Any kind of threatening, aggressive or violent behavior
- Do I shout or threaten other people or act violently towards others?
- Is there someone in my life who shouts, threatens me, or is violent towards me?
- In cases like this, it is important to remember that we live in societies where there are laws to protect each of us from violence and abuse and that this type of behavior is completely unacceptable. If you encounter this kind of a situation, leave as quickly as possible or call the police or your neighbors if you need help.
For guidelines and suggestions about how to deal with boundary violations, see my books Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life (chapter 3) and Find and Follow Your Inner Compass (Part 2).
Read more from Barbara Berger on this site on her author page.
>You may also enjoy reading How to Handle Difficult Conversations: 3 Strategies for More Effective Communication, by Sara Fabian