From childhood we might have been a certain way in our long term friendships. As children we didn’t know what we wanted and might have let other people get away with behaviour we wouldn’t necessarily be okay with today. As adults it is still hard to set boundaries even though it might be taking a toll on your body. However long you have been friends or however short your friendship has been, it is never too late or too early to start setting boundaries. We are here to talk about how to set boundaries with friends, so you feel comfortable.
How to set boundaries with friends – the breakdown
Learning to say no
Saying no is not a bad thing. It is a way to stand up for yourself. So, practice saying no. It can be about small things first, so you can get comfortable. You are busy and your friend calls you just to talk about random things you can say you are not free right now. That is a small way to start boundary setting. When you start standing up for yourself in small ways, you will see how empowering that is.
It doesn’t even have to be in friendships. It can be in the supermarket when someone cuts in front of you and you say no. You can practice outside your friendship and when you are comfortable bring that behaviour to your friendships.
You don’t have to drop everything for everyone
What you are doing matters and you don’t have to leave everything if your friend wants to go out for dinner. When we don’t know how to say no we are constantly prioritizing someone else over ourselves. So you could have an important project due tomorrow but your friend is begging you to go out? How do you tackle that? Yeah, your friend might feel bad that you aren’t hanging with them but this project is important and you need to prioritize it. You can’t drop everything at your friend’s needs. Ask yourself what is a priority for you and what would be best for you at that moment? Then make the decision.
Responding to calls or messages
Had a bad day and just need a bath and some time alone. That is okay. If your friends are messaging you or calling you let them know you need some time to rejuvenate. Don’t have the energy to say that? Well, that is okay as well. Take some time for yourself. It is okay to step away from your phone, messages, and social media. We all need time for ourselves. I am not saying make a plan with them and ignore them after that. There are some basic things you need to do but do as much as suits you.
You don’t have to drop everything and what you are doing to pick someone’s call up. I have an unhealthy habit of dropping everything to talk to people. But it is part of learning to say no to others and yes to ourselves that we need to learn.
Let’s think of a situation it is past your bedtime and you are going to sleep and your friend calls what do you do? Now of course it is an emergency you would handle it differently but it is only to chat. Would you say call me back tomorrow or would you talk? Your sleep is important and you might have to wake up early in the morning. So set your boundary according to your self-care and priorities. That is part of boundary setting.
Feeling uncomfortable about jokes that are made
Your friend group could have a joke running that makes you feel uncomfortable. You might feel that it will be taken badly if you stand up for yourself. But if something is making you uncomfortable unhappy you need to say it. This is when learning assertive behaviour helps you. If you let it sit you might become resentful of your friends and yourself. It is better to communicate. Better for yourself and your friendship. Talk privately to the friend who is making jokes one on one and explain your side of the situation. It might not go great or you might be surprised how great it goes. You need to put it out there to protect your mental health. Some jokes can get carried away. That brings me to the point of communication
Just like in any relationship with friendship communication is important. Your friend can not read your mind and is important to let them know of things that bother you. This keeps the air clear and leaves no room for misunderstanding. It also doesn’t let resentment build over time.
Paying all the time
You might not be okay with being the person getting the bill all the time. It is okay to let the other person know. You don’t have to be rude and make a scene. Politely explain the situation or ask them to pay. You don’t have to pay all the time. (of course, you can if you want to). It is okay to ask for money back or send gentle reminders when you pay for things. It is not rude.
Your friend asks you for your favourite shirt you can’t part with. You can say no to them borrowing it if you don’t feel like giving it. It is better to say no than build resentment. Do you have a new shirt that you want to wear first? You don’t have to give it to your friend. Now of course it depends on friendship where you want to set the boundary and what matters to you. Each person is different.
Your friend doesn’t return your item. You can ask for it back that is part of boundary setting.
You might feel uncomfortable at first
Changing behaviours can be uncomfortable. You aren’t used to having boundaries and building them can take some time. Start small and keep going. Keep building on it and you will see the benefits to your health.
There might be pushback
Your friends aren’t used to your changed behaviour. For years you might have been a certain way. They might say things like what is wrong with you. Or you always were okay with that what has changed. You can let them know you are trying to work on self-care or not give an explanation it is up to you. The important thing to know is that there might be pushback and that is okay. It doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong. Even though in that moment you might feel like it is wrong. It is just changed behaviour and it takes a long time for you and your friends to get used to it. The end result is worth it and you should keep trying.
What to take away about how to set boundaries with friends
In learning how to set boundaries with friends, it is important to remember to draw the lines that are important for you. You might not mind paying or care if your friend borrows a new shirt and that is okay. As long as resentment is not building in you. When you are talking behind your friend about these things that is an indication of resentment building up and you should say it to the person. But otherwise set your boundaries based on what matters to you. Don’t fall for the trap that this blog said you shouldn’t talk to your friends at night or pay for your friends. You do you! In different cultures, people do different things. As long as you are okay with those things there is no issue. In boundary setting, we have to realize in order to help others better have to work on self-care. When our own cup is full then we have more energy to help others.