Reduce Drama with Six Boundary-Setting Statements

draw line in the sand

Boundaries are lines in the sand. Verbal ones that we draw by telling other people how to treat us or what we find acceptable or even what behaviors we’ll tolerate.

But if we neglect to open our mouths, to speak up, to state our preferences, then others just assume anything goes. They have no reason to think otherwise.

Without meaning to, the absence of boundaries says, “Eh…it doesn’t matter. I have no limits. It’s all good! Whatever YOU decide about how to treat me is fine with me.”

Now, I get you aren’t actually SAYING those words, but saying NOTHING creates that affect.

Can you see where I’m going with this? Once again it comes back to speaking up. It comes back to the way to say it . I get that it isn’t easy to be direct and assertive, but mind-reading is not an effective alternative.

Nor is assuming others know what we want. Or assuming that they want the same things we do.

What if you had some go-to phrases to whip out when you need to stop someone in their tracks? Before it’s too late! Before there’s tension and resentment.

Stopping someone before they cross a line or before they assume they know what you want is much easier than backtracking and having a clean-up conversation.

what to say

Here are a few of my go-to boundary setters:

“Before we get too far, can you tell me what your plans are for this project?”

“You know, it doesn’t seem my feelings are being taken into account. Let’s talk about this before things progress any further?”

“It’s really important to me that ____________ (fill in the blank). Are we on the same page with that?”

“I certainly respect your needs. I’d like to talk about this to make sure my needs are being met too.”

“I tend to be direct to avoid problems down the road. Let’s compare plans and make sure we’re in agreement.”

“This isn’t really what I had in mind. Can you tell me what you’re thinking so I can be sure we agree?”


One of the real pros about saying things upfront is this:  you avoid future drama! Pre-empting is a great strategy.

Here’s why. Speaking up before there’s tension may be uncomfortable. But it won’t be anything worse than that…a bit uncomfortable…because nothing bad has happened yet.

When we speak up in advance, everyone is still on neutral ground. There’s no tone or  negativity or resentment. Not yet. Because all we’re doing is inquiring or checking in to make sure those involved in the issue or project are seeing things, planning things, taking action with the same point of view.

The stress, tension and resentment avoided this way is huge. All that’s needed is to develop a habit of saying to yourself in the moment, “I had better check now. I had better ask now. It will be so much easier to just ask now and avoid the possibility of drama and conflict later.”drama free black bakcground

Wanna reduce the drama in your life, your office? Start here with boundaries.  Set them BEFORE things go sideways. We’ll talk another day about boundary setting AFTER the fact in the midst of tension and drama.

As my neighbor says to her three and six-year old boys, “Use your words.” I can’t think of better advice to share.

What are “your words” for boundary setting?  I’d love to hear how you set boundaries at the office or home. Can’t have too many good responses to avoid drama!

The Two-Letter Word That’s Killing You

Just say it!

Just say it!


Repeat after me, “I wish I could, but I just can’t right now. No thank you.” Now say, “Thanks for the invite. I’m going to have to pass.” Take a breath, and now out loud, ““I would love to help you, but right now I just can’t.” Or even a simple, direct, “Sorry, can’t make it. I have a conflict.”

Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? It’s that simple–acceptable ways to say no. Say it. Say “no.” In fact for an entire day, no make that and entire week, walk around saying,

  •  “No, I’m sorry. I can’t make it.”
  •  “No, thanks. I’m busy.”
  •  “No, actually that’s not a good time for me.”
  •  “No, I would prefer you don’t do that.”

Practice. Practice. Practice because half of the battle is just getting used to saying it. And it does get easier with time.

Saying "no" with grace is a learned skill.

Saying “no” with grace is a learned skill.

Saying “no” doesn’t equate to anger. Saying “no” won’t kill you. And, even more important, the less often you are saying no, the more likely it is that you should be. It’s about boundaries. If we never say “no” then friends, kids, spouses, families, bosses, essentially everyone in our circle learns to keep asking us. We’re an easy mark. We give in. We agree. We cave in to do things we don’t really want to do. We say yes when we mean no.

Our inability to say “no” costs us and it costs us dearly energetically and emotionally. Over time, any choices we make that are not in alignment with what our intuition or our heart wants, take their toll on our health. Not saying what is true for us affects how we feel about ourselves. It diminishes our confidence and sense of self-worth.

Generally women struggle with this habit more than men. Even so, we all could use some practice in honestly saying no when that’s what we feel, instead of losing ourselves in people-pleasing.  Though none of us like to think of ourselves as people-pleasers, that is what we are when we do what others want instead of speaking our truth.

Striving to be kind and generous is a good thing. Being kind is about the other person. About generosity. About giving.  People pleasing— well,  not so much. People-pleasing is about YOU. It’s about your need to be liked.  If you never utter the word “no”, it stems from a desire to not disappoint others or hurt them or just tell them the  God’s honest truth for fear of disapproval. Instead you choose to abandon your wants and needs and blurt out “yes,” when deep down you’re screaming “no” silently. It’s “no” that you want to say.

I think we can agree that it IS hard to hear “no” to one of our own requests. But wouldn’t life be oh so much easier if we told each other the truth? If we kindly, yet honestly. said what we want and what we don’t.  Personally, I would always rather hear the truth even when it’s hard. Even when it is not w hat I had in mind. I just hope the truth will be told to me directly and kindly.

Granted, sometimes it takes me a few minutes of processing to get comfortable with the rejection to my request. Still I prefer it to being lied to or to having to deal with passive aggressive resentment that I can feel.

This week promise yourself you’ll spout out a solid “no” to at least one request made of you each day.  Tell me how it goes. Saying “no” is a learned skill and you just might come to like it!