Tips for Thought

How to Establish Boundaries in Friendships

Like any relationship, friendships require work and compromise—one way to ensure a healthy relationship is by learning how to set boundaries with friends.

What are Boundaries?

Boundaries include how emotionally close you allow people to get to you. It also involves drawing a line within a relationship, where two parties decide what to give and take.

For example: In a romantic relationship, a person crosses the boundary when one thinks it’s okay to snoop into their partner’s phone.

Why are Boundaries Important in Friendships?

Boundaries are essential in relationships because they offer a framework of responsibility. When one gives more than the other, it can create an imbalance which leads to conflict and resentment. Once you know what you are willing to give and take in friendships, it can affect your other relationships too.

How to Set Boundaries with Friends

1. Express your feelings, wants, and needs.

Maintaining an open communication channel makes it easy to set expectations. Share your thoughts and feelings regarding the friendship. Of course, return the favor and listen to what your friend says. If there are any speed bumps, try to reach a compromise.

2. Maintain your individuality and personal space.

Friendships are great because it makes life worth living. However, it’s also essential to spend time with yourself. Nevertheless, inform your friend ahead of time if you decide to take some time for yourself to prevent misunderstandings.

3. Protect your priorities.

It helps to identify the things you can’t compromise on—whether it’s your job, a deadline, or family time. Whatever the case, ensure you have finished your priorities before helping your friend. Please do not commit unless you know how much time and energy it requires.

4. Learn to say no.

Doing favors for your friends is part of friendship. However, if they ask for anything unreasonable or could potentially put you in danger—learn to say no. Explain why you couldn’t agree to their request and suggest an alternative if possible.

5. Address issues, even if it’s small.

Addressing minor issues instead of sweeping them under the rug can strengthen your friendship. Regardless of the size of the problem, it helps to talk things out with your friend. Remember to work on the issue together if you’re feeling a certain way. It also helps to listen to their side of the story. Avoid making assumptions about their character and intentions, and tell them you value friendship.

6. Be clear and consistent with boundaries.

Setting boundaries requires constant reinforcement. Make sure your boundaries are clear, consistent and match your words and actions. Sending mixed signals to friends can lead to conflict. Be gentle when asserting your boundaries, and listen to their part of the story first.

Final Thoughts:

A healthy friendship requires good boundaries. Once you know yours, be considerate of your friends too. If you have any problems, make sure to address them both immediately.