We’ve talked about hearing the word No, but what about saying No? Some people are natural people pleasers but sometimes that comes at a cost. It’s all about boundaries. 

Dr. Henry Cloud, author of Boundaries, explains healthy boundaries are like the property around your home. The fence is one boundary, your front door is another boundary, and the rooms inside are more boundaries. Some people are allowed to enter your front yard. Others are allowed inside. And others are able to enter a room.  

The problem comes when you don’t have those boundaries in place, or don’t know how to enforce them – it’s confusing and stressful for you and for others because they don’t know where they stand! Think about it: If someone tells you no, at least you know the rules!  

Folks with healthy boundaries will understand when you set your own – it’s mutual respect. It’s possible to say no politely, even to clients 

One of my colleagues always gives options with her No, so her No has limits but doesn’t leave her clients feeling adrift and lost. For example, when a client asked her for multiple projects to get done ASAP, she said, “I have time to complete three of these in the time you’ve given me – which three are a priority to you?” She was setting her boundary for the amount of work she could humanly do within the deadline and creating a decision-point for the client.  

Boundaries are for all aspects of your life – family too! 

Children who grow up with set boundaries understand they won’t get everything they want in life and how to work within a system. Keeping others from learning boundaries only sets them up for failure!  

When we strive to please everyone, we end up draining ourselves. And frankly, you are no good to others if you aren’t good to yourself first! Think about it: the half-empty cup cannot fill others’ up. But the cup that runneth over has extra capacity for others! Start with little limits. Here’s some easy and fast boundaries to set right now.

At home:

Whomever cooks doesn’t do the dishes (and maybe everyone takes a turn cooking each night of the week!). Set a calendar the entire family can see with menus and assignments. Create a family grocery list that everyone is responsible for. Single or don’t have kids? You still need boundaries! Don’t feel like talking to Mom every night? You don’t have to! Take some time for yourself. You also don’t have to lend your brother money when he asks!  

At the office:

Set boundaries with your team to keep personal lives personal. Maybe don’t be Facebook friends with everyone. Or maybe it’s setting office hours that you actually stick to. I once worked for an employer who would not allow birthday or holiday gifts because it could easily cross a line; maybe that’s a boundary you want to set?  

With friends:

Stay in one night when your friends are pressuring you to go out. Feel like leaving your friend’s drama at the door? Do it!  Don’t sign up to be responsible for snacks for the entire soccer team for the sixth week in a row and realize your child won’t starve if they don’t get their orange slices! 

Once you see the little boundaries work – and don’t make people run screaming away from you – the bigger boundaries will come easier!