Getting started. Gentle healthy boundary setting is an important skill you can help yourself, and those you love, master. Sometimes we agree to make lists that include “dos” and “don’ts” regarding topics – which is a fine beginning. It involves memorizing and/or writing a list of what may and may not be brought up. We do this in an effort to define a safe space and begin to build trust.
Defining what discussions and topics are ‘off-limits’ is an important component to all communication.
General etiquette. Some say that there are general, social rules to follow, such as: don’t bring up sex, religion or politics if at a cocktail party with strangers or acquaintances (unless you are striving for a deeper relationship or a fight). These are general, social etiquette guidelines followed by certain cultures.
However, how does one go about beginning, building or repairing a broken or strained relationship? What rules are followed? What skills are necessary?
The answers vary depending on the people involved. If we agree with another person that we wish to repair an existing or begin a new relationship, a good place to start is with boundary definition.
List-making. Two people may begin by agreeing on a “list making” approach. This involves clearly outlining what is and is not up for discussion. It is a boundary setting technique designed to facilitate a safe place wherein people feel comfortable in each other’s presence. Successfully embracing this first step signals to both partners that trust is of interest, and building will be a mutual effort.
The no ‘list making’ approach. This approach, once mutually embraced, suggests the next level of trust has possibly been reached.
The agreement to not make lists permits
- both to approach each conversation with confidence
- gentle, redirecting when one person accidentally over-steps an invisible boundary
- perpetual, patient, gentle boundary re-setting reminders
The agreement ALSO carries with it an enormous responsibility on the part of those involved.
This ‘no-list’ approach is the spring-board to a deeper relationship, since it is the HIGHEST level of trust.
The responsibility accepted on everyone’s part, if the ‘no-list’ scenario is embraced, is as follows:
- agreement to offer gentle reminders
- agreement to be patient
- remembering each topic/discussion that was set as a boundary by the other person – and NOT bringing it up a second time at a future date
- avoiding (at this point) asking “why” it is off limits (that discussion can happen AFTER trust is fully earned)
- honoring, with a full heart, all boundaries set
In the event that one of the two involved truly prefers NOT to mend or build a relationship, honest admission is not always forthcoming. Exploring the disconnect might not be an option. Picking up on vibration and energy becomes an essential skill in order to prevent energy draining – which throws off the mind/body/spirit balance.
These resources may help: