In friendships, romantic relationships, family relationships, and with acquaintances either online or in reality, conflict can either be healthy or dysfunctional; you must learn the difference.
What are Boundaries?
They are the implicit limits we hold (well, or maybe not so well) in interactions with people.
These limits identify how we attend to our values, beliefs, and needs and how others attend to theirs.
In other words, boundaries are how we regulate and honor our standards with integrity.
Types of Boundaries:
1 Diffuse boundaries – loose and passive
2 Clear boundaries – firm and assertive
3 Rigid boundaries – extreme and aggressive
Ideal boundaries are clear and firm (b), meaning you are aware of what they are and you are able to articulate them and communicate them explicitly.
As you may be able to see from the definition of each boundary, the three levels parallel the three levels of communication styles (passive-assertive-aggressive), which I have discussed before in live periscope videos, e.g. Click for video
The nuance with this comes when we qualify boundaries with the significance of the relationship.
Here’s what I mean:
As an overall rule, you should be striving for clear, healthy boundaries in all relationships. However, this is going to be difficult when dealing with people who have unhealthy boundaries or with people who are clearly aggressive.
Aggressive types are those who want to impose their values, beliefs, and needs onto others because they cannot maintain their own intrinsic personal power over regulating their needs.
You cannot make them change their values and belief systems, or how they regulate them; you can only influence them indirectly by modeling your own healthy mechanisms.
If you can’t though, it’s essential that you are able to set your own limits, and potentially walk away. Let me unpack this a bit more.
Let’s take a look at the levels of relationships
Qualified by: online-real life; long term-short term; unhealthy-healthy
3 Romantic relationships
4 Familial relationships
The more significant relationships will be real-life, long-term, and healthy; whereas the least important will be online, short-term, and unhealthy.
Therefore those more significant will require more emphasis on clear, firm, healthy boundaries in order to maintain and nurture the quality of communication and interaction between them.
Loose boundaries are very rarely applicable, I can’t think of a context when it is appropriate to have loose boundaries, ever.
There is usefulness for rigid boundaries with less important relationships such as online, short term, unhealthy people that exist in any of the four levels of relationship.
You may need to have more rigid boundaries with less significant and more remote relationships especially the more unhealthy the person is.
For example, an online acquaintance may get a swift delete and block if they cross your boundary of respectful correspondence or positive interaction the shorter the connection has existed.
This behavior should indicate to you that they have poor boundaries and are aggressively impose their values, beliefs and needs.
Whereas someone you’ve been talking to for a while may get more leeway. This is also predicated on the severity of offensiveness.
A serious violation of your standard boundary would have a swifter consequence than a more subjective one.
I don’t know these people, we aren’t connected, but they have audited my social media for sometime and take opposition to my opinion towards a particular person and his values, beliefs and needs.
This person continues to engage in conflict, directly and indirectly by antagonizing this type of mob mentality toward me and others who disagree with him and choose to disengage instead (healthy boundary).
I automatically delete and block anyone I don’t know exhibiting behavior like this, whereas I would perhaps facilitate a discussion about the cause and possible resolution of the matter if at all possible if I had a more significant relationship with them.
(in reference to the first picture, clearly)
The implicit boundary here is this:
I refuse to clutter my life (whether online or in reality) with negativity and conflict that detracts from my growth and success;
or grossly violates my values, beliefs, or needs.
Unless I believe that there is positive and growth promoting potential in a discussion, interaction, or compromise I see no need to engage in negotiation with another person’s values, beliefs, or needs.
I have no need to convince anyone to change their mind about their values, beliefs, or needs unless I’m sharing my life with them, and that is limited to my life partner and children.
Even with life long real friends and family members, there is no need to find a compromise other than “accepting that we disagree” and “love them anyway”.
Recognize that unless you share a domestic living arrangement, it’s probably best to keep those relationships with others who do not share your same values etc.. as superficial, remote, and intermittent.
These are rigid boundaries to hold, but necessary as an actualized adult. You are responsible for your own personal excellence and you have full autonomy to be as stubborn and stagnant as you choose or as flexible and receptive as you want.
When dealing with toxic and reactive types, your peace of mind is the most important. Do what you need to do to honor that and maintain integrity to your values, beliefs, and needs first and foremost.
Anyone who assumes that you must engage with them on their terms or they will react derogatorily is a toxic, hostile person who you are better off without…
Cut them out, now!
Healthy flexible and assertive boundaries are best in interactions with others with the same quality who are in significant relationship to you.
For all others, don’t hesitate to uphold your boundaries more rigidly.
*Photo by Wil Bignal