Tools For Enforcing Personal Boundaries

By Julie Fuimano, Personal & Career Coach

Has anyone ever spoken to you in an inappropriate manner? Often, we are caught off guard and are not prepared to handle these challenging situations. But whenever you are in a situation that's uncomfortable, it's imperative that you speak up; the person needs to know that their behavior is inappropriate and that you will not tolerate it.

When you say nothing, there is a negative impact for both you and for the other person. Saying nothing conveys the message that the behavior is acceptable; thus the person is more likely to repeat it. Saying nothing can also leave you feeling victimized.

Learning to assert yourself in a manner that gets your point across with grace and style is part of becoming a strong leader; it takes tools, a little practice and a lot of courage. Becoming assertive will build your leadership muscles and foster self-respect, as well as decrease your levels of stress.

What Are Personal Boundaries?

Personal boundaries are the limits you set for how others may act or speak in your presence. They are lines you draw that define your values. They are not walls to shut people out, but rather limits that keep the unwanted behaviors of others from entering your space. Boundaries are essential for personal health. They act as filters, permitting what's acceptable into your life and keeping other elements out. Your boundaries are about what others may say or do to you or in your presence.

Keep in mind that another person's offensive behavior is not about you even though it may feel personal. Another person's behavior is always about him or her and what thoughts she harbors in her mind. For example, if someone raises her voice, swears or speaks down to you, she may want power; she may need to be heard; she may want attention; whatever the reason, it's about her.

Identify Your Boundaries

First you'll need to identify your boundaries. Ask yourself how you want to be spoken to and how you want to be treated. What behaviors are acceptable? What behaviors are marginally acceptable?

Consider how parents do this with their children in order to socialize them and to help them grow. Yet, rarely do people leave childhood feeling they know how to stop people from hurting them. Our parents do the best they can; as adults, we must pick up where they left off. We are responsible for how we experience life and for how we allow others to treat us.

Take notice of your feelings. When a boundary is crossed, there is a definite physiological response. If someone's comments or actions make you uncomfortable, notice how you react. Notice and acknowledge the feeling. Note what the person is doing or saying that is causing this reaction and empower yourself by responding appropriately.

Express Your Boundaries

Once you are clear about your boundaries, you must educate people as to how to act in your presence. If you never tell anyone how to treat you, they will treat you in whatever way they choose. When you say nothing, you give your power away. It's one thing to confide in a co-worker, "I don't like the rude manner in which he spoke to me," and quite another to tell the person directly, "Please don't speak to me in that tone." When you assert your boundaries, you are telling others how you expect to be treated. This reflects basic self-respect.

You may become angry, frustrated or sad when a boundary is crossed. Don't suppress your feelings; when you suppress your emotions, you only hurt yourself by increasing your stress and expending energy on keeping the feelings pent-up, which eventually can cause physical harm to your body. On the other hand, you don't want to react inappropriately to your emotions either.

As a leader, you need to learn to identify the source of negative emotions and whether or not they were caused by someone's inappropriate words or actions. And you must learn to respond appropriately to ensure positive change.

Enforce Your Boundaries

There are several ways to assert yourself and enforce your boundaries. Here are some tools for you to use:

  • Inform by pointing out the behavior you find unacceptable. "Did you realize you were speaking very loudly?"
  • Make a request. "Please do not raise your voice to me."
  • Give instructions. "I need for you to lower your voice."
  • Warn the person. "You may not speak to me in that tone."
  • Make a demand. "Stop it! I demand you stop yelling at me right now!"
  • Leave. "What you are doing is unacceptable to me. I am willing to work it out with you when you are able to be reasonable. I must leave now to protect myself."

Being a leader means expecting excellence from others. That includes asking for and expecting others to treat you appropriately. When they miss the mark, you need to bring it to their attention. When you assert yourself and point out inappropriate behavior, you demonstrate leadership, exhibit self-respect and become a role model for others.

Julie Fuimano, MBA, BSN, RN is a Success Coach and author of "101 Tips For Developing The Leader In You!" Her passion is coaching executives, managers, entrepreneurs and professionals to achieve more - more money, more time, more energy, more fun and less stress! For your free consultation, visit Julie at, write to her at or call her directly at (484) 530-5024.

Search LifeTools for Women:

Free Newsletter Subscription

Subscribe now! Join women from around the world and get FREE tips delivered to your inbox weekly,


Judy Rushfeldt, Publisher


Reach Your Dreams!

Making Your Dreams
Your Destiny

by Judy Rushfeldt









About Lifetools
Privacy Policy
Re-print Policy

How to reach us
Writer Submissions




About the Author

 Family & Relationship
 Money & Career
 Fitness & Diet
 Personal Growth & Success
 Fashion & Beauty
 Justice Matters