How to Set Boundaries With Good Friends
Exploring the 5 major boundaries and ways to maintain them
When we have friends, we are often free to be ourselves around them. Yet, there are times where we are often afraid to speak our mind, worried that our friends will judge us.
When it comes to friends, we should not feel afraid to set some healthy boundaries. It is a scary thing to do, but it’s often needed, especially when you’re dealing with something that is bothering you, such as a friend unintentionally hurting you.
Chances are, your friend has no idea that they did something bad, and they won’t know until you tell them. A good friend will stay by your side, even when such conversations occur.
According to Debbi Carberry, a relationship specialist, healthy friendships involve feeling loved, respected, heard, and a lot of clear communication. This article explores how setting different boundaries and related communication can help.
1. Setting Physical Boundaries
Depending on your comfort level and personal space, you may need communication regarding physical boundaries to ensure that no one is bothering you. For example, what someone thinks to be a simple touch might be a lack of consent.
“It makes me uncomfortable when you touch my arm like that.”
As the National Sexual Violence Resource Center has indicated, consent is always important when it comes to friends. Set clear boundaries that others cannot touch your arms, legs, hair, or other parts of you. As mentioned earlier, good friends will stay with you and not be offended by your request.
You deserve that respect, just as much as anyone else.
2. Setting Emotional Boundaries
Emotional boundaries are often harder to set than physical boundaries because they are not easily seen. That being said, even though you are there for your friends and your friends are there for you, we’re not always in the right headspace to help those friends out.
For example, if you feel like you are drowning but your friend is also drowning, then you need to make sure that you are in your best state to better help your friends out. If anything, you can tell your friends that something is bothering you and that you need some time to figure it out.
A good friend will understand. Plus, you can always direct them (or even yourself) to another friend, a trusted adult, or even some other professional, including one of the active listeners or professionals on 7 Cups.
A good professional or helper will be that third-party resource that you can use when your friends are struggling to help you.
3. Setting Intellectual Boundaries
Intellectual boundaries pertain to our various thoughts, ideas, and rambles. We all deserve the space to be heard, without having others shut us down. It’s okay to not always agree with your friends. It’s okay to have a different opinion too.
When they speak, they talk. When it’s your turn, you speak. Good friends can be civil with one another and explore deeper issues together. If the topic is too overwhelming, you can let them know.
“Hey, I understand what you mean. I’ve always imagined this topic from another angle. I will need some time to research more on this and get back to you.”
When in doubt, just frame that difference as a source of curiosity, and use that to generate more or less discussion as needed. Besides, good friends will know that you need some time to research and reflect on the topic some more.
4. Setting Material Boundaries
Material boundaries are similar to physical boundaries but pertain to physical objects. When you have an item, perhaps you want to share it, and want to make sure that no one breaks or ruins that stuff.
Good friends will not just grab things and break them. They will ask you if they can use something of yours because otherwise, things will be awkward. On your end, you can make sure to emphasize how important those objects are to you.
“Hey, this thing is priceless for me. I don’t feel comfortable just giving it away, but if you wanted to, you can take a look?”
5. Setting Time Boundaries
Time boundaries are fascinating and pertain to when you agree to meet up with friends, whether it is online or in real life. In these cases, when you set aside time to meet with someone, you hope that they will honor your word.
For example, if a friend shows up late all the time for events, you might need to say something to give them accountability for their actions. As Thomas Bivins suggested, accountability promotes respect.
“I’m curious, you seem to bail on plans a lot. For myself, I only have that one hour available, and I cannot meet at other times. Can you tell me more about that?”
In conclusion, it is amazing to have friends that support you. A good friend will stand by your side, even when you healthily assert boundaries because that’s just what friends do.
With friends, you can set aside physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, intellectual boundaries, and material boundaries. When presented with uncomfortable situations, you deserve the space to be heard, and you let your friends know if something is bothering you.
SynSavory (she/her/hers) is an active, verified Listener who has been part of the 7 Cups listening community for the past 2–3 years. In addition to volunteering, Syn is pursuing full-time graduate studies as a student in counseling psychology. Currently in the practicum portion of her degree, Syn has the opportunity to engage with her passion for helping those in need using the skills she has developed on 7 Cups and during her degree.
Other 7 Cups roles she is interested in include being a peer supporter for other active listeners, posting in the forums, and safety patrolling. She is a Content Development and Marketing Program Graduate at the 7 Cups Academy. With a lifelong love of learning, it’s no wonder that Syn appreciates the experience this platform has offered her, especially when it comes to strengthening her writing skills. In her free time, Syn enjoys listening to music, doodling, and writing.