10 Ways To Deal With Someone Who Doesn’t Respect Boundaries

You know that your loved ones just want what’s best for you, but what if someone you’re close to is actually toxic? Someone who keeps stepping over your boundaries even after you’ve laid them down shouldn’t be allowed to get away with that behavior regardless of your relationship. Here’s what to do to put a stop to it.

  1. Take yourself out of the situation. Sometimes the best way to deal when your cousin or BFF needs your help even though you told her you were busy with an important and stressful task is to take yourself out of the situation, at least for the time being. Switch off your phone so you can’t receive their dramatic texts. Sometimes you just have to put yourself first without hurting anyone.
  2. Don’t fall into their trap. Someone who wants to push your boundaries will try to manipulate you. They might guilt you into helping them or doing what they want. It’s easy to fall into this trap, especially if you’re not used to saying no, but you have to stick to your guns and see what they’re trying to do. If you see that they’re trying to control you, then this will actually make it easier for you to take a step back from them.
  3. Don’t use vague language. One of the most important ways to stick to your boundaries without falling into the person’s trap is to avoid using vague language. Words like “maybe” or “perhaps” can derail things fast. Instead, stick to clear and consistent language. When your loved one says that you’re taking their teasing too personally and you need to lighten up, saying “I don’t like it” or “I feel attacked” is much more powerful than hemming and hawing.
  4. Don’t give up. If you’ve just recently put a boundary in place, such as saying “no” to a loved one, this could throw them off. They might be surprised, pick a fight with you, or guilt you for taking a new stance. Don’t give up if it seems like they won’t respect the new you. It takes time for them to adjust, but they will.
  5. Don’t show them that you’re hurt.  Yes, you want to use your feelings. You want to lead with your feelings when you speak, like by starting sentences with “I feel,” so that you don’t come across as aggressive. But, you don’t want to show toxic people that you’re hurt by them. They thrive on this. If they can’t get you to do something and it pisses them off, they’re likely to make you feel sucky about it – they want to get a reaction.
  6. Set a deal breaker and stick to it. Having a deal breaker in place and alerting them to it if you feel they’re about to push your boundaries tells them that you won’t stand for their behavior. So, for example, if your toxic loved one likes to steam-roll over your opinions in a fight by name-calling or shouting, telling them you won’t stick around to listen to them unless they’re calm before they engage in that behavior will be helpful. It’s like jacking up your boundary with a stronger one to give you extra protection!
  7. Remain as calm as you can. This is a really difficult one, but it’s really worth it! If you can remain calm and cool throughout your dealings with the boundary-pusher, this will make things much better for you. The toxic person won’t be able to use anything against you, such as the fact that you’ve shouted at them. They can’t turn you into the bad guy. But more importantly than that, they’ll see that you really are serious about your boundaries.
  8. Remember that you can only control yourself. You might wish that your manipulative loved would change and stop ignoring your values, but let’s be honest: you can’t fix anyone so don’t even try. All you can do is state your case with them and then stick to your boundaries, no matter what they do. You can only control yourself.
  9. Don’t laugh it off. Although it’s sometimes said that you should laugh off someone’s comments because they’re just looking for a reaction, this can backfire. It’s not easy to pull off laughing – they might still see you’re hurt. Even more importantly, it’s worse to pretend you’re unaffected by their crappy behavior. They’ve crossed a line. Don’t let them think they can get away with it. Tell them, by focusing on your feelings, why you’re angry by what they do and how you won’t be disrespected. This will help you to maintain your boundaries. If you laugh off their behavior, you’re giving them mixed messages.
  10. Consider cutting them out completely. If you always feel like you’re not being heard or respected, then you really need to take some time to figure out if it’s worth trying to save this relationship. It’s just not bringing you any joy.
Giulia Simolo is a writer from Johannesburg, South Africa with a degree in English Language and Literature. She has been working as a journalist for more than a decade, writing for sites including AskMen, Native Interiors, and Live Eco. You can find out more about her on Facebook and LinkedIn, or follow her on Twitter @GiuliaSimolo.