17 Ways to Tell Someone to Respect Your Boundaries Without Being Rude

Bubble baths are not the true self-care—boundaries are. Boundaries help you maintain a sense of self in a world that can chip away at you. While it can get uncomfortable, setting boundaries doesn’t make you rude or “the bad guy.” You just have to know the right way to do it before you’ve been pushed too far.

I’m currently focused on another task; can we discuss this later?

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Working from home, I’ve said this many times. People get excited about what they want to say or feel that their priorities need to be yours; this lets them know you’ll discuss it, but you need to finish the task at hand first.

I won’t be coming to this family celebration if you continue to critique my body in that way.

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Body shaming is the example here, but it can be anything your family digs into you about. If it makes you uncomfortable, let them know it will no longer be tolerated, with a set consequence if they violate your boundary again.

We know you mean well, but we’re different. Can you respect the difference?

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This is usually a big one with advice. People will give you advice through their lenses—their experiences and personalities. That advice won’t always work for who you are or what you’re going through. Thank them for their perspective, and move forward.

I need some more time to process this. Let’s revisit this later, after I’ve had a chance to think about it.

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Needing time to think when hit with big news is normal. Setting the boundary that you need time to think about something can help you process and come back to the discussion calmly and logically. In the end, it’s better for both parties, so don’t be afraid to make them wait.

I can’t agree to this. You have to meet me halfway on this issue.

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In a negotiation, you’re not required to lose what you want for the other party to be comfortable. Let them know what you’re not going to agree to, where you’re willing to compromise, and what you need from them.

I’m not available.

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This phrase can be critical in your work and personal life. Clients and bosses can feel as though you “need” them and can use that to take advantage, knowing you won’t say no. Reminding them you’re “not available” outside a set timeframe keeps you in control. Same with friends—they can sometimes forget you have a life outside of them. This is a firm but gentle reminder.

I need you to play on your own for a little while.

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Setting boundaries with your children is crucial for their understanding and respect of boundaries later in life. Dr. Parmar suggests “caregivers of younger children use this phrase when they have to take care of something else, such as cooking or another child. It gives children the specificity they need and empowers them to do things independently.”

I appreciate your interest, but I’m not comfortable discussing my personal life at work.

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This line can save you from an overly friendly boss or co-worker. Keeping a clear line between your work and your personal life can keep who you are outside of the office from affecting anything inside the office.

I’ve designated this area as a work-free zone to maintain a work-life balance.

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With so many people working from home now, it’s inevitable for work to bleed into life because you feel like you can’t get away. Create a space in your home where no work is allowed: no physical evidence, and no talk of it. This is why they say to never do bills in the bedroom; you need a place to relax.

I need to honor my own needs, so I can’t commit to that right now.

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OK, you do have time on your calendar to add in that one more event, but you need a day to decompress. Don’t feel guilty about telling people no if you need to. Having free time doesn’t automatically make you available for someone else, and that’s OK!

I feel valued when my personal space is respected.

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The opposite, “You make me feel unvalued when you don’t respect my space,” is accusatory and will often lead to a negative reaction. Saying, “This is what I need to feel good as a person,” is easier to hear than saying, “This is what you’re doing that doesn’t make me feel good.” Brené Brown says, “Clear is kind; unclear is unkind.”

Let’s focus on the facts and remain calm in this discussion.

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When dealing with someone who turns to name-calling or emotional warfare during any disagreement, this statement can be key to keeping things on track. Make sure to not accuse them of being overly emotional, as this generally creates a more volatile situation.

I understand my boundaries may take time to adjust to, and I appreciate your patience.

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“Having healthy boundaries means ‘knowing and understanding what your limits are,’” says Dr. Gionta. We don’t always set boundaries upfront in relationships. Often, they develop or are vocalized over time as the need arises. Sometimes, after vocalizing our boundaries, we need to act with a little grace, allowing the person time to adjust while still standing firm in the line we’ve drawn.

I see that you’re trying to help me, and I appreciate your concern, but I’d like to handle things on my own.

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Showing that you see someone trying to show kindness while also rejecting their efforts is a delicate art. By telling someone you acknowledge their desire to help, it eases the blow of not wanting their help at this time.

I’m informing you that I’m stepping back from this relationship for my own well-being.

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Sometimes things need to take a break or hit a full stop in a relationship. It’s not necessary to explain to someone all the reasons you need to step away. If it’s best for your mental health, that’s all that needs to be said.

We have a different approach to managing things in our home, and we would appreciate it if you could respect our choices.

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This one is for all the new parents out there. For some reason, the birth of a child brings out the unsolicited advice of friends and strangers alike. No, it’s not rude for you to explain to your mother-in-law that you wish to do things differently than she did.

No.

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No further explanation is required of you when you turn down a request or answer a question with “no.” The word “no” is a complete sentence, and you have every right to use it to set your boundaries.

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