NiceDay blog: Setting your own ground rules

Setting boundaries. You’ve probably heard how it can benefit you, nonetheless, setting boundaries is not easy for everyone. For some people setting boundaries is no effort, but for others, they are worried about being hurtful or eliciting an angry response. Setting and following your own ground rules can be very helpful. But how do you do that?

Do you identify with any of the following situations/feelings?

  • Your mother-in-law expects you to come and visit again. You feel reluctant, but you still go anyway.
  • You always listen to a friend’s depressing stories, but you can’t find enough space to tell your own story.
  • A dominant friend asks you to meet up again. You find it annoying but go anyway.
  • You cook for your family every day and feel angry that they never cook for you.
  • A colleague assigns you another task. You find it very annoying because you are already so busy, but you don’t say no.
  • You accept every invitation to a birthday, baby shower or wedding, but if it’s your birthday you don’t see these people.
  • When you meet up with your friend, you always have to travel further than them.
  • You are always on time, but the other is always late.
  • When a family member texts you, you feel obliged to respond quickly.

In other words, you feel like you are not taken into account, or that your boundaries are being crossed. This results in a frustrated and angry feeling; how can these people do this over and over again?! Try viewing it from another perspective; what do you allow and how do you position yourself in relation to the other?

Angry at someone else instead of being angry at yourself

Feeling angry with or because of someone else is not strange. These kinds of emotions have a  function. However, holding onto your anger can amplify feelings of anger. Poorly regulated anger can worsen situations and often ends up increasing your anger.

If you find yourself in the same situation over and over again you must create ground rules for yourself. In addition, it is vital that you are consistent with these ground rules.

Changing your rules

A good example is when a child asks you for a cookie and you say no 4 times, but the 5th time you eventually give in and the child gets a cookie. What is happening? The child learns: “If I ask often enough, I will get that cookie”. This is also the case with adults. If a colleague sees that you always say yes, then there is a good chance that that colleague will leave a lot of work to you. Time to change your own rules!

Examples of ground rules

  • I will take 3 moments a day to view and reply to messages.
  • When a dominant friend asks me to meet up, I will first consider whether I feel like it.
  • When a colleague assigns me a task, I first ask myself: “Does this belong to me?”. Then I will indicate whether or not I can do it and in what time frame.
  • If I meet someone who is always late, I will arrive 10 minutes later.
  • I will only go to birthdays that are important to me.

Your friends and family may need to get used to this

Most of the time someone is not out to cross boundaries or to hurt or anger you. However, family, friends and/or colleagues may have to get used to your new ground rules. Therefore you can expect some resistance when applying your own ground rules for the first time. Do not panic! Just keep following your ground rules consistently. They are not there to make someone else feel uncomfortable, but above all to protect your well-being. By setting ground rules people will learn more about you and what you are able and not able to do. 

What are your ground rules?

Ground rules can change and are different for everyone. Think about your rules and try to write them down.

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Sarah Goslinga

My name is Sarah Goslinga, psychologist and coach at NiceDay. It's important to me that you have a real connection with your coach and that you feel you can discuss anything. In my spare time I'm busy with producing music.

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