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Setting Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries help define who we are and what we stand for. With the constant barrage of information coming from social media and technology, it is more important than ever to establish limits for ourselves and others to define what is acceptable behavior.


Boundaries should ideally be taught from a young age. Healthy boundaries provide children with a sense of safety and security. It teaches them how to interact with the world in a respectful and appropriate manner by setting limits and establishing consequences. When healthy boundaries are practiced from a young age, it allows individuals to develop a framework for learning independence and building confidence.


As adults, boundaries help us maintain a healthy work-life balance, allow us to prioritize self-care, and protect us from the stress and negativity that the actions of other people may bring into our lives. While some may think of boundaries as limitations, others define them as safeguards, personal standards, and the freedom to live within a self-established comfort zone.


Boundaries are both internal and external. Internal boundaries are guidelines we set for ourselves. External boundaries are those we set for how we allow others to treat us. Let’s examine six areas where it’s important for us to establish healthy internal and external boundaries.


Physical Boundaries


Physical boundaries refer to the space around our bodies and the limits we set on how others can interact with us physically. Internal physical boundaries may include taking care of your body by eating well and exercising. External boundaries determine physical limitations on personal space and body contact.


Workplace tip: Make sure your HR manual clearly outlines your organization’s expectations for physical interaction between team members!


Emotional Boundaries


Emotional boundaries involve recognizing and respecting our own feelings and needs, as well as the feelings and needs of others. As leaders, setting healthy emotional boundaries for ourselves and our team creates a safe, respectful, and supportive environment for all people to express themselves.


When our emotional boundaries are respected we feel secure, safe, and appreciated. Likewise, when we respect the emotional boundaries of others, we allow for an understanding of their unique feelings, perspectives, and experiences.


Workplace tip: If you find yourself in an emotionally charged situation, take a few moments to step back and observe the situation objectively and without judgment. Communicating your point of view to your colleagues should always be done in a respectful way.


Spiritual Boundaries


Spiritual boundaries can involve anything from choosing which religious or spiritual practices we engage in, to deciding which spiritual beliefs we do or do not share with others. Our spiritual beliefs are often part of what grounds us and gives us direction for how our lives should be progressing. However, discussions about religion and spirituality have the potential to escalate into conflict if our belief systems are not carefully communicated to others. Setting healthy boundaries in how and what we share is important to ensure our beliefs are respected.


Workplace tip: Use our Inclusion Planner 2023 to highlight religious holy days and cultural holidays that may not currently be recognized in your organization. Read more about how you can do that here.


Intellectual Boundaries


Intellectual boundaries ensure that we are not overwhelmed with information, misinformation, or irrelevant information. They can be established by limiting the amount of news we consume, being discerning about our sources of information, and setting aside specific times for learning and reflection.


As professionals, intellectual boundaries set a tone for productivity and teamwork. Respect should be shown for all opinions, ideas, and beliefs. Conversations should remain professional and should not involve malicious gossip or offensive language. Intellectual boundaries should also be set to protect confidential information.


Workplace tip: Intellectual boundaries are closely related to how your team feels appreciated for the skills, ideas, suggestions, and creativity they bring to the workplace. Schedule a lunch and learn with your team to have an open discussion about intellectual boundaries including how to protect their intellectual property and prevent others from taking advantage of their intellectual labor.


Financial Boundaries


Financial boundaries protect our own financial well-being and prevent others from taking advantage of us financially. Internal boundaries may include setting limits on how much money we are willing to lend or borrow, deciding what financial investments we are and are not comfortable making, or sharing personal financial information with others.


In the workplace, it’s important to ensure financial boundaries are clearly understood and that financial transactions are properly recorded and tracked to ensure accuracy and accountability. Depending on the size and type of your business, financial boundaries could include setting limits on employee access to company funds, implementing financial policies and procedures, and ensuring that all financial decisions are made with the best interests of the company in mind.


Workplace tip: Communicate clearly with your team what type of purchases need to be approved by the manager and any limits on the amount of money that can be spent on certain items.


Social Boundaries


Social boundaries help us define what kind of behavior is acceptable in different situations and give us clarity when communicating with others. One of the most important social boundaries is having clear rules and expectations for how you want to be treated. Many of the other boundaries previously discussed can be included when setting these expectations. We often associate social boundaries with the use of our time and energy, personal space, gossip or disrespectful communication, social events, and people that we choose to be around.


Workplace tip: Schedule a workshop with The Folke Institute to support your team members in effectively communicating boundaries and expectations to their colleagues and team members.


Setting healthy boundaries can create a successful and harmonious environment. It provides us space to be assertive and clearly communicate our needs, while also respecting the needs of those around us.


Show your team your dedication to respecting healthy boundaries and building an intentional culture where everyone feels safe and respected. The Folke Institute offers transformative learning opportunities to strengthen teams and establish a positive workplace culture. We look forward to connecting with your organization to build a tailored program that supports your organization’s specific needs.


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