I get it. It’s difficult. Do you ever feel like when you see that friend calling, you’re not looking forward to the phone call? Or after talking to this person, you feel drained? I hear you. It’s hard to talk to your friends about it, especially when you anticipate how your friend will respond. You worry that your friend won’t take it well and that will be the end of your friendship.
I’m here to tell you that it’s not easy, but that it’s not impossible.
Most likely, your friends will respond well to your setting those boundaries. So where to start? With you! Why do I say this? When we take the time for ourselves, we’ve grown accustomed to taking care of ourselves in all aspects of our lives, including in our relationships. So when we start with ourselves, it becomes more natural to trust ourselves and to assert ourselves with others.
This is all so abstract sometimes. What do we say to "set boundaries"? Let's say that you know that you will have a busy work-week, so you might tell your friend, "I can't meet this week. It's really hectic."
We might not know when we'll be ready to hang out with a certain friend. And that's okay.
Part of setting boundaries is listening to what feels good to you. So you might sink into that ambivalence, and when your friend asks if you can attend an event, you might say, "I'm not sure. Can I get back to you?" If you really want to hold yourself accountable, or if you feel pressured to respond, you might include when you'll make the decision, "Can I let you know by Friday?"
Empathize with yourself.
It is scary to set boundaries. Recognize that it does take courage to set a boundary, especially if it is not something that you’re used to doing. Acknowledge the possible guilt of stating what you need, and let yourself know how important and empowering it will feel once you do set the boundary.
Remind yourself that setting your boundaries is an act of taking care of yourself.
For all of us people-pleasers out there, you can let yourself know that sharing what you need is being of service to that friend: by stating what we need, we are not expecting the other person to read our minds. We are also giving the other person a chance to be held accountable for their actions.
When you set that boundary, we create that space for others to respect us.
Let’s say that we set a boundary with our friend, and she doesn’t end up responding positively to our boundary, it’s information. It can be revealing and difficult: our friend’s response lets us know if we want to continue that friendship, based on whether that person can respect our boundary.