These space invaders have no idea what personal boundaries are all about! But here are a few ways you can deal with them.
We’ve all been there. We all know at least one person who doesn’t have any respect for personal boundaries, or space – or the people who set them. Sound familiar? You’re not alone.
Why do people not respect personal boundaries?
There are many psychological studies on the idea of personal space. How close is too close? When is too much, just too much? The underlying truth is that, unfortunately, people who are manipulative, narcissistic, and have a poor sense of self, tend to be the repeat offenders in violating personal boundaries.
In a recent study by the University of Western Ontario, there could actually be evidence that suggests a difference in special awareness and how it varies from person to person. In other words, those who believe they are too close could be too far for someone else!
Space invading is a real thing
The research team from the University looked at behavioural patterns of fruit flies – which actually have a very similar genetic makeup to humans. The findings show that the levels of dopamine can determine how much space the insects need.
When too little dopamine was released by neurons, the insects wanted to get away from each other. The opposite came about on the release of too much dopamine. The study has proved crucial in explaining certain social cues for people within the autism spectrum and people with schizophrenia.
The problem is, setting personal boundaries can often be a problem in itself. We expect others to respect those boundaries, but when they don’t, what can we do about it?
Psychologists Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend wrote a book called Boundaries. In that book, they outline behavioural research that results from those who are unable to enforce boundaries. It can lead to resentment and the breakdown of friendships – even if the other person has no idea they have broken any personal boundaries.
Particularly, we are at risk of breaking those friendships when we feel powerless to express our anger and feel like we’ll never be able to change anything.
This is by far one of the biggest challenges that people have with personal boundaries; figuring out what to do when someone repeatedly violates them.
Here are a few ways you can deal with them:
1. Be strong
It’s easier said than done, and many of you may think that you have already tried. But, before you do anything else, make sure you continue to set strong, consistent boundaries. This is the part you control, as you can’t necessarily control the responses of others.
Then you need to make sure you are recording how successful you are at setting those boundaries. If you start to notice any areas that are faltering, make sure you are clear with yourself about what treatment you’ll accept and what you won’t – as there may be a need for compromise somewhere.
However, again, this will rely on you to be strong because people will quite often have a tendency to set clear personal boundaries in their mind and then allow it to be pushed back and pushed back.
2. Agree to disagree
This one is extremely difficult, but it is also one of the most important things in setting personal boundaries. You need to accept that some people will not respect your boundaries no matter what you do.
We may think that we can conquer anyone and when you can’t, have to accept the difficult decision of defeat. This is even worse when the person not respecting your personal boundaries is a close friend or colleague.
But you can’t change someone else’s behaviour. You can choose to accept it or you can choose to disengage and detach from the outcome – in other words, move on with your life!
3. Don’t be a people pleaser
What happens if you live with the person who is violating your personal boundaries? Maybe they are a relative or friend who is giving you unwanted attention, but you cannot afford to move out, or it is not practical to live elsewhere.
When the boundary violator is in a position of authority, this is perhaps the hardest situation of all. It can be made worse if others pressure you to stay or minimise your feelings or the harm you’ve experienced because that could become toxic.
You may even find that not everyone will be supportive, but this is not the time to be a people-pleaser. It’s not healthy to stay in contact with someone who causes you harm in order to make someone else happy.
Remember, setting boundaries is a form of self-love and self-respect in itself. If you don’t love and respect yourself, others won’t either.
4. Be true to yourself
Dealing with someone who repeatedly violates your boundaries is about identifying your choices and trusting your instincts. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. Setting boundaries sometimes means that others will be angry or offended by your choices and sometimes, you cannot continue to have them in your life.
Make sure you are truly setting clear, consistent boundaries. Remember it’s understandable that sometimes you back down, feel tired or overwhelmed, and don’t follow through with your boundaries.
Boundaries need to be especially clear and consistent when you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t respect you. Such a person is looking for holes in your boundaries and using them against you.
So, be sure you’re assertively and clearly telling the boundary violator that this behaviour is not OK and follow through with consequences!