I was talking to my sister one day when I realized just how lax my boundaries were.

Actually it wasn’t a real conversation. It was more of me venting about the fact that a friend of mine was making decisions for me and I didn’t like it at all.

My sister listened as I complained and then asked me, “So what are you going to do about it?”

Aaargggh! I thought I was the coach!!!

Anyway, this question from my sister made me stop and take a step back. It also helped me look at the situation objectively, something I wouldn’t have done if left to my own devices.

Truth be told, the reason why the friend looked like she was taking advantage of me had nothing to do with the friend. It had everything to do with the fact that I didn’t want to enforce strong boundaries with her.

When you don’t have boundaries or don’t enforce your boundaries, people take advantage of you. They also make decisions about your business and how you should live your life.

After talking to my sister, I called my friend and said ‘No’ to what she wanted. I didn’t give excuses, explain myself, or give other options. I just told her that it wasn’t possible.

Having taken so long to prepare my speech, I was shocked when my friend took it lightly, said, “OK” and then moved on to another topic. I had been expecting a totally different reaction.

I had spent lots of time worrying about her reaction. And that’s not even counting 3 hours of self-talk plus the sister-talk. And all my friend had to say was OK…

How To Create And Enforce Strong Boundaries

Many people, especially women and business owners, struggle with boundaries. Is this something you too are struggling with?

Do you find it hard to tell people “No”? Or maybe you have boundaries, but find it hard to enforce them in some instances or for some people.

Worst of all, is your business taking a back seat because you have many people clamouring for your time and attention?

Without strong boundaries, your business will struggle as you won’t give it the time and attention it requires. You’ll also not have time for yourself or your dreams.

Here are 7 steps to help you set and enforce strong personal and business boundaries.

1. Get clear about your limits

Only you know how far you want people to go. A good place to start is to identify your tolerance levels and the things that create negative feelings for you. Allow your feelings to help you set the limits.

This tactic helped me set clear boundaries about the kind of people I take on as clients. Previously, I used to take on everyone and had some really bad experiences with people I shouldn’t have accepted as clients.

2. Get clear about your values

Most times when we feel bad or react negatively to something, someone or a situation, it means that there is a core value that is being trampled on.

Anytime you’re having a negative feeling, pause and identify exactly what it is that is causing the negativity.

Then turn around and identify the value that corresponds to that negativity. These values are your boundaries.

In the example with my friend, I hadn’t realized that I valued my freedom and space. So it was important for me to be the one to make decisions about them.

3. Be direct with other people

Don’t be afraid to be direct with other people. Most of us grew up being told to be respectful and turn a blind eye when people upset us.

I can’t remember exactly what I was told as a child, but I am very careful not to hurt people’s feelings. So I end up never saying “No” and getting roped into deals and activities that I don’t want to be a part of.

It took a lot of courage to start saying “No” to my family and friends and there are still areas where I struggle. As I learnt from the experience with my friend, the other person probably wasn’t aware that they were making you uncomfortable and they are OK with your “No”.

4. Delay your “Yes”

Don’t say “Yes” immediately someone asks you for something. Learn to tell people, “Let me think about it” or “Let me get back to you tomorrow”.

This is a good stepping stone to learning how to say “No”. Also, it’s easier to decline later when you have the buffer of time.

If you struggle with boundaries, you may find it easier to decline requests or offers on phone as opposed to doing it in person.

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5. Become a broken record

When someone makes a request or offers you something you don’t want or like, you say ‘No’. If they repeat their request or offer, you simply say ‘No’ over and over until they leave you alone.

Children have perfected the art of saying ‘No’ and a lot of times they do get away with it. Sadly, we lose that art as we grow older.

This technique is a favourite with all my clients. Use it when dealing with someone who refuses to take “No” for an answer. It also works for people who’re on your case until you say “Yes” just to get rid of them.

One of my clients used this technique with amazing results. She had a friend who would hound her into acceptance and the experience was always draining.

We role played the broken record technique in one coaching session. From that moment on, my client started repeating her “No” whenever her friend started the hounding process.

The friend tried different tactics when she realized that it wasn’t as easy to get through to my client as before. Each time my client would respond, “I understand you, but I can’t.” The friend finally got the message and left her alone.

When using this tactic, remember not to explain yourself. The moment you start explaining or giving excuses, you give the other person room to batter you down.

So just keep repeating one sentence over and over until they get the message. Become a broken record and make ‘No’ a complete sentence.

6. Start with simple things

Start by setting boundaries on things that aren’t threatening to you or those around you. This will give you confidence and the ability to work on bigger boundaries that may seem scary at the beginning.

It will also get people used to you not agreeing to everything they place before you. With time, they will start respecting your boundaries and you won’t have to be very kali about it anymore.

7. Be consistent

Don’t jump all over the place setting boundaries and then allowing them to be broken. Be firm with other people and also with yourself.

A lot of times, it’s easier to allow a boundary to be broken rather than face the negative reactions you’ll get.

When you allow this to happen, it will be harder to start over again. You’ll also have opened the door wide open for boundary-breakers!

A Word of Caution!

As you enforce your boundaries, take care not to build walls around you and close off people. Also, ensure that you don’t set boundaries and then leave your gate open.

I set very strong boundaries the first time I learnt how to do it. However, some people were still able to override these boundaries with ease.

That drove me up the wall until my coach helped me identify the problem. She noted that while I had strong boundaries, I had also left the gate wide open.

All that someone had to do was find the gate. They walk right in and do what they want because they are in my inner circle.

With time, I’d get fed up of these intruders and blow up. These blow ups had negative consequences and also killed off valuable relationships.

That’s not a great place to be so create strong boundaries without building walls or leaving your gate wide open.

Your turn…

What has been your experience with personal and business boundaries? We’d love to hear from you in the Comments below.

(Image credit: Toa55 at Free Digital Photos)


    4 replies to "How to Create Strong Boundaries In Your Business And Personal Life"

    • Sam

      I like this message. And especially the caution about consistence. Often we have a set of rules/principles which we verbalise quite strongly, but aren’t consistent in follow-thru. What if we actually set goals and then strove to make them work? What is we simply decided to be great… then spent all resources in being great? What if we drew a line, and then ensured we never crossed it ourselves?

      • Caroline Gikonyo

        Thank you Sam for you comment and reflections. You’ve coined the challenge so profoundly that I’m ‘borrowing’ your questions and adding them to the content in our upcoming upcoming Goal Setting for Career and Business Success workshop!

    • Wangari

      This is a great article and so true Caroline.
      My greatest lesson on boundaries came from my daughter. For her no is an answer and when you try to push her beyond that, her answer is “Because I said NO!”. It was an aha moment for me and made me realize explanations beyond no open us up to people pushing our boundaries.

      • Caroline Gikonyo

        It’s amazing the lessons we learn from our children when we allow ourselves to. I love your daughter’s answer and the way it’s non-negotiable and complete. I wonder though how it feels like to be on the receiving end… Thanks for sharing this lesson Wangari.

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