Express Yourself

two people sharing their boundaries with each other

Expressing when our boundaries are being pushed or crossed can be hard. It can be uncomfortable or feel unsafe to voice what our needs are in the moment based on the person(s) or situation we are in.

It can be helpful to have a few “go-to” phrases ready that you can use if you feel comfortable or uncomfortable in the moment. For example:

Offer preferences

  • "I like …"
  • "I don’t like …"
  • "I would prefer …"
  • "Yes"
  • "No"
  • "I’d rather not …"
  • "I am the kind of person who likes …"

Honour your truth

  • "I don’t want to be awkward or anything but …"
  • "I don’t like that …"
  • "It hurt my feelings when …"
  • "I care about you, but I am not willing to …"
  • "I changed my mind …"

Let people know your limit(s)

  • "If you keep yelling at me, I am going to have to leave"
  • "I think you are cool, and I want to hang out, but I am not up for x,y,z …"

Ask for emotional space

  • "I need some time/space ..."
  • "It’s important to me …"
  • "I don’t want to talk about …"

Offering alternatives

  • "It's too bad I can't make it to your birthday party, can I take you out for lunch instead?"
  • “I am not feeling like …, can we … instead?”
  • “I am not interested in …, but I would try …”

If you aren’t feeling comfortable you can

Ask for time

  • "I need time to think about it"
  • "I will get back to you"
  • "I need to go for a walk, and I will be back…"

Get physical distance

  • Leave
  • Move away from
  • Stay in a different location
  • Move your body away

Use non-verbal communication

  • Looking away
  • Being silent or not responding
  • Not giving eye contact

Get help from others

  • Relying on other people you trust to help when boundaries are being crossed
  • For example, you might make a plan with friends before you go out about what to look for to know if someone is uncomfortable and what kinds of intervention is ok to use.

There may be times when people will be disrespectful when it comes to your boundaries and continue to push or look for ways to get around your boundaries. In dangerous situations like sexualized violence there are many ways to express what your boundaries are and maintain your boundary in a way that the person may not notice. In this kind of situation we are talking about how to maintain your dignity and bodily autonomy. This means different things to different people.