Our Guide To Respecting Others' Boundaries

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt your boundaries had been crossed? Maybe someone got too close for comfort or asked you about a topic you weren't comfortable discussing. It can be a jarring experience, especially if you've already set your boundaries in the relationship. This is why it's so important to give others the same respect. No matter how open and vulnerable a person may seem, everyone sets boundaries for themselves, and if you neglect to acknowledge their limits, it can be detrimental to your relationship.


Respecting a person's boundaries isn't just about keeping the peace; it's about ensuring a person feels comfortable, both physically and emotionally. It might be tricky to navigate a situation when you want to make sure a person's limits have been acknowledged, but you may need to clarify them. If you find yourself in this scenario, take a look at our guide to respecting others' boundaries to get you on the right track.

Figure out if it's really a boundary

If you start to notice changes in their behavior, such as texting less or bailing on plans, this may be more than a boundary issue — they might be pulling away. In this case, it's a good idea to sit down and have a talk about what's going on. Maybe they're going through something and are withdrawing from everyone, not just you. On the other hand, they may express concerns about your relationship, which is driving them to act the way they are. No matter the situation, be sure to validate their feelings so they feel comfortable opening up.


Should they have concerns regarding you or the relationship, try not to get defensive (we know it's easier said than done), as it will only heighten the tension. Instead, offer some suggestions for how you can fix the problem, even if that means taking a break from one another, or ending the relationship altogether.

Avoid bailing on the relationship

In a situation where your expectations don't align with your friend's, it's totally normal to feel hurt or embarrassed. However, this doesn't mean you should high-tail it out of the relationship. For example, maybe your new boyfriend isn't comfortable discussing his past girlfriends, and politely asks you to change the subject. In your mind, talking about your exes isn't a big deal, but that doesn't mean everyone else feels the same. You might be taken aback or feel guilty for asking, but that doesn't mean the relationship has to end.


In another case, you may have asked your brother how he's handling his breakup. If he shrugs it off, saying he doesn't want to talk about it, don't take it as a stab in the heart. Instead, take it as a chance to switch up the conversation to a lighter topic. Not only will this make your brother feel better, but it will help you release anxious, irrational thoughts as well (no, your brother doesn't hate you because you asked about Christine).

Don't push them to explain themselves

Let's say your friend just told you they got a huge promotion at work. Your first instinct is to give them a big hug to congratulate them, but when you lean in, they back away. You may have crossed a boundary you didn't know about. When your friend explains that you have, try not to take it personally. They've created this rule for a reason, and it might not be you. Perhaps, they've had a bad experience in the past with someone who acted out of line, and they want to make sure it doesn't happen again.


With that said, keep in mind they don't have to explain their reasoning, and that's okay. It's not your place to pressure them into telling you why that boundary exists. The same goes for you too. You don't have to reveal any information you aren't comfortable sharing, no matter how much a person may push and prod. Remember, "No" is a complete sentence.

Practice empathy

When a person sets their boundaries in the relationship, you may not understand why those limits exist. However, there's a chance you've reacted to a similar situation. Take a moment to think back on that time and remember how you felt or reacted. It might have been exactly the same as what you're seeing in front of you. If it isn't a shared experience, now is the time to put yourself in their shoes to get a better sense of their current state of mind. In other words, here is the perfect opportunity to practice empathy.


Empathizing with someone can improve your relationship because it creates a place of trust and understanding, HelpGuide explains. Respecting their boundaries builds that level of trust as well. Your friend, partner, or whomever is more likely to feel safe, knowing they won't need to feel on edge when you're together. Instead, they can relax and enjoy the time you two share.

Understand non-verbal cues

It's obviously easier to understand when you've crossed a boundary by someone telling you, but that person can also convey a message using non-verbal cues. This is particularly common amongst introverts, who may not be comfortable speaking up, says Introvert Dear. When someone oversteps their boundaries, introverts are more likely to use body language to express their uneasiness in the situation. For instance, they might cross their arms and avoid eye contact. They might back up or push someone away if their physical boundaries are being crossed.


It might be challenging to pick up on these cues at first, but the more time you spend around that person, you'll start to get the hang of when they feel uncomfortable, just by observing their body language. Take this as a learning experience to recognize what lines you may have crossed. If you're not 100% sure you've disrespected their boundaries, it's okay to ask.