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How to Set Boundaries With Friends

You may have a difficult time saying "no," when your old college buddy calls up and asks for help with a move, or you may not know how to end a conversation with a work friend who complains incessantly about her ex-husband or her new supervisor. The lack of healthy boundaries in relationships can leave you weary and frustrated. Strong boundaries, on the other hand, can help you enjoy the friendships in your life more.

Learn about boundaries in interpersonal relationships. You can read a book, such as “Boundaries,” written by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, or take a class at your local community center or junior college on healthy relationships 1. In "Boundaries," Cloud and Townsend, explain that boundaries encompass what is and is not your responsibility in relationships with other people 1.

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Identify the needed boundaries in your relationships with your friends. You may spend a little time brainstorming what these needed boundaries might be, and then create a list of the most important boundaries to establish and to maintain in your friendships. You may also ask for feedback from trusted friends or mentors as to areas in which you need stronger boundaries.

Begin to practice the boundaries that you have decided to establish. If appropriate, take time to discuss the boundaries you are setting with your friends and your reasons for defining those boundaries. In “Total Life Coaching,” authors Patrick Williams and Lloyd J. Thomas stress that you will likely need to inform them about your boundaries from the outset 2.

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Choose to continue to educate your friends about your boundaries in your day-to-day life. Even if you have already discussed the changes that you are making with them, Williams and Thomas explain you will likely need to continue to make direct requests regarding boundaries, teach adherence to boundaries and clarify consequences for trespassing boundaries.

Reevaluate how effectively your boundaries are working in your friendships on a regular basis. You may, for example, set aside time a few times a year to review the boundaries you have sought to establish and to consider how well you have been adhering to those boundaries. Seek feedback from a friend or counselor, if helpful, and make any necessary adjustments.


Do remain tactful and caring when you inform your friends about your boundaries. Williams and Thomas emphasize that “setting boundaries is not a means to ventilate…emotions.”

Do remain patient with yourself as you begin to set boundaries in your friendships. Like with any other skill, establishing and maintaining boundaries is a skill that you have to learn.