Explanation Sounds Like Negotiation
One of the places I see boundaries go haywire, not honored, or generate pushback, especially when folks are new at honoring their boundaries, is the explanation. A trip-up I see with folks working on their boundaries is the “why”. In an age where were told to know your “why”, explaining your reasoning and rationale around a boundary seems decent. Kind, even.
The trouble is, explanation can sound a lot like negotiation. It can sound like you’re not exactly sold on your story so you’re trying to justify your “no”, “yes”, or whatever is being articulated about your boundaries. This is especially true when on some level you don’t know if you really deserve this boundary, aren’t sure how to articulate it or have misgivings about being taken seriously.
You don’t need to get buy-in for your boundary to be valid. No one has to agree with you for your boundary to be honored. I think a lot of folks try to gain consensus on their boundaries before they move forward with them. Not that it is needed (and yes, it does make it easier) but people won’t believe your boundaries if you don’t believe in them yourself. Explanations can sound more like looking for approval than knowing your values.
What can you do instead? Be clear. When an answer isn’t clear it becomes confusing. When someone isn’t used to you having this boundary, or not used to hearing “no” (or what you might be trying to say) being clear and concise will help them not just to understand what you’re stating but will also help them believe you.
When you’re honoring your boundaries, try just stating your bottom line, the thing you would arrive to if you boiled it all down and stripped away any explanation.
It’s not a just a matter of “not owing someone an explanation”; it is a matter of believing yourself and honoring what is true for you.
But is this kind? Absolutely! Kindness is in the clarity. Letting folks know where you stand helps and the lack of ambiguity is kind. And as always, if your kindness doesn’t include yourself, it is incomplete.
An explanation has its place and is helpful when you want someone to understand. That’s profoundly important. These conversations are often the tipping points in relationships. BUT, often not everyone is ready for that conversation. Ourselves included.