7 Ways to Set Boundaries With Friends (And When Should You do It)

Last Update on April 25, 2023 : Published on April 7, 2023
Ways to Set Boundaries With Friends

Friends are an important part of our life and if I’m honest, then they are important for our personality development too. These are the people – outside our family – with whom we share a relationship that is not only rewarding but positive and meaningful. The support provided to us by our friends helps us navigate life with fun, joy, and love. Our friendships keep us grounded and inspired.

Despite the many positive aspects of friendships, there are times when our friendship turns sour and leads to a bitter friendship breakup. In my experience, a friendship breakup happens when there are poor boundaries and no equal power balance. When my former friend refused to acknowledge my boundaries, it made me realize that a friendship without boundaries is bound to end – sooner or later.

Setting healthy and clear boundaries with friends might be a little uncomfortable, and frankly, awkward. But, look at it this way – in the long run, friendship boundaries enable us to reap better rewards, form stronger connections, and have a relationship where trust prevails.

Just like our other relationships, friendship boundaries allow us to maintain a steady and respectful connection with the people who might be closest to us and slightly more important to us than our family.

Let’s take a look at how to set boundaries with friends and when you should set friendship boundaries.

How to Set Boundaries with Friends?

How to Set Boundaries with Friends

Whether you like to acknowledge it or not, without healthy boundaries in a friendship, the bond you share with your friend is more likely to become fractured and, in some cases, broken beyond repair. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that setting boundaries with friends can be an awkward pursuit but not having friendship boundaries can cause your friendship to drift apart without any chance of reconciliation.

Here are some ways you can set boundaries with friends;

1. Discuss Your Feelings and Values

The first thing you need to understand about setting boundaries with friends is that it isn’t about hurting each other’s feelings or disrespecting each other’s values. In truth, friendship boundaries are all about letting your friend know the value of your friendship and the feelings you all bring into the relationship.

2. Explain Why You Feel The Need for Boundaries

The other thing you need to do is to explain to your friend why you feel the need to have boundaries. Sit with them and explain what has been bothering you about the friendship, what more you need from the relationship, and what they think about the need for boundaries. When you state your intentions to the other person, the likelihood of them dismissing the boundaries becomes less.

3. State Your Boundaries Clearly

This brings me to the next point. When you state your boundaries – whether they be intellectual, mental, physical, emotional, etc. – you need to be very clear and firm about them. Here, you need to be open and not vague. For example; your friend always dismisses your concerns so instead of saying, “I wish you would not do that.” say, “I need you to listen to my concerns and not ignore them.” Being clear and direct removes all possibilities of miscommunication.

4. Allow Room for Compromise

In some cases, you and your friend may have different opinions on the same thing. It’s quite normal too. Here, you need to allow room to admit these differences and come to a compromise. If you have boundaries then it’s also normal for your friend to have one too, right? Well, here you need to allow room for compromise. For example; if you prefer video calls, but your friend prefers texting, then you and your friend need to talk it out and come to a willing compromise, say, audio calls.

5. Be Careful with Your Language

If you’re worried about upsetting your friend with all these friendship boundaries, then this point can work in your favor. Try to be careful with your language. If you use “I” statements, it can help focus on what you need to say clearly. For example; if you’re uncomfortable with an outdoor luncheon, say, “I am uncomfortable dining out because of my social anxiety. Can we meet at your place or mine?”

6. Know What to Say and How to Say it

Another way to go around setting boundaries with friends is to plan what you want to say and how you want to say it. Again, this will help you calm your worries if you’re concerned about hurting your friend’s feelings. Try a role-playing activity with a family member or with your therapist before you speak with your friend. This way, you’ll be less anxious about the conversation and would be able to state your boundaries with confidence.

7. Seek Professional Counsel

Talking to a therapist or a counselor can also be a great help if you’re worried about setting healthy boundaries with friends. A therapist can help you explore your past and see what experiences from your past are contributing to your current friendship issues. They can also help you understand the types of boundaries you can set and give tips to stay calm and composed when you go to converse with your friends.

When to Set Friendship Boundaries?

When to Set Friendship Boundaries

Knowing how to set friendship boundaries can help you establish a healthy, loving, supportive, and meaningful bond with your friends. So, after understanding how to set boundaries, it’s time to understand when to set friendship boundaries.

Here are some common instances when you need to set boundaries with friends;

  • You are feeling too overwhelmed and emotionally drained

Along with your loved ones, you need to love and care for yourself too. So, when you’re feeling overwhelmed or emotionally drained, it’s OK to set boundaries with friends. Allow yourself to say, “I’m unavailable for an emotional conversation”. Trust me on this, if you are unable to care for yourself, how will you be able to help your friends? Make yourself your priority and allow some “me time” and self-care before you jump in to help your friends.

  • You are in a one-sided friendship

If you are in a friendship power imbalance aka in a one-sided friendship, where you’re putting in all the time and effort as well as your energy but getting nothing in return, then it’s time to set some boundaries with your friends. Tell your friend how you’re feeling and make it clear that a power imbalance is there in the friendship.

  • You and your friend have different communication styles

As I stated before, some people prefer different communication methods. Just because you’re friends doesn’t mean that you’ll have the same communication style. However, if you can’t reach a compromise and your friend constantly initiates the conversation in a mode, you’re not comfortable with, then it’s an instance where you need to set boundaries. Setting boundaries here will allow for better communication in the future.

  • Your friendship is toxic

Friendships, just like relationships, can be toxic as well. If your friends treat you less than you deserve, don’t support your mental or emotional health, and are abusive and emotionally draining, then it’s also an instance where you need to set boundaries. If it’s not acceptable to your friends, and if the toxicity continues, then you need to consider walking away from the friendship.

What Next?

Setting friendship boundaries is a daunting task and quite awkward, but remember, it’s important for your happiness and the longevity of your friendship. Any relationship – yes, even platonic ones – need boundaries to allow room for personal growth, development, and emotional stability. Establishing boundaries allows you to create a safe and non-judgmental space where you can be yourself and stay confident.

Boundaries with friends prevent resentment from festering, encourage self-care, increase self-esteem and self-confidence, and make you a better person (and friend!). Setting boundaries with friends not only encourages stronger bonds but also preserves your mental well-being.

If you’re struggling to set friendship boundaries, then you can reach out and seek professional help. A therapist can help you understand your needs, what you need from the friendship, and how to go about asking for just that. You can also learn how to set limits, say “no” in friendships, and develop effective strategies to improve your friendship.

I hope this blog helped you understand how to set boundaries with friends and when to do it. For more, you can write to us at info@calmsage.com or DM us on social media. You can also share your thoughts with us about friendship boundaries in the comments below.

Take Care!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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