Dear style & substance,

My extended family has recently had a number of changes, not all good. I feel like I am being expected to meet some needs that I don’t really have time for and also don’t feel like it should be my responsibility. I haven’t really said no, because I don’t know how to do that without sounding mean and uncaring. Please help?

This is more common than you might guess! Made to feel obligated, manipulated by emotion or guilted into action are not sustainable relationship styles. Responses tend to be equally negative; avoidance, bitterness, and resentment which are not good looks or feelings.

A good indicator that you may need to assess and reset your boundaries is when your relationship with one person has the power to negatively effect your relationships with others. Boundaries are learned through time and experience and are directly related to personal power; when you do not set and maintain them, you are giving away your power.

The cells in our bodies serve as an elegant instruction manual for creating boundaries in our personal relationships. Cells have semipermeable boundaries; molecules flow into and out of cells as needed. This model can be used to help you create flexible relationships that allow for closeness but afford you distance and clarity as needed.

Boundaries demonstrate where you end and others begin and ought to be set, assessed and reset regularly. Thinking of self as the centerpiece, followed by intimate relationship, family, friends, acquaintances and finally strangers, gives you a sense of how to prioritize and align what is important with what you are willing to feel and do for yourself and others.

Thinking of your time and energy as precious and limited commodities will help in this overhaul and restructuring. YOU get to choose, and by speaking and standing on the lines you have determined, YOU teach others what you will and will not accept.

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others." ~ Brene Brown

Not setting boundaries is based in fear; we fear the loss of love, we fear we will make others angry, we fear disapproval, we even fear the loss of the good, caring, giving person we believe ourselves to be. Trust, courage and calmness are the polar opposites of fear, which simply sound like a better realm in which to operate.

Some easy concepts in getting started on setting your personal boundaries:

• Assess where you are frustrated or feeling taken advantage of.

• Trusting yourself, decide what would work better for you.

• Set a time and place to talk to those with whom you wish to reset boundaries.

• Set your own intention to be peaceful in body language and straight-forwardly calm in tone of voice.

Talk about what you can do as opposed to what you can no longer do and express that you want this to continue as a long term and loving relationship in which re-negotiating will periodically need to take place.

Do this without apology or lengthy explanation.

Ultimately, this tough conversation will lead to better communication and boundary setting with ease and great consideration for self and others. It will give you the time to replenish and recharge your body and mind, being better for what you will continue to give to others.