Establishing personal boundaries is healthy and necessary. It shows who we are, our values and promotes fulfilling and loving relationships. I like to call it personal space, which reflects the individuality of each of us.
We like to have our boundaries respected, but at the same time, we must honor those of others. It doesn’t matter if we agree or disagree; they are not ours to change. But since mind readers do not surround us, we need to communicate how we want to be treated, so that they can conduct themselves accordingly. And when our boundaries are breached, we have to stop the person and make it clear that their behavior is unacceptable and that they have entered our private area. How often do we say something like “I don’t want to talk about it,” a subtle hint that the conversation is becoming uncomfortable, and the other person still pursues the subject? Subtle hints are not always recognized, and sometimes a clear and forceful response is needed.
When we are aware of someone’s personal space, respecting it and avoiding any infringement is a sign that we can be trusted. One example of respecting my personal space comes to my mind. I expect my computer to be private. It is password protected, but my husband has the password. He never opens my laptop, unless invited, and when he assists me with a technical issue, he stays only in that specific area. I trust him completely. I don’t think for a minute he would violate my boundaries. And I do the same for him.
Like most of us, I enjoy lively and healthy discussions. Many years ago, I formed a discussion circle in Europe, and we enjoyed debating various subjects. We were able to explore delicate topics like religion. We respected our different beliefs and values, and I can say that I came out of each session having learned something and having expanded my point of view. There is great value in sharing, as long as we respect others as unique human beings. Only by honoring other people’s boundaries are we able to appreciate diversity.
And then there are the perpetual infringers and unaware stumblers breaching our personal space deliberately or accidentally. When our personal space is violated, we feel hurt. An excellent way to stop this transgression is to communicate why we feel uncomfortable, and hopefully, our explanation is received with an open mind and a willingness to understand. Sometimes the violator doesn’t perceive that there is a problem or doesn’t want to listen. In that case, we have to realize that if we let the issue go, we have to be prepared that it will happen again. It is our choice. We can always look at infringements with a sense of humor and just tell ourselves “here we go again”!
Boundaries or personal spaces are tightly connected to our values. We can always change them if we feel that it is the right thing to do, but it should be our choice and ours alone. Having a Personal Space is healthy and helps define who we are so we can express ourselves in our uniqueness and allow others to do the same.