Boundaries - the interview you want to fail

When criminals test a potential victim’s boundaries verbally, we sometimes call this process criminal interviewing. This is one interview that you want to fail.

Criminal interviews take many different forms. It may be verbal or physical. A man who bumps into you on a sidewalk where he had plenty of room to walk around you may be testing your reaction. Are you polite but firm and self-secure? Or do you avert your eyes and mutter an apology even though he was at fault?

Some boundary testing is done in more subtle ways. For instance, a new acquaintance may buy you a drink at a bar even though you said you had ordered a sparkling water and didn’t want a drink. Does he often ignore your requests or preferences? Does he expect you to finish the drink he ordered even though you said you didn’t want one?

Boundary violations can be mental and emotional, violating your self-determination and comfort zones. Your partner may pressure you to ski a certain double black diamond ski-run with him even though you made it clear that you aren’t comfortable skiing that run because it is extremely steep and narrow. Does he continue to pester you throughout the day to ski the run with him? Do you stick with your preference or do you give in so as to appease him?

Boundary testing can also be part of economic abuse. A new roommate at college may constantly fail to pay her share of the rent on time, relying on you to cover for her and falling further and further behind. She may have a new excuse every month, and manipulate you with complements about your compassion, generosity, and kindness.

Flattery is often used to manipulate people to give more or do more than they are comfortable with. When someone complements you take a second to think about the complement. Is it a genuine expression of admiration without any motive of influencing you to do something or give something to the person giving the compliment? If so, you may want to accept it graciously and move on to another subject. Or is the complement a disguised suggestion or demand that you give more of your time, expertise, or resources? Is the compliment genuine or is it used to manipulate you to do something you don’t want to do. For example, is a co-worker telling you that you that you are so much better than she is with certain clients so that you work on a difficult project that she wants to avoid?

Setting, guarding, and enforcing our boundaries doesn’t only keep us safer from criminals; it can also make life easier and protect us from people in our every-day lives that try to take advantage of us economically, socially, or otherwise through testing and violating our boundaries.

Think about your life. Are there people in your life who are violating your boundaries? How do they test your boundaries? How do they violate them? Can you articulate their behavior? Can you name their violations? Why do let them violate your boundaries? What do you need to do to set your boundaries? What do you need to do to enforce your boundaries? What makes it difficult for you to set your boundaries? To enforce them? What can help you in setting and enforcing your boundaries? 

Brigitte Schulze