Which way do you figure out boundaries in the world?
We’re talking boundaries today.
I know how huge a topic this is, but I wanted to share a little theory I’ve been playing with lately around how I better understand myself and others. Specifically, in how we to figure out other people’s boundaries in the world.
I was reflecting on why with some of my relationships- clients, friends, family members- there’s never been an issue around healthy boundaries- they’ve simply always been intuitively honored between us.
Whereas with other relationships (even though I trust they are well-meaning,) I experience a fairly consistent “testing” of my boundaries and I feel the need to “protect” my boundaries more often.
My theory is that there are two kinds of ways we figure out boundaries in the world- and depending on which type you are your experience with others varies greatly.
I made a quick video sharing these two types of people…
I would love to hear your thoughts about which one you believe you are and whether this distinction sheds any light on relationships that feel more challenging to you in your life. Let me know in the comments below 🙂
Here’s to more ease and grace all around,
That’s really interesting! I’m definitely a boundary predictor, to a fault. I’m growing in my ability to deal well with strong boundary bumpers, but it takes time! My oldest daughter is definitely a boundary bumper in personality, and she takes it well when you tell her (nicely) she’s hit a boundary. I find my boundary predictor children don’t take it as well when they are informed they “goofed” and hit a boundary. It’s like they feel they messed up and are upset that they hit a boundary at all (I think they come by that honestly.) 🙂
Ohh, Amy- that’s a fascinating insight around how a boundary predictor feels when they are told they bumped into a boundary. I can completely relate. There is such a huge mix of strong emotion when someone feels they need to clarify a boundary with me (mortification, indignation, sarcasm) it all rears up- but they are all really there, likely, as a way to simply beat myself up for “goofing” like you said because predicting boundaries is something we tend to feel good at and feel as though it is our responsibility to do. Such a rich perspective- thank you!
Is it possible that one can be a boundry predictor in some relationships and a bumper in others. I feel that I am mostly a predictor. In some relationships however I might just be a bumper, my sister recently accused me of bullying her! Could that mean that I’v come up against a bumper or am I one too.
Love the whole idea.
I wanted to ask this, too.
I think that’s hugely possible, Brid. In fact I can imagine that for some of us the dynamic of the relationship may bring out a different way we are comfortable interacting and exploring how we “fit” together. I also think that even as a predictor you can be interpreted by others in their own way, because of their own stuff sometimes. Just because predictors have the intention of figuring out someone’s boundary before they hit it doesn’t mean we are always right about it 🙂
I’m loving these nuances to think through.
I’m a boundary predictor. I have a brother with Aspergers (on the Autism spectrum) I am interested how this works with less socially aware people. He thinks people should know his boundaries and gets annoyed when they bump his boundaries but he doesn’t read social cues very well and is a frequent bumper into offer people’s boundaries.
Felicity- I think that would be a fascinating area to explore, too…what innate skills are necessary to be a predictor vs bumper? Interesting…
I work with individuals who are wired differently. I work with some people on the autism spectrum and with others who have what some people call “almost autism” (sensory processing disorder). I have found that nearly all of my clients have significant boundary issues and challenges with establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. The bit you mentioned in your video about self-awareness is SO true. There’s a treatment approach called DIR/Floortime that focuses on the development of relationship skills and the impact of “individual differences” in how we are wired. That model teaches (and I have seen it in practice) that self-awareness is absolutely crucial for becoming socially aware and being able to take others’ perspectives into account.
I am a predictor, without a doubt. I have a son with Aspergers and he lacks the language and insight for this . He is a boundary bumper – in fact, a boundary ‘crasher’- if there is one. He often offends others and does not know it has happened unless someone VERY directly describes the problem to him. It happens more when he was young, but as he gets older, people simply avoid him. Any advice on how to “train up” the skills of a predictor?
It’s such a great question…but I tend to wonder if we need less to train bumpers to be predictors but rather help us all become more aware of the best ways to preserve who we are while interacting with those who are “otherly wired” than us.
For example, I don’t think you can train the way a predictor picks up on a host of nuances in someone’s body language and tone in order to assess their boundary– but I think bumpers could learn how to better ask others , “Just checking in – are you comfortable with xyz?” or “I’d love just stopping over unannounced- but are you ok with that? I’m happy to call before I come over if it feels better to you.”
Likewise predictors have such a hard time (sometimes) just being honest about a boundary and clearly communicating it. We tend to gloss over and twist ourselves like pretzels before simply say, “Yes, I love having you over AND it would be awesome for a quick call before you do stop over so I can make sure I’m feel ready to hang out”–
Just a quick example that comes to mind. I think (1) we have to honor how we’re wired, and recognize it as a strength and then (2) realize that we can learn skills to help us be who we are more successfully in the world as we interface with many different kinds of people everyday 🙂
Love this advice, Lisa!
Wow, this is a great insight! I can apply it immediately to one or two of my closest relationships. It gives me hope that we can interact with less friction…thank you!
You’re welcome, Michelle! 🙂
I am more of a bumper. My husband is definitely a predictor. This opens up a whole new insight. I like to know what the boundaries are and then, to a fault, I respect them. I would like to hear more about how bumpers can grow toward predictors. I’ve never felt very comfortable in relationships and maybe this is a clue. Would love to hear more.
Hmm…I wonder if we can actively “grow” into a different mode or if it is a better path to understand how our natural mode plays out in the world and strengthen supplementary skills around that to find more ease and clarity in communication with different people?
I’m definitely a boundary predictor, but I can handle others clarifying boundaries with me well. I’ve come across some boundary bumpers in my life that when I’ve clarified my boundaries to them it was the end of our relationship. And there are some bumpers I’ve had to end relationships with, because regardless of how clearly I communicated my boundaries, they chose not to respect them.
Mmhmm, nodding, nodding.
Yep, me too.
Yes, I was wondering this same thing. This has been my problem. But I suppose these rules only apply to people who can generally function in society and do not suffer from mental illness and irrationality.
Brid, I have the same question! I can see that in family relationships I tend to have very poor boundaries both in how I treat people and in how I allow them to treat me. As a boundary predictor I am scared to stick up for myself and explain my boundaries, for fear of retaliation/pain. Not only that, but I tend to predict the boundaries of others and take on that burden of people pleasing and peace making!
I have a couple of boundary bumper friends that really match your description – they are always cool with me expressing a boundary (once I get up the courage to do so!) I have had to learn that they are fine with me being as direct with them as they are with me!
I think poor communication patterns established at home when I was growing up stick with us. Even though in my family most of us are probably boundary predictors we can be aggressive and act like boundary bumpers, which never ends well!
Fascinating topic and ideas. Thanks for sharing, Lisa.
Carole, I hear you- I also think boundary predictors that don’t feel healthy confidence within themselves can come across passive aggressive in many interactions.
Wow, wow, wow! Spot on Lise! Wonderfully resonant and insightful.
As a boundary predictor I often wonder why others can’t just “predict” where my boundaries are and then respect them. When they don’t I get hurt.
As you said self awareness is key. When I recognize that I have come in contact with a boundary bumper the responsibility is on me to kindly express without judgment or resentment that my boundary has been reached.
I relate also to what Amy said that as a predictor I feel guilt and shame when I bump into another predictor’s boundary. But maybe rather then berating myself for the mistaken prediction I can focus on the opportunity for compassion and insight that can happen in the relationship.
Hmmm… very thought provoking Lise. Thanks for sharing.
Love that distinction and perspective shift, Shelly- maybe when others clarify their boundaries we can practice receiving it with compassion and insight- beautiful!
Lisa, this is hugely insightful. I had a very rough friendship a few years ago and it was over this exactly! I’m a predictor and she’s a bumper and even asked for me to clarify my boundaries because that was the obvious problem. At the time, I didn’t even know that was okay to do! I think I must come from a family of predictors. 🙂 To complicate things, I was new to pastoral ministry so I thought that being available all the time was part of my job. I didn’t have proper boundaries set up in my mind, but they were still there because I knew they were being transgressed! It’s still hard for me to voice them but I’m learning. My unhealthy coping strategy is withdraw and avoid.
I’ll have to think about my kiddos. Wondering if there may be some bumpers in the mix and if that might explain a lot of my frustration. Thanks so much for this, again, hugely insightful for me!!
For myself, ending a relationship with a boundary bumper that refuses to respect the majority of my boundaries, even though clearly and politely informed of them repeatedly over many many years, has been completely transforming! I can finally breathe…and I can hardly remember the last time I felt that way!
I am wondering that if a child is raised in a home that is opposite of the way that child is wired, it could cause confusion, especially if the child’s innate way of dealing with boundaries is diminished or not honored.
Reflecting on my upbringing, I can say that yes, this can lead to very unhealthy family dynamics.
Lisa, this is such an eye-opener, I’m blown away by how much it explains in my relationships with others that I haven’t been able to look through so far. I would also like to thank all those whose insightful comments dig even deeper into this matter. I can really identify with a lot everybody is saying here.
I guess I’m a predictor myself and tend to withdraw to my own safe space whenever I cannot defend my boundaries effectively. This probably leaves the other person puzzled as they cannot figure out what happened, nor can I explain it to them.
I hope to be able to improve situations now that my eyes are wide open for this feature! Thanx again for all the meaningful output, Lisa.
I agree- awesome convo happening here!
I’m a “predictor” I suppose on these terms. So perhaps this is a “passive/aggressive” response. I think that boundary bumpers (I’d call them boundary pushers) “assume” that people like to be invaded, crowded, & suffocated while boundary predictors naturally treat others with respect rather than pushing themselves onto other people.
B- I get you- and I think it is important to recognize that there are always “extremes” of personalities on each end where it feels as though the “good will” is not really there regardless of how someone is wired.
There are people who don’t care about boundaries which, I believe, is different than figuring them out by bumping.
I would say as a predictor, though, I’ve often mistaken people’s motives simply because I didn’t have the courage to be clear about my own boundaries and when I did their loving and respectful responses really surprised me and helped me see how much I was projecting and assuming before actually exploring what was true.
I have to admit I found this video confusing. I kept hoping you would give a specific example of what you meant. For example, I’m not sure how a “bumper” might bump into another person’s “boundaries” except of course in the very literal sense of bouncing off the walls of their house. And a predictor doesn’t have to predict the house boundaries because they are right there visible for all to see.
I know, it’s a metaphor. I’m just not sure for what. Sorry I’m being stupid, but I really didn’t know where to take this video because I didn’t understand it.
Of course you are not stupid- totally appropriate to simple say, “hey, I don’t get it- do you have examples to help flesh it out for me?” If that’s where you are coming from, I’d love to offer an example 🙂
An example that comes to mind is something that happens to many of us- some people in our lives- could be acquaintances or friends or relatives will bring up a conversation that we feel is personal and maybe we aren’t comfortable with.
For example, “When are you guys going to get pregnant again?” “Why doesn’t your husband try to get a higher paying job?” stuff like that.
For some of us, those inquiries may be fine- for other they feel as though they are a boundary issue. The very *asking* of them feel like an imposition.
To a boundary bumper, the question ITSELF is their way of testing where the boundary is (often SUBconciously)…another bumper may respond, “Ha, good question, but a little too personal for me to really talk about.” and calmly drop it and move forward with a nice conversation.
A predictor, not skilled in handling direct exposure of their boundaries may freeze, get uncomfortable, waffle, get angry and resentful, respond with indifference or snark all because they feel the question ITSELF was a breach of a boundary that should have been ASSUMED.
A predictor that is learning how to navigate relationships with people not wired like them may feel uncomfortable but then take their own discomfort as a sign of “Oh hey, that’s a boundary for me…how can I calmly express this is a boundary and I’m not willing to go there”…and may need to LEARN how to respond with a “I can understand your questioning but that feels private to me…but what about you- tell me what’s new with you?” That kind of response won’t feel NATURAL at first to a predictor- but it’s one that needs to be learned.
A bumper can learn the kinds of Qs that SOME people may find offputting- and perhaps learn how to navigate conversation in a way that opens dialogue with less direct questioning.
Quick thoughts on an example- and of course boundaries cross over soo many areas of our interactions but hopefully it opened up the dialogue a little more.
Thanks so much for asking!
I loved this and especially at the moment. I have a family member with me and she is a bumper to a T! And I am a stealth predictor. So figure that this can be a bit stressful at times:) Your video and piece really helped me. I love it when you give me such wonderful pearls of wisdom. I can waste so much energy being irritated by little things and just need to move on. Thanks again xxx
I think I’m a boundary predictor. My sister, however, is definitely a boundary bumper! We have many conflicts at times!
Oh goodness yes, I also have had to navigate sisterhood with very different boundary personalities too 🙂
Generally, I’m a predictor of other people’s boundaries (I don’t like the discomfort bumping against them) but I’m explicit with other people about my boundaries, because I don’t like the discomfort of them “bumping” against me. Basically, I’m always trying to minimize discomfort, to varying degrees of success 🙂
Sounds like someone quite skilled in boundaries all around 🙂
I’m definitely a predictor and (as another commenter describes it) to a fault.
By this I mean that I predict someone’s boundaries and then insist on holding to them even if it means never exploring the possibility of growing a relationship in a way that I’d like.
An example would be… “I’d really like to be friends with her. Maybe I could ask her to coffee. But, we know each other from work… would that be weird? Some people don’t like to socialize with colleagues…”
Sometimes I’m insistent about honoring where I initially predicted a boundary might be even beyond the other person indicating that the boundary isn’t really there.
Gah! I frustrate myself sometimes. ?
Anyway, this is a great insight. Thank you for sharing, Lisa!!
Oh I hear you Amanda- we can really circle in on ourselves can’t we?!