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Setting limits, or “boundaries”, can be tricky. It’s not always easy to make them clear or get others to respect them. But boundaries are important. They show people in a nice way what we need to stay safe and healthy. Boundaries also let others know what will happen if they ignore our limits.

Boundaries aren’t about controlling what other people do. And they aren’t about telling others what to do. A lot of times we mess up with boundaries. We might leave some out or not set any at all because we don’t want to upset someone.

But boundaries matter. They help us take care of ourselves. We just have to learn to set them in a way that is firm but still thoughtful of others.

Here are the six types of boundaries to set and how those could look.

Six types of boundaries:

  • Time 
  • Material 
  • Intellect 
  • Emotional 
  • Physical 
  • Sexual 


The old saying “time is money” has some truth to it because it means our time is valuable. In our fast-paced, modern age we are buzzing from one task to the next without stopping to smell the roses. We add more tasks to our list than we have time for, both at work and at home.

Here are what some healthy time boundaries might sound like: 

  • “I’d love to help volunteer but I’m already overextending myself.”  
  • “I have a lot going on this week, how about next week instead?” 
  • “I’m going to work out first.” 

Or if you’re on the “giving end”, these boundaries could sound like: 

  • “Do you have time for a phone call?” 
  • “You’ve had a busy day; how can I help?” 
  • “When your schedule clears up, let me know.” 


We all have items that are both important and necessary parts of our lives. But what if people want those things from us? Take the neighbor who is always asking to borrow tools, the sibling who is always needing money, the co-worker who asks to use an office supply only for it to end up in their drawer. We might all have an experience like those examples, so it is important to know where you draw the line with lending out your things. 

If you are not sure where to begin, here are some ideas: 

  • “You can’t borrow the power drill right now but tomorrow might work.” 
  • “I gave you money last week, I can’t do that again right now but would be happy to help in other ways.” 
  • “When you are done using my computer, please put it back on the charger.”

If you’re the one asking to borrow things, try asking these questions: 

  • “I really liked that blue sweater you wore a couple of weeks ago, could I borrow that sometime?” 
  • “I know you can’t donate money right now; how else would you be willing to help?” 
  • “Would you mind loaning me your paper hole punch? I will bring it right back.”


Intellectual boundaries are limits around ideas, thoughts, and views. This area can make people upset fast so while it is important to be aware of your own boundaries, it is just as important to respect the limits of others. The tricky thing about boundaries is that people may cross them by accident, before you’ve made your limits clear. This can lead to uncomfortable situations. 

Some ways to share your intellectual boundaries with others: 

  • “I respect what you’re saying, even though we have different opinions.” 
  • “I’d be happy to continue this conversation in private.”  
  • “Please don’t take credit for my ideas in the future.” 

Or when you’re hoping to respect other people’s intellectual boundaries you could try these: 

  • “Would it be OK to celebrate your success with the whole team?”  
  • “This is really important to me; can we talk about this later?” 
  • “Let’s stop talking about this subject for now.”


Emotional boundaries are about feelings and energy. If we see our feelings or energy drop, it is our job to speak up. At the same time, we should be careful not to cross into others’ emotional limits. We don’t want to make them feel bad or wipe them out either.

How to protect your emotional boundaries: 

  • “I am really overwhelmed right now; I am going to step away for a bit.” 
  • “When we are both calm, I’d love to continue this talk.” 
  • “I understand you’re upset but I will not allow you to call me names.” 

And be respectful of other people’s boundaries: 

  • “I can see that you’re upset, what can I do to support you?” 
  • “I’m having a really hard time; do you have the emotional space and energy for me right now?” 
  • “I’m sorry for saying things I didn’t mean when I was upset, that was not OK, and I’ll work on that.”


Physical boundaries are probably the most familiar. We know what physical boundaries look like in time and space. A fence outlines where your yard begins and where your neighbor’s ends. With your body, though, not everyone knows your physical boundaries. Beyond touch, are the physical needs to consider as well! 

Ways to express these boundaries: 

  • “I’d prefer if we greeted each other with a wave instead of a hug or handshake.” 
  • “It is great you are comfortable around me, but please don’t sit at my desk when I’m not here.” 
  • “Please take your shoes off at the front door.”

Or if you’re on the “giving end”, these boundaries could sound like: 

  • “I’m going to eat my lunch, so I’ll keep my camera off for the time-being.” 
  • “I have my dog with me, do you mind if I bring her in?” 
  • “You look upset, can I give you a hug?” 


Sexual boundaries are about agreement, permission, understanding, and respect. They apply to intimate acts, likes, and wishes, and keeping those private. Like all boundaries, sexual ones go both ways. You may need to have open and honest talks with others. These chats may be uncomfortable, and may be with people you know well, or you don’t know at all. 

Sexual boundaries mean deciding what you’re okay with sexually. Then making that clear so others understand and treat you with care. Setting these limits requires honesty. But it helps make sure you and others feel safe, respected, and comfortable. 

What sexual boundaries could sound like: 

  • “I really like you and I’m hoping we can agree to take things slow.” 
  • “You’re a great co-worker, but please don’t send me inappropriate texts.” 
  • “Before we go any further, we should get a health screening done.” 

Or if you are on the “giving end,” these boundaries could sound like: 

  • “Would you prefer to talk with the door open?” 
  • “I know waiting is important, we don’t need to rush.” 
  • “Thank you for getting tested.” 

Making boundaries can be hard and feel weird at first. That’s okay. You can work on speaking up for yourself. Learn to share your thoughts and feelings firmly but nicely. 

Setting limits gets easier with practice. Don’t give up if it feels odd or scary sometimes. Keep trying different good ways to make your boundaries clear. 

The goal is to set your limits while still being thoughtful of others. With time, you’ll get better at setting boundaries in a way that feels right for you.