What are they, why are they important and what to do if others ignore or react negatively to them?
“Learning about boundaries and how to set them is an invaluable skill that will help you throughout your personal and professional life.”*
—Dr. Dana Gionta
Dr. Dana’s Boundaries Q&A Column
I look forward to receiving and reviewing your questions on boundaries – whether personal or professional! Once a month, I will be posting my answer to a question I believe many other readers also have. Unfortunately, I will not be able to answer all of them, however, you are welcome to contact me privately to discuss your boundary situation.
DISCLAIMER: The advice in this column is for informational purposes, and is not a replacement for seeking professional counsel, if needed. The use of any information provided in this column is solely at your own discretion. Dr. Gionta is not responsible for any negative effects resulting from your use of any information provided in this column.
Questions & Answers
QUESTION: “Is it okay not to respond to family/friends daily texts or emails within the same day?” - Michael L. January 25, 2019
Yes. It’s important that you first tune in, then honor what you are feeling when you receive the daily personal texts or emails. Is it feelings of obligation, overwhelm (another thing you need to do), frustration at the frequency of communication etc. First identify what specifically you are feeling and why, then identify what arrangement would be better for you – how you would prefer the communication to be (e.g. text, phone or email, and how often). After getting clear about this with yourself, then consider how you will address this in a respectful and caring way with the person. What you are doing is beginning to set communication boundaries around technology with others. This is important for many reasons. Too many distractions via texts, text threads, emails etc. can contribute to difficulty focusing, completing your goals for the day, or feeling burdened by the return text/email hanging over you. Over time, if you do not give yourself permission to set such boundaries with family members or friends, resentment is likely to develop.
Here is a script you can use (or tweak) to help you share your feelings in this and similar situations with loved ones:
“I love you and our relationship is very important to me. I want to share with you that lately I have been feeling overwhelmed/stressed/frustrated (pick 1 or 2, or insert your own feelings) by the level of text messages and emails I’ve been receiving.
For my own self-care, I need to better manage this by:
- Getting back to you and others in a time frame that works better for me. I’m finding communicating daily is too much at this time. Returning texts/emails every 2-3 days (insert whatever time frame works for you) is more manageable for me. I hope you understand. This decision is about my own self-care, not about our relationship.”
Example: If you normally speak daily, aim to reduce to 2-3x week, rather than immediately to 1x a week. By changing the frequency of communication more gradually, you are also showing consideration for the other person’s feelings and needs.
Have friends, clients or colleagues who could benefit from learning about boundaries and how to set them? Forward this Boundaries Q&A. They may have a boundary question of their own!
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