With the holidays upon us, I thought it would be appropriate to have a discussion about boundaries. Because the truth of the matter is this. Your to-do list is about to birth holiday quadruplets, and your schedule now includes a ton of time with extended family. (And that is not always easy.)

Family is the source of so much love and support. It can also be the source of a great deal of angst and unnecessary drama. We’re all spoon fed this picture of holiday bliss and togetherness (especially now that we live in a social media age), but in my work as a life coach, I’ve found that family stories are a lot more complicated than that.

Everyone has a rulebook they use for life. Your rules tell you what’s okay, and what’s not okay. They guide your behavior, and they dictate what you expect from other people. This would work great if everyone played by the same rules, but (of course) that’s not how it works. People’s rules for life differ as much as people do.

When you think about rules in this way, it makes sense that gathering a large group of people together (even when they love each other) is going to result in some level of dysfunction and conflict, doesn’t it? While there’s little you can do to control the presence of challenging circumstances, you are totally in control of how you respond to them.

I want you to respond on purpose, so today I’m going to teach you how to set boundaries. A boundary is a behavioral fence. It helps you define limits for others, and it helps others define limits for you.

Hear me now. Relationships without boundaries do not work. They create misunderstandings, and breed resentment. (So it’s really important that you deal with setting boundaries, even if it makes you uncomfortable.) Let’s master boundaries in our current episode of GrooveTV. Press PLAY already. You’re in charge of you, remember?

Step 1: Stop being so nice.

How many times a week do you say yes when you mean no? Admit it. It’s a big number, isn’t it? Are you constantly doing things you’d rather not do? Do you agree to help when you don’t want to, or accept invitations to events you’d really rather not attend?

Stop it already! Stop saying yes when you mean no.

Stop turning yourself into a pretzel of niceness. Here’s the thing, if you’re doing something for someone because you wanted to be nice, but you’re secretly stewing the whole time you’re doing it, that’s not nice.

If you’re so frustrated by your yes that you’re complaining about it to other people (aka talking smack), well that’s not nice either.

Instead of being nice, be honest.

Tell the truth. No, you can’t make that work. No, it doesn’t work for you to host the entire family at your place for a week. No. Period. No explanations required.

Saying no and setting boundaries is difficult, but it will save your sanity. Be real instead of being nice. Your life will thank you for it.

Now for the nuts of bolts of just how to do that…

Step 2: Name your change.

To set a boundary you have to get specific. You need to put your finger on exactly what isn’t okay with you, and name precisely what you want instead. You also need to get clear about consequences.

You can build your boundary by answering these five questions.

  • What isn’t working?
  • What do you want instead?
  • What do you need the other person to start or stop doing?
  • What will you start or stop doing?
  • What will happen if the other person isn’t willing to change?

Once you know what you want, it’s time to…

Step 3: Ask and ask the right person.

The only way to set a boundary is to communicate. I’m gonna level with you here. You’re going to be uncomfortable. You need to do it anyway.

Before you lay it on the line, make sure you’re talking with the right person. Most of the time when you have an issue with someone, you’ll set the boundary directly with that person. This is not the case if you’re dealing with a family unit (which is kind of what kicked this whole blog off, right?)

While the need for boundaries exists in all parts of life, they get most complicated within the family unit. Families are complex ecosystems. These scenarios typically include long histories, high stakes and emotional landmines. They need to be navigated with care.

The rule I follow when working with a client is that the person from the original family unit is the person who should set the boundary. (So if the boundary needs to be set with your mother-in-law, your mate would be the one to set it, because that’s his mom. Love to mother-in-laws.) This approach helps you avoid emotional landmines and achieve familial peace, which is the whole purpose of setting a boundary in the first place.

Boundaries buy your freedom. Be brave. Start building them, and know that this doesn’t have to be a big dramatic deal. In fact, boundaries don’t even need to be set in person.

If you’re having heart palpitations at the thought of making your request in person, or you’re talking yourself out of having a conversation at all, set your boundary in writing. Think letter, text or email. (Never social media. Keep it classy).

Breathe. Allow your thundering heart to quiet and your shaking hands to still. Write the email. Send the text. Set a time to have the conversation.

Once you’ve set your boundary, expect some testing. That’s normal. A couple of my other blogs can help you make your boundaries stick, and say no like you mean it. You are strong and brave, and you can do this. Even if you’ve never done it before. I promise.

That’s it for the week. Remember that I never want you to blindly take my word for anything. Only you know what’s right for you. I just happen to have a few coaching tools that can help you get closer to that wisdom. Give this lesson’s advice a test drive in your life, and let me know how it goes. There are three ways for us to interact.

  • Comment in the comments section below.
  • Chat with me on on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn.
  • Email me if you have something more private you’d like to ask. My personal email is kim@kimberlyfulcher.com. I’m the only one reading your messages, and it’s always me answering them.

My mission is your empowerment. That’s why I’m here. If you haven’t already joined my community, please do it by entering your email (www.kimberlyfulcher.com). Until we meet again, know that life is happening for you.

And you got this!




  • Avatar Emilia says:

    How do you know your boundaries are valid? How do I make sure I’m not trying to get people to conform to how I think they should behave while setting boundaries?

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Hi Emilia! I apologize for my delayed reply. I somehow missed your message. You ask such a great question, and while it certainly can be a little bit of a gray area, I use this rule.

      A boundary is a request for a person to change a behavior that is DIRECTLY AND NEGATIVELY impacting you. I.E. Asking your neighbor to call before she comes over – instead of just coming whenever she feels like it is setting a boundary.

      When we try to control how another person behaves WHEN IT DOES NOT DIRECTLY IMPACT US. That is not a boundary. That is control. Telling you neighbor that you’d like her to dress a specific way when she visits would veer out of boundary territory and into control.

      Boundaries are about protecting our well-being. Input that advises another person how they should live or conduct themselves – when it’s about THEIR LIFE, not their IMPACT on our life is not a boundary.

      Does that make sense?

      You’ll find your way through one boundary at a time. And I’m right here if you need support.

      You’ve Got This!

  • Avatar Julie Johnson says:

    Thanks to your wonderful coaching thus far, I’m already a step ahead this Thanksgiving. I chose to host at my home so my family isn’t running all over trying to fit everyone into one day. Now the only boundaries I need to set are with myself about how stressed I’m going to over everything being perfect. (Taking a breather to sit down and listen to you is a good start!)

    I love how you have each session in video and written form. I watch you, then I read the blog. Great combination! & Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Avatar Kimberly says:

      HI Julie,

      How on earth did I miss your comment before? I’m so sorry to replay late, yet…I hope this arrives at the perfect time. What’s Thanksgiving looking like for you this year?

      You’ve Got This!


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