Written by Dylan Gerstley

Set boundaries to improve your relationships

As professionals, we talk about leadership a lot, especially in the context of our careers. But leadership is equally important for students and young people who are making choices that will affect them for the rest of their lives. We’ve said it before…we need more young leaders.

That’s just one of the reasons Rob Siegfried, our CEO and Founder, created Siegfried Youth Leadership Program™ (SYLP). SYLP helps young people develop the leadership qualities they need to have a successful future. We bring this up because at a recent SYLP event, Jessie Funk, a motivational speaker, author, and singer, broached the topic of how leadership can and should be used to improve relationships.

Strong communication = stronger leader

In middle and high school (and for some of us, college), we’re generally just anxious about having friends, and might not think too hard about who we pick. As a result, there’s a good chance a little bit of toxicity wiggled its way into our friend group. But once you notice the toxicity, it’s crucial to get rid of it.

That doesn’t mean getting rid of the person. (Although it could.) Instead, Jessie encouraged the students to think about ways you can communicate more clearly.

Most of us — adults and young people alike — would benefit from improving our communication skills in some way. Jessie shared that a life-changing improvement is learning how to set boundaries.

Setting boundaries

Boundaries help you maintain healthy and mutually beneficial relationships with the people in your life. Strong individual leaders let others know when they are uncomfortable by setting clear, healthy boundaries. Instead of worrying about how others see you, voicing your discomfort sets a precedent for how they should interact with you in the future. Not to mention, it also helps eliminate what makes you uncomfortable or unhappy.

Jessie gave the following example of a boundary-setting statement: “What you’re doing is making me uncomfortable. I don’t like it, and I don’t deserve it. Please stop.” 

Setting boundaries will work wonders for long-term relationships as well. Just think about it: rather than dreading that one thing, communication around the issue helps establish what works, just as much as what doesn’t. Instead of marinating in negative emotions, active leaders communicate boundaries and protect what makes the relationships great.

Be kind, but firm

When it comes to communicating boundaries, especially to someone you care about, Funk explains that people can be kind, but firm. The people you surround yourself with influence your happiness. Communicating to them without offending them establishes your expectations, while also protecting your friendships.

The old saying goes something like “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Talking about what makes you uncomfortable or setting a boundary is a calm and polite manner will go a long way in maintaining the respect, and protecting the feelings, of the person in question.

Your relationships are only as strong as your communication. So, don’t be afraid to set boundaries politely and respectfully. It helps everyone! And consider sharing this advice with the young people in your life: children, nieces and nephews, cousins, students…whoever!

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