We all have had that one co-worker who always asks for favors, distracting you from work. Or a friend who has the habit of showing up at your door unannounced.
Some of us also know what it’s like to be in a toxic relationship where your partner suffers from pathological jealousy and controls every move you make.
What do all these people have in common? They overstep your boundaries. Let’s talk about the definition of this behavior and list some examples so that you can recognize it and deal with it.
What Does Overstepping Boundaries Mean?
It means doing something that goes beyond the lines of what you allow. It could be invading your personal space or getting you to do something you don’t want.
When someone oversteps your boundaries, you can recognize it by the feeling of discomfort you get. This person can make you uncomfortable with their disrespectful, intimidating, pushy, or nosy behavior.
Examples of Overstepping Boundaries:
- Someone asks you an embarrassing personal question
- Your friend shows up unannounced even though she knows you are having a romantic dinner with your boyfriend
- Your jealous girlfriend asks you to provide access to your Facebook account so that she can check your private messages
- Your friend makes you cancel your plans for the weekend so that you can join him at a party he wants to go
- Your boss threatens to fire you if you refuse to work late
- Your college friend acts needy, asking you over and over again to help her with an assignment, otherwise she will be expelled
- Your elderly mother meddles in your love life
- Your husband doesn’t let you go out with your friends
- Your friend brings random people to the private get-together you’ve planned, without even asking if you are okay with that
- Your younger brother asks to stay at your place until he finds a new job, but he never moves out and ends up living at your expense
4 Big Signs Someone Is Overstepping Your Boundaries
1. Their behavior is making you uncomfortable
We all have personal boundaries. They differ from person to person, but there is one thing in common–when someone crosses the line, we feel uncomfortable. It’s as if our cozy personal shell is brutally invaded.
Whether someone acts disrespectful, gets too nosy, or intimidates you, they leave you feeling uneasy and confused.
2. They make you cross your own lines
A person who is violating your boundaries can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do.
For example, an acquaintance acts rude, provoking you to get defensive and say mean things you wouldn’t normally say.
Or your girlfriend makes you go against your principles and asks you to show her your private messages. You agree to do that even though you believe that privacy should be respected.
So, when someone tries to make you do something you don’t want, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I overstepping my boundaries?
- Am I going against my beliefs and values?
- Is my behavior going beyond the lines of what I would normally do?
3. They don’t consider your needs and feelings
People overstep boundaries for many reasons, but selfishness is often the root. When it’s paired with a lack of empathy, a person doesn’t consider how their behavior affects others.
They need something from you and don’t worry about whether you have time and desire to do that or not. They get disrespectful and pushy without thinking how their words are making you feel.
You can clearly see it in situations when the other person ignores your opinion or emotional state and keeps pushing you to do what they want.
4. You may feel guilty and try to justify their behavior
Oftentimes, it’s our family and friends who overstep our boundaries. So, it’s not easy for us to accept the fact that what they are doing is crossing the line. For this reason, we are trying to put ourselves in their shoes and justify their behavior.
When your sibling or best friend gets pushy or intimidating because you refuse to do them a favor, you can start to feel guilty as well.
They are your family/friend, so you have to be there for them, right? You just have to help them–even if you need to disregard your wants to do what they ask for.
This creates confusion: on the one hand, you feel that you should say no and stay true to yourself, on the other hand, you feel guilty for not wanting to help someone you care about.
What to Do When Someone Oversteps Your Boundaries?
1. Voice your boundaries
It’s difficult to stand up for yourself, especially when you are an introvert. People of this personality type tend to feel awkward talking about their feelings, so they prefer to avoid difficult conversations.
Still, if a friend or family member repeatedly violates your boundaries, you have no other choice. You need to speak up for yourself and make things clear. Maybe they are not even realizing what they are doing, so you need to voice your boundaries openly and firmly.
Make sure to be polite and focus on the way someone’s behavior makes you feel. For example:
- Please don’t make such jokes. They sound offensive.
- Please ask me if I’m available before coming to my place. I have things to do, so it feels awkward when you just show up.
2. Don’t justify yourself or give in to guilt
When voicing your boundaries, it’s important to be clear and firm. If you start mumbling and justifying yourself, it will give the other person the upper hand, especially if they consciously overstep your boundaries.
So, avoid over-explaining your needs. Just say what kind of behavior crosses the line and why–in one or two sentences.
Also, you need to make sure you don’t sound guilty. This will weaken your point and make you seem the only guilty party.
For example, it’s better to say “I wish I could help you, but I can’t” instead of “I’m so sorry I can’t help you”.
3. Beware of people pleasing
Sometimes we unconsciously let other people take advantage of us. It happens when we constantly say yes and step on our own needs for the sake of pleasing others.
So, sometimes dealing with a friend or family member who oversteps your boundaries starts with yourself. Ask yourself the following:
- Do you say yes too often when you want to say no?
- Do you prefer to do something you don’t like so that people leave you alone?
- Are you prone to getting passive aggressive when doing someone a favor?
- Do you often feel unappreciated, like other people take you for granted?
If you recognize yourself in the above, read through our guide on staying true to yourself.
4. Be selective in your battles
As an introvert, I’ve faced a lot of random people who overstepped my boundaries at gatherings and parties. Some would ask uncomfortable personal questions, others would be too pushy about making me talk.
One lesson I learned from dealing with people like this is that avoiding talking to them altogether is going to save you a lot of time and energy.
Therefore, if a random person is overstepping your boundaries, sometimes it’s better to just ignore them. It doesn’t make sense to hash things out with someone you don’t care about.
For example, an acquaintance is asking you a personal question you don’t want to answer. Do you think it’s necessary to tell them how awkward you feel? Is it a good idea to give them a lecture on how inappropriate asking such questions is? Of course, not.
Instead, you can just ignore it or reply with a joke and change the subject. This reaction will still make it clear that you are not going to answer an inappropriate personal question just because someone happens to be too nosy.
It will show them that you are firm about your personal boundaries.
5. Accept the fact that some people will violate your boundaries no matter what
There are some types of people that just don’t feel where the line lies. This can be someone who is nosy, pushy, or lacking empathy. They don’t realize when they invade someone’s personal space, and sometimes they don’t even consider how their behavior affects others emotionally.
So, the best thing you can do is to stay away from such people. If you have an overly friendly co-worker who loves snooping into other people’s lives, you can choose to avoid personal conversations with her.
But what if it’s your best friend or parent who is a fan of crossing boundaries? Having such people in your friend or family circle can be a problem. It is particularly difficult to deal with siblings, parents, or grandparents overstepping boundaries.
In this case, you can still set firm boundaries and refuse to talk about certain subjects. For example, if your elderly mother meddles in your love life, the best solution is to not tell her a single detail about it.
If a friend or sibling constantly asks for favors or money, then you could limit your contact with them. When a person is used to living off others, it’s very unlikely that they will ever change. Therefore, if you are not ready to cut them out of your life completely, you can at least keep your distance.
The worst thing you could do is try to fix a person who has the habit of overstepping boundaries. Don’t waste your time. Be firm and consistent in maintaining strong personal boundaries and don’t let anyone violate them, even if they are your family.
Featured image by wayhomestudio on Freepik