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Day 22. Stating Boundaries & Outlining Consequences Part 2

Following part one, today’s lesson focuses on the outlining consequences part, which is often the part that people leave out altogether because they don’t want to appear ‘rude’, or ‘demanding’ or ‘uppity’, or… as if they’re going to follow through.

When you let a person know what the consequences are or will be if things continue as is, you are letting them know what the effects and results are or are going to be. When you outline consequences, something is going to change on at least one side because:

  1. You acknowledging what the consequences are or will be is you being boundaried and getting grounded. It allows you to ensure that what you say matches what you think matches what you do.
  2. If in spite of letting them know, the issue prevails, you, stating your boundary and outlining the consequences (and following through), minimises this person’s impact on you. You will not have behaved as if the boundary did not exist or as if it was only their responsibility to shift in the dynamic.

Consequences need to be real, not BS ones. Don’t position it as a threat. You must be willing to follow through. Know the results of your boundary being crossed.

The consequence reflects what you’re going to do in order to protect you and know your own line.

Choose consequences that reflect the boundary.

If the person genuinely acknowledges the issue and expresses remorse and wants to resolve because they accept that a relationship of this kind is unworkable for you, there are other consequences.

CONSEQUENCE: I no longer want to discuss _______ with you because when we try to talk about it, you ________. (They may agree to this plus in letting them know why, they have the option outside of this interaction to consider the feedback. They’ve been given a perspective on how they come across. They can either discern anything useful or choose to ignore, but not on your time.)

CONSEQUENCE: The next time it comes up, I won’t be participating / I’ll go home.

These two types of consequence have worked wonders with my family. I highly recommend them. For instance, I told my mother a few years ago, that the next time she decides that she wants to cut me off after an argument, that she’d better stay gone because it was unfair not just to me, but also to her grandchildren who were getting old enough to recognise her absence. It stopped.

You have a right to choose what you want to talk about, what you want to do, what you want to put up with. No one has the right to tell you that they ‘should’ be allowed to speak to you however they want or do as they want. That is a one-sided relationship, and that’s a code red alert.

There are also positive consequences that are often forgotten.

It’s easy to focus on what seems like a negative consequence – that person’s name-calling being curtailed or apparent censorship but the positive benefits is that you have a mutually respectful relationship plus, for instance, in the name-calling example, you get to feel safe, and that should be of greater value than free reign to call you names.

CONSEQUENCE: If we can’t find a resolution for this, we’re going to have to call it a day.

FINAL CONSEQUENCE: We’ve now had several discussions about you shouting at me and calling me names. You assured me that things would change, but they haven’t, and so I have no choice but to walk away. I meant it when I said that I could not be in a relationship that doesn’t have mutual respect. Despite me letting you know what I needed, you still need to respond in that way.

Remember that some consequences are action

If someone does something physically inappropriate, you report them and/or remove yourself out of the situation. An under-reaction would be to do nothing or to blame you.

If you’ve already said it numerous times, you opt out.

If you’re in danger, don’t negotiate. Protect yourself.

Sometimes though, certainly on anything that’s heading into code red territory, you have to keep it simple.

I’d like you to stop doing this / Stop doing this / Stop!

If for example, a partner ends your relationship to be with someone else or they claim that they don’t want a relationship and then try to poke around in your life or tap you up for sex, the consequence is that you stop engaging with them. The consequence isn’t that you get annoyed, upset, etc., (that’s the effect on you) or that you tell them how you feel and what is bothering you (you’re stating your boundary). If you don’t do something or get specific about what needs to change on both sides, the problem is going to continue, and you will experience natural [negative] consequences due to having either kept quiet or only gone part way. And they, in still continuing to have the opportunity, do not experience the appropriate natural consequences and it is not clear on both sides that your boundary is your boundary. In the ex example, for instance, if you did speak to them about it, you wouldn’t even need to let them know what your needs are. Just state where they’re over the line and what the result is – that you’re out. That your door is closed.

The TAKEAWAY

  • Consequences end up being two-fold just like boundaries. This means you are free to stop worrying about imposing upon others because you’re setting the boundary for them and you.
  • Consequences let you and others know what you are and are not open to.
  • If the consequences are unclear, then you don’t know them either. Ask, What am I remaining open to?
  • If you are not consistent with boundaries or you contradict what you’ve claimed not to be OK with, that person will get the message that there are no consequences or certainly none that he/she needs to be concerned about.
  • Cutting a person off or ending things is not the only consequence available. Sometimes cutting off is seen as ‘easier’ than setting boundaries because the latter requires more vulnerability. That said, you could, of course, end it with someone who, like the example, called you names in an argument, especially if you hardly know them or it’s accompanied by other code amber and red behaviour. That would not be a disproportionate response.
  • Boundaries open up the options available to you and allow you to be in command of how you want to feel and what you want to do going forward.
  • Note that the not participating or going home option is not a threat; it is a natural consequence that does not have to be hostile. The reason why it’s effective is that it’s an action that lets the person know the limits. Look at other parts of your life where people talk about and do all sorts of stuff and you self select, not through a big explanation but via your choices, how far they can go with you.
  • A reminder with consequences is: If I don’t like this and it’s not acceptable, why am I saying and doing things that infer the opposite? What needs to happen next for me to be boundaried?

    JOURNALING: How do you feel about consequences? What were the feelings and thoughts that came up? Is there a part of you that feels scared of outlining consequences because of where you will need to step up for you? If so, explore your feelings on this with compassionate inquiry. The Releasing Exercise in your Resources will help you zone in on any negative experiences of outlining consequences or having people say/show no to you.

    TASK: Using day 21 and today’s lesson, write out some short scripts for dealing with some of your boundaries and see how you feel while working through them. Do you feel anxious? Reassure you. Say it in the mirror or do a role play. It’s good fun!

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