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Audio VideoThe Be Factual Approach can also be used to state your boundaries and outline consequences when approaching a TFM about unreasonable requests and behaviour. It will also address unreasonable expectations which is when they indirectly or directly communicate via actions and/or words that in order for you to be on good terms with them, that you need to accept boundary busting behaviour and situations.

When you need to state a boundary and outline consequences, start by explaining the situation as you see it, i.e. flagging up their behaviour/problem.

Use the Be Factual Approach and state and summarise what they did.

It’s tempting to skip to the feelings or go straight to stating your boundary because you might assume that they ‘must’ know that they’ve done something wrong or hurt you, but take nothing for granted and approach this as a dialogue where you want to operate from a position of respectful assertiveness.

Remember that how you see and do things isn’t how others do things so you need to adjust and recognise where these differences are showing themselves.

It also gives it context. “I don’t like it when you make those mean comments”, is a very valid complaint but context shows the specific behaviour and incident that’s contributed to what you’re saying.

Summary example:

When we were talking, it felt as if you were trying to let me know that you were unhappy with something I’d said/done and [whatever was reflected in their body language]. You said ___________ and ____________ and I found this hurtful and unfair. What did you mean by these comments?

Note, if you have an aggressive TFM, it is at this point where they are likely to make a firm attempt to throw you off base. “What’s wrong? Having a bad day today?”. While any TFM could pull a variation of this, an Absentee, especially if they’re narcissistically inclined or a Power Player, are especially prone to this. Don’t rise to the bait. It has nothing to do with you having a bad day or whatever it is that they’re throwing in.

Try not to drag in side issues unless the experience of this has given clarity to something else that they’ve done that you had not been sure about at the time – we don’t always recognise a boundary issue when it happens. A side issue would be bringing in stuff you’ve quietly been pissed off about but haven’t addressed. On the flip side, if something happened in the past that you didn’t realise was part of this issue but this issue has given clarity, that is different. Example:

There was that time when we went to ________ and we were talking about our _______. Afterwards, you would hardly speak to me and coupled with [this issue], it’s made me realise now that this (the current issue has occurred) that we really need to address this.

If you’re angry, upset or whatever you’re feeling, say that you are.

In all honesty, I’m angry, upset and also very confused. You’re my [whatever relative they are] but I find the comments very hurtful. After this last time, I was left uncertain as to where I really stand with you because in truth, it feels as if for whatever reason, you don’t respect me.

If they appear to be angry, acknowledging this may diffuse tension but don’t go off topic.

I can see that you’re angry but we really need to talk about this. OR I appreciate that it’s not easy hearing this…

There are a few ways that you could state your boundary here. Example:

  • When you make these comments, it’s an unfair means of making a point. I would prefer that if you have an issue that you come out straight and say it.
  • You crossed the line with me when you called me _______________.
  • I know that you were angry but you losing your temper in this way cannot continue.
  • I know that you were angry but so was I and I didn’t resort to making those kind of comments.


Notice that at no point do you have to say, ‘My boundaries are_____________’

Stating the results along with what they did is stating the boundary. You’re saying that you don’t like it or that it’s unacceptable to you.


You’re probably wondering, What if they turn around and say that I’m making a big deal out of nothing or that it’s normal or that other people are OK with it?

  • Even if [whoever it is] is OK with those comments, I’m not.
  • I appreciate that this is the way that you’re using to dealing with conflict but I’m never going to be OK with you saying that type of thing to me.
  • I recognise that you’re comfortable with this but that doesn’t mean that I should be.
  • I’m not making a big deal out of nothing. If it were nothing, you wouldn’t have made those comments in the first place.

Make your needs clear (if it’s that type of situation where you’re looking for mutual resolution or you just want to let them know before you opt out).

This lets them know your needs and values and why it’s important to you that this is addressed.

Much as I love and care for you, I won’t feel as if we can hang out as closely {gives an indication of the consequences of the issue remaining} if these are the types of comment that are going to happen when you’re not happy about something.


I’m talking to you about this because I value our relationship. I’m somebody who values honesty. I will not judge or criticise you if you are honest with me but I will step back if it becomes clear that you are letting me know that you’re unhappy with me via these comments instead of speaking to me about whatever it is.

If it’s one of those situations where you’ve raised an issue, they’ve said that you’re making a big deal out of nothing and now they’re making their feelings known about a past issue they haven’t raised, you can say:

I’m confused because you said that there’s no issue [or that you were making a big deal out of nothing] but now you’re saying __________ and ____________ which means that you are clearly annoyed and that this is what these comments were about. If you don’t talk to me directly about something, I cannot respond.

Hopefully they want to address the situation and it’s at that point that you can both discuss ways in which you can both handle conflict going forward.

I know it’s not always easy to raise concerns or let your feelings be known about something but I would really appreciate it in future that if you have an issue, that you let me know about it rather than keeping it to yourself. I promise to be open to hearing you. What do you think?

Don’t suggest resolutions and compromises on anything that violates your rights. For instance, you wouldn’t propose not voicing your feelings and opinions. You wouldn’t suggest compromises for anything abusive – you’d state that it was unacceptable and opt out, or state it and then opt out next time, if the situation calls for it.

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. OR This needs to stop.

You might also find that you need to say this if they’re still trying to justify and explain their inappropriate treatment of you.


  • In very clear instances of verbal abuse or certainly inappropriate language, do not defend or explain – stick to the facts.
  • “Don’t” might appear scary but it’s very useful. “Don’t call me names”, “Don’t use that tone with me”, “Don’t raise your voice at me”, “Don’t treat me like a child”, “Don’t put words in mouth”, “Don’t bring that up again – we’ve gone over that many times!”. Very effective with Absentees, Obligers and Power Players in particular.
  • Don’t react if they say, “Or what?” after you state your boundary and make clear what you would prefer not to happen in future – they’re trying to poke you into an unboundaried reaction. This is likely to happen with a Rebel, a Power Player and a User in particular.
  • Humour (not sarcasm) is very effective for bringing clarity to a situation. “So let me get this right: you think I’m a ‘__________’ who is always ‘______________’ but you still want to do this favour for you” can encourage a rational person who lost their way in the moment, to see things from your perspective.

Journal PromptJOURNALING: How do you feel about the possibility of stating your boundary as outlined above with the TFM in question? If you were doing this with someone outside of your family, would you still feel the same way? If not, what is the difference between the two situations? Use this as a springboard to identify where you need more support. If you feel similarly, what are your negative associations with being honest? Yep, use the Releasing Exercise in the Resources.

taskTASK: Think of the most recent issue that you’ve experienced with a TFM and use the example in this class to write out what you would say if broaching the subject again. If you are familiar with the typical objections, make sure that you include these in your write-up. Have a go at saying it out loud – what does it sound like? Make sure you take a deep breath, maybe count to ten and then say what you need to say out loud. Try it a few times until it sounds more like you.

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