There are some common misconceptions about introverts, one being introverts do not like being around people. On the contrary, introverts enjoy being around people, but spending time with others can be incredibly energy-depleting and downright exhausting.
I once heard a comparison between extroverts and introverts go a little something like this: Think of the old-school video game, Mario Kart. When extroverts interact with people, they gain gold coins. (Woohoo!) On the other hand, when introverts interact with people, they lose gold coins. (Wah, wah). It sounds like such a silly comparison, but I think it is quite accurate.
Introverts replenish their energy stores by having alone time, while extroverts get their energy from being around other people. Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, boundaries are important to establish in our lives. No matter if you resonate with being an extrovert or introvert, here are some tips on how to set better boundaries.
Why it is important to set boundaries
Saba Harouni Lurie, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Owner and Founder of Take Root Therapy, explains why it is important to establish boundaries.
“They are how we can communicate our needs and expectations, both with ourselves and with others. With others, setting boundaries is important because they can be the clearest way to communicate how you would like to be treated by those around you.”
Boundaries are important for everyone, but especially introverts. Lurie continues. “Having clear and defined boundaries can be crucial for introverts as engaging with others can be a large source of anxiety and exhaustion; these boundaries will help ensure that they do not get depleted.”
Jami Kirkbride, speaker, author, licensed professional counselor, personality trainer, and founder of Parenting With Personality, explains the importance of setting boundaries as an introvert.
“Boundaries might sound scary or bold for an introvert, but really, boundaries are like the fences we put around our yards. You may need a split rail fence or a privacy fence, depending on the need, situation, or person involved. That protection we put around our yard may serve to both keep things in place as well as keep unwanted things out. Likewise, boundaries help keep things relationally in place or keep unwanted or unhealthy things from sneaking in.”
Setting better boundaries is not a bad thing. Kirkbride continues, “It can be helpful to realize that boundaries can work to make a relationship better, more enjoyable, and maybe more predictable. It may be helpful to think of boundaries as ways to communicate what we want or do not want, how we feel, who we are, what we think, what we need, or how we want someone else to interact with us.”
How to set boundaries as an introvert
1. Acknowledge areas of importance
One of the first ways to set boundaries as an introvert is by acknowledging areas of importance in our lives. Kaci Schmitt, LPC, LMHC is a licensed mental health counselor in Washington and Oregon. She further explains how we can do this.
“As an introvert, you first need to take stock of your limits. Do you need to limit the amount of time you are spending at a family’s house over the holidays or the number of requests you say yes to at work? Identify areas in your life that could benefit from limit setting.”
Schmitt reminds us that in saying no or setting boundaries, we are actually preserving our ability to say yes to something we actually want to say yes to later on, and to do so without feeling resentment, which we can feel when we are overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities
“Be gentle with yourself, as you may feel critical about yourself for needing to say no,” says Schmitt. “The process of getting comfortable setting boundaries does take time, and that is okay.”
2. Establish time limits
A big part of setting boundaries as an introvert is to know your limits. Lurie gives a few helpful examples.
“If talking on the phone for long periods of time is overwhelming for you, then a boundary you could set with your friends and/or loved ones may be a time limit for phone calls.” She continues.
“Boundaries can also be an agreement we set with ourselves about how we would like to experience the world around us. If you know that you get wiped out when you attend too many parties, for example, then making a plan to go to the company holiday party for a specific, predetermined amount of time might be a good way to set and enforce that boundary while still allowing you to be social.
3. Know your why
Even if you feel guilty about setting boundaries, Schmitt recommends really allowing ourselves to feel all of those feelings, (here is looking at you guilt), but then promptly remind ourselves we are not actually doing anything wrong by setting boundaries that are important to us.
“Even if someone in your life does not like the boundaries you set. Remind yourself that you are the only one who truly knows what boundaries you need to set, and it is important to set them in order to take care of yourself.”
She also explains the importance of knowing our why. “Remind yourself of why it is so important for you to set better boundaries. What do you hope it will give you — more time for yourself? A stronger sense of self-worth? More time for loved ones you want to spend time with? Connecting to your reason is crucial to set better boundaries.” Amen to that!
Another key element to setting better boundaries is to practice and follow through. “For some, that means you have to fake it until you make it,” says Kirkbride. “If you are uncomfortable with stating a boundary, then keep practicing. For some, this might include truly practicing in front of a mirror or with a close friend to become more confident in your approach. Writing it out on a notecard might help you see what it is that you want and allow you to see that it really is not too much to ask.”
#5 Share with others
Do not be afraid to share your boundaries and your reasoning behind them with family and friends. Communication and honesty are key when it comes to setting boundaries, says Lurie. You do not owe anyone an explanation, but I have found, in my own experiences, it helps them understand you and where you are coming from in your decisions.
“Take care to communicate why you are setting these boundaries if it feels appropriate, because simply telling someone that you cannot or will not do something may feel like a big rejection for the other party,” says Lurie. “Ultimately, the goal of setting boundaries is to advocate for one’s comfort, happiness, and well-being so keeping those goals in mind when determining how to communicate your boundaries should help avoid any awkward exchanges or tension.”
How to set better boundaries
Whether you are setting boundaries as an introvert or an extrovert, we could all benefit from learning how to set better boundaries in our lives. Now, go forth and set some boundaries!