It’s pretty common to hear about people setting boundaries in their relationships. Yet, there can be some confusion on what setting a boundary looks like versus an ultimatum.
Boundaries provide a strong foundation of respect, whether it’s with your romantic partner, friends, colleagues, or family, supporting the overall health of the relationship in regards to your personal limits. Setting healthy boundaries gives you the ability to take care of your own needs without the intent to control someone or change them. It presents possibilities for alignment to form between you and someone else while coming from a place of strength and value. You are responsible for your own happiness at the end of the day.
Boundaries keep your self-worth and security intact allowing for choices to be made by each individual within the relationship.
On the contrary, ultimatums are about forcing things to be your way or the highway while trying to seek power over someone. You refuse to hear outside perspective and give others zero options to repair the damage and resolve differences. When you expect someone else to change, it’s really an attempt to control the situation, leading to an impasse in the relationship. This can lead to destructive habits, resulting in the other person walking away, flipping the script, or passing the blame onto you creating a massive barrier to finding a resolution.
Here Are 7 Differences Between Setting Boundaries Versus Ultimatums:
1.We vs. Me Mindset
When setting a boundary, you will want to come from a WE mindset, even though you are expressing your personal limit using an “I” statement. As you express your concerns based on your relationship values, you are communicating what you need for the connection to continue to grow with someone.
The purpose of using a WE mindset shows you respect yourself and the other person while valuing the bond you share with them. It’s all about how you can work together to reach a resolution instead of expecting them to agree to your request.
If you are trying to set a boundary using a ME mindset, you are bound to get stuck without a solution in sight. Because when you bring up the issues, you are more than likely using “you” statements which personally attacks someone instead of coming from a place of value. This can be seen as manipulative or better yet an ultimatum.
Since boundaries are about your personal limits based on your values, you will want someone to respect your boundaries and be willing to work with you. But, if you are personally criticizing their behavior it’s less likely they are going to listen and respect your concerns. Therefore, avoid blaming someone for poor behavior as that’s a ME mindset.
2.Love vs. Fear Mode
Boundaries give you flexibility and support the foundation of the connection elevating it to the next level when differences arise. One of the healthiest ways to speak up about your needs is by coming from a place of love, but not in a romantic way. By showing empathy and understanding from the heart.
When you operate from the heart, you are showing up truthfully and honoring your worth based on your belief system. When you have a healthy self-esteem it’s much easier to communicate and ask for what you need. This gives you confidence while knowing you are worthy of respect.
The stronger your self-love, the more you will live according to your boundaries.
Living in fear mode can keep you from speaking up and setting healthy boundaries. Either you’re afraid of the person will get mad, leave you, or you’ll be seen as being selfish. By assuming the worst, this shows you are not feeling worthy or believe you deserve to be respected. When you have these negative thoughts, they can hold you back from honoring your worth and supporting your emotional health.
Using fear as your driving force (the opposite of love), it can lead you to a dead end causing you to react to a trigger instead of responding. Emotionally reacting can result in voicing something you’ll regret or completely shut down where you can’t talk at all. This doesn’t allow for change to occur for the health of the relationship. That being said, you’ll want to ask yourself what’s triggering you to resolve your personal wounds.
3.Growth vs. Destructive Behavior
Boundaries promote growth in your relationships and allow you to form a deeper bond with someone. It gives you leverage to understand each other better while overcoming differences that may keep you complacent.
Communicating in a calm, concise, constructive manner invites for change to occur leading to better alignment within the dynamic of the relationship. When your communication channels remain open regardless of the topic, it shows there is mutual respect between both individuals and both have a growth mindset. It’s WE vs the problem, not ME vs them.
Ultimatums lead to disruptive communication channels causing the relationship to deteriorate and become destructive. Often this results in the relationship coming to an end because you have reached an impasse where no movement can occur. Trying to seek power or control over someone repels them in the opposite direction or completely shutting down.
When you value the relationship, you focus on growth as a team.
4.Ask vs. Demand Communication Style
When you begin setting boundaries, you will want to ask someone to work with you instead of telling them what they need to change to work with you. Using “I” statements will assist you in communicating what you need based on your personal limits. After you establish your value, you will want to ask someone to work you from a WE mindset to engage in a healthy interaction.
Boundaries display a sign of resilience and collaboration yet hold firm weight when communicating what you need out of respect for the relationship. By using clear preferences of what you value, there’s room for both individuals to make their own choice in the best interest of keeping the relationship thriving.
You need to ask for someone to work with you, if you want respect.
If you find yourself demanding what you need from someone, they will sense you are only concerned with yourself and find it to be disrespectful. Your communication style will come across as very rigid not allowing for cohesion. You may find yourself saying, “It’s do this or else I’m done with you.” When you demand, other’s lose respect for you because they feel you are threatening them as opposed to “can you help me understand?”…or “do you mind working with me on _____ so we can find a middle ground that works for both of us?”.
5.Needs vs. Wants For A Healthy Relationship
Boundaries derive from a place of need, meaning you need them in order to be happy and fulfilled in your relationship. When your personal limits are being crossed, also known as your relationship values, this will be your cue to ask for what you need in your relationship.
Whether you value open communication, integrity or honesty, you will want to live by your values every day so you can ask for them in your relationships. For example, if your partner isn’t keeping their word, yet you aren’t being forthcoming either then you will not be able to ask for them to be honest through setting a boundary.
Boundaries are based on your relationship values that identify your needs to be happy with someone you share a connection with.
If you are more concerned with your wants in a relationship, then you are operating from more of a ME mindset. It’s not about keeping the relationship functioning in a healthy manner, it’s about only what makes you happy. This eventually gets tiresome and demanding to a partner because you are only thinking about yourself and not about your partner or what makes sense for the relationship as a whole.
You may say, “I want you to take me on a trip to Italy or else I can’t be with you.” Creating conditional terms around your wants is being manipulative and leaves no room for growth in the relationship.
6.Secure vs. Insecure Mental State
Owning your self-worth gives you a place of security within yourself instead of depending on others for external gratification. You shine with internal strength knowing you are worthy of relationship success.
Being a valuable asset to the relationship, gives you the power to use your inner voice and communicate without second guessing yourself or the outcome. You trust yourself enough to know you are deserving of a healthy connection and your needs aren’t needy. It’s a sign you have a secure relationship with yourself and won’t settle anything less.
Security breeds success, insecurity breeds failure.
If you find yourself trying to manage your needs by using ultimatums, then you’re feeling insecure with yourself or the connection. You feel so powerless in the moment, that you try to force someone to abide by your rules and abort their own beliefs to accommodate your demand. The more you try to control, the greater out of control you will feel internally.
7.Calm vs. Anger Emotional State
As previously mentioned, using a calm tone of voice when setting boundaries opens up the door for mutual understanding to resolve differences. Most disagreements occur because neither individual communicates their needs to create a respectful bridge in the relationship.
By using a calm tone of voice, it signifies your strength to have resilience and overcome the obstacle you are facing with someone by allowing for transformation. The information that you may gain from someone can easily clear the misunderstanding when exchanging respectful words.
Being poise, shows how confident and secure you are with your emotional state without depending on others to alter your mood. Having high emotional intelligence is a critical skill in healthy relationships to find solutions to the issue.
However, if you are feeling emotionally heightened with anger it will be nearly impossible to seek a resolution. Discord can’t be resolved when emotions are high. At the same time, you can use anger as an indicator your personal limits are being pushed but it will be important not to use anger to fix the problem. It leads to bigger differences and can shut down the conversation altogether.