Two Basic Types of Boundaries: Incoming, and Outgoing

types of boundaries

Today’s big idea is that there are two types of boundaries, and we tend to only think about one of them. There are incoming boundaries. And there are outgoing boundaries. 

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Let’s start with the incoming boundaries

Which is the type that most people think about when they think about boundaries. Incoming boundaries establish guidelines for how others can treat you–they can be physical boundaries, like you don’t want your partner to touch your neck because it’s too ticklish, or mental boundaries, like you don’t want to talk about religion with your parents because you don’t share the same beliefs and have never been able to find a way to talk about it without it escalating, or emotional boundaries, where you don’t allow someone you’re in relationship with to take out their bad mood on you. These are important boundaries to have, without a doubt. 

But the other, perhaps less well known type of boundary is  OUTGOING boundaries

And these apply to you and your actions and interaction. 

I was listening to Glennon Doyle’s podcast, We Can Do Hard Things where she interviewed her sister about how she managed to maintain a relationship with Glennon even when Glennon was in a destructive mode due to alcoholism, and her sister said her approach was to not do anything to try and get Glennon into recovery, and to maintain strong boundaries, because she knew that there was nothing she could do, think, say, or pray that would get Glennon to change. And that by interacting with her less, even in a time of obvious need, she wasn’t in close enough proximity for their relationship to be impaired. That is an outgoing boundary. 

She didn’t say, Glennon you can’t drink in front of me, or talk to me this way. She decided, I’m not going to be around Glennon when she’s drinking. 

Here are some examples of outgoing boundaries

If you’re a parent, an outgoing boundary might be around no longer doing things for your kids, like deciding to let them to have little failures so that they can learn how to pick themselves up. 

In a friend relationship, that might mean not taking a friend’s call who only ever wants to complain and you always end up feeling afterward like you need to take an energetic shower.

I can’t tell you what your outgoing boundaries should be, these are just examples–yours should both reflect your values and honor your personal experience. If there’s something YOU do that makes you feel icky or churned up after, that’s a good indication that it’s time to draw a boundary for yourself of what you will and will not tolerate or expose yourself to.                      

Just one caveat, and that is that boundaries, of either type, may make you unpopular. If you are working on a group project and you are the only person to say, I can’t work over the weekend, you might get some cross-eyed looks. But you also are likely to be inspiring someone else to set a boundary for themselves, too. The most powerful way we influence is by modeling, not by lecturing–said the woman who puts out five podcast episodes a week that are basically a monologue of how to be a better person, ha!

Daily Tiny Assignment

Your tiny assignment is to think about if there are any boundaries around your OWN behavior that you might need to set. Perhaps something you might benefit from doing less of. Or it could be a mental boundary of a line of thought you’re no longer willing to entertain. 

Come back tomorrow when I’m talking you through the boundaries that can make our current late pandemic reality a little less wobbly. 

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