What Is a Boundary Pusher and How to Set Limits

Who is the person you find most annoying to deal with? This person seems to exhaust you, contacting you constantly and never satisfied. The irritating requests come at all times of the day and things that were resolved are brought back up again. You might feel like this person’s personal complaint department! It just never ends!

This person is a boundary pusher. Boundary pushers can show up anywhere: your customer, your employee, your father-in-law, your friend, your spouse… Your boundaries are pushed in very small ways all the time. It may even be part of your job at work to find yourself dealing with boundary-pushers all day long.

The worst strategy you can use with a boundary-pusher is trying and trying to please him. You keep thinking if you just give him what he wants, he will go away satisfied and appreciative. Oh, how wrong you are! A boundary pusher won’t be satisfied.

A boundary-pusher is engaged in the search for satisfaction that she almost never feels.
What’s the best strategy to use with a boundary pusher? Stop letting her decide if you have done a job well. You must always set the terms of the job or contract, with expectations clearly spelled out ahead of time. Since a boundary pusher will likely not know if she is satisfied or not (because remember, she is never satisfied), it’s best if you establish your own criteria for a job well done.

In addition to establishing your own criteria for success, you need to do two other things, always:

First, recognize the boundary pushers. Is the behavior a pattern?  Do you hear them expect people to serve them or take care of problems for them? Do they expect you to handle their responsibilities? Do they seem to have one problem after another?  Do they act like you “owe it to them” to solve their problems?

Second, set limits. Manage your time, access, and availability. Do not allow drop-in visits if you are someone who schedules your appointments. Boundary pushers will often not think about time or place. So, perhaps you are at your kid’s soccer game and the boundary pusher wants to discuss his job with you. It is OK to say, “I’d love to talk about your job. Let’s set a time to meet at my office. Right now, I’m watching my child play soccer.”

If you’d like to learn more about how to use your boundaries to take care of yourself and prevent stress, overload and other symptoms, come to one of my workshops, April 18th or May 8th. Register online at www.TransformYourBoundaries.com