Personal Boundaries

How do they affect my interaction with other people?

Personal Boundaries 4/12/2014 2:07:00 PM

When I mention personal boundaries, what comes to your mind? For most, the idea of a personal boundary is the physical space between self and a stranger(s) or delineation/line between two places. A boundary is simply that a – a division between two things and in our discussion between people. Geographic boundaries are very strict lines that separate one place from another. Personal boundaries are not so strict, so understanding them much less honoring them is not always clear.

It is also important to point out that there are actually two boundaries. In geographic terms it is the difference between crossing the border from Mexico into the US or from the US into Mexico. If you’ve ever gone across the border you know, you just walk or drive right into Mexico with often barely a glance in your direction. But coming back however a whole different story. You often wait in long lines, have to show a passport, divulge declarations and purchases, answer some questions and so on.

In the same way there are two boundary spaces between people. How much you approach their space and how much you let them approach yours. This is where it gets interesting. Some people actually have a very similar kind of boundary space considering direction, but so many of us don’t. That means that while you have a larger distance in that you may not readily approach other people or say strangers at a party. At the same time if someone approached you, you might break into your life story after a few minutes of conversation. See the difference? It can work in the other direction as well in that you may be right there in someone’s face/space, but when questioned or asked about yours, you divulge little. In fact there are many ways levels it can work and I have just give you the two more extreme versions of that.

It’s important to note, that there is not necessarily a right or wrong here, but the awareness in what your personal boundary space is can be a huge clue into how you make friends, how well you do at your job, how successful is your relationship and so. It is in part also a big clue into what we think about our self. This plays into self-confidence, self-esteem and perhaps the big one self-love.

What if for a moment we thought about this delineation between people as actually 5 delineations. Creating a larger context of multiple boundaries or levels of boundaries might make those personal boundaries a little more understandable. Breaking those 5 down might look something like

  1. Unknown Connection. The boundary space you share with people in the same physical space but have no interaction or knowledge of. People you see in a market, store or perhaps driving by you.
  2. Near Connection. The space you share when you are closer to people you may/may not know. The person you may have said excuse me in the supermarket when you were sidestepping each other in the produce isle.
  3. Basic connection. The clerk in the store you might actually engage with tell a joke, laugh or otherwise converse a little more personally.
  4. Personal connection. This then becomes a person you know, a friend, have dinner with, hug and so on.
  5. Intimate connection. This becomes a very close friend, sharing intimate details with and depending on the person, having sex/sexuality between you.
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