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July 9, 2021

Assert Yourself: 4 Ways to Handle a Boundary Bully

If you’ve been on this planet for any amount of time, you’ve probably attracted your fair share of boundary pushers. You know that person – the one who pushes your buttons, tests your limits, and seemingly makes it their lifelong goal to guilt you into getting what they want. This person may show up in your life as a co-worker, family member, friend, customer or even your spouse. Unless you want to forever commit to pleasing the unpleasable, it’s important to rethink your strategy and put these boundary bullies in their place.

Here are 4 ways to handle the boundary pushers in your life so they know exactly where you stand. 

1. Be firm

No matter how much someone pushes against the boundaries you’ve set, it’s important not to cave in and let them have their way. If you’re not a natural boundary setter, there may be a tendency to do this. You have to remember why you set the boundaries in the first place and be firm about enforcing them. Make it known that there are consequences to overstepping the line and be ready to follow through on that promise when it happens. Once a boundary pusher sees that you aren’t willing to budge, they will most likely move on to a more unassuming target.

2. Detach Yourself

There are times that you have to be willing to lovingly detach yourself from certain people if they aren’t going to respect your boundaries. As hard as this may be, especially if the boundary pusher in question is a family member or friend, it’s something that has to be done for your own happiness and mental health. Detachment can mean anything from declining invitations, responding differently or simply choosing not to be an active participant in the same old drama. By doing this, you are looking out for number one and not allowing yourself to be pulled into a situation that you have zero control over. 

3. Take a Pause

When you are faced with someone who pushes the boundaries, it can be infuriating, and you may be tempted to lash out in anger and defensiveness. However, by taking time to pause, collect your thoughts and regroup, you allow yourself time to respond in a more calm, meaningful way. By nature, a boundary pusher wants to ruffle the feathers, but when you respond in such a peaceful way, it automatically takes the wind out of their sails and they lose their power over you. 

4. Seek Out Support:

Having a strong support system is important, especially when dealing with boundary bullies who just won’t quit. Seek out someone who knows and respects the boundaries you’ve set and can be there as a sounding board for what you are going through. This can be a family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, or even someone from your local church. When you are in the middle of a sticky, unpleasant situation with a boundary pusher, it helps to get someone else’s point of view to see if you could handle the situation in a better, more productive way. A good support system will be there as a helping hand and listening ear to help you through the mess. 


There will always be people in your life who want to push the limits and see how far they can get. With a few of these tips, you’ll be able to take control back and show the boundary pushers exactly where you stand in a firm and direct manner. 

Do you let boundary bullies walk all over you? Take my quiz “Are you a pushover?” and find out! Click here to take the quiz.

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Dr. Monique Belton


Executive Coach and Clinical Psychologist, Monique Belton, Ph.D. helps empower people to create their dreams.

Dr. Monique Belton

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