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The 2 Main Differences Between Boundaries and Requests

by | Nov 13, 2023 | Boundaries, Healthy Relationships, Needs

There are two common misconceptions about boundaries:
1. Confusing a boundary with a punishment. “Now that you’ve gone and done this terrible, awful thing to me, my only option is to punish you for your actions by enforcing a boundary.”
2. Thinking that setting a boundary is about coercing or changing the other person:  “You cannot speak to me in that tone of voice,” or  “You will not continue to disrespect the family in this way.”

True boundaries focus on what we will do in the service of our self-care and self-responsibility, given a particular set of circumstances.  They are not about controlling other people, but are rather about looking after ourselves.

And, before we ever get to the point of even needing to set a boundary, we can use skillful requests in the earlier stages to reveal what we need as we inquire about and tend to what other people need, too.  

Clear, calm requests can help move relationships forward in ways that are mutually enjoyable and rewarding for all parties. They are inviting, flexible and responsive. We use requests as we feel our way into new strategies that might work for both people.

Boundaries, however, serve a slightly different purpose: they are about asserting what we need in order to care for our own well-being.  

They are about clearly identifying and sharing the limits of our ability or willingness to shift or to be flexible.  Of course, knowing what I will or won’t do in any given situation may influence your choices, but the purpose of my boundary is to take care of my own well-being, not to coerce or punish you into “better” behavior.

A subtle, but profound difference.  

On this week’s podcast, a caller shared about a dilemma where didn’t want to be referred to as “the ladies” at work, and we explored ways she might address this compassionately and clearly, using both boundaries and requests.  

Show Notes:

[1:45] What’s the difference between a discernment and a judgment?
[5:50] How can I navigate a relationship with a difficult superior?
[13:30] But if I love others hard enough won’t this make them healthy?
[16:01] The difference between a boundary and a request
[20:15] I don’t appreciate being called “lady”
[25:20] How do I unravel my own colonial tendencies?
[31:00] The polarity of precise language and the spirit behind it
[38:00] So how do I respond to others’ colonial beliefs?
[40:04] How can I bring up my needs to a new friend without seeming needy?
[52:03] Outro


What are you noticing about the difference between boundaries and requests? I’d love to know!  Leave a comment below.


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