When we encounter someone for the first time, it should be an automatic assumption they have boundaries in place to protect themselves. You should also have an established set of boundaries as well. It is an unspoken language between you and that person – whether it’s your supervisor, personal banker, or close friend – you know when to respect their boundaries. 

Negotiating boundaries is an important process in relationship-building because it not only establishes trust but also maintains the peace amongst individuals you encounter. Every successful relationship should have its own set of boundaries in place. When people are cognizant about not overstepping them, their relationship has the potential to withstand other trials and tribulations that could arise in the future. 

It’s not an easy process, but it is very necessary and rewarding. In my experience as a top-rated family lawyer in Bergen County NJ handling divorce and child custody matters, I have found that setting boundaries with your spouse or friend is different from setting boundaries with a co-worker. You and your spouse/friend could already have a set of unspoken rules or language that only you understand. When speaking to a new client or colleague, of course, your tone would have to change. As long as all parties agree to the terms within your negotiation, that’s all that matters.

Learning about the person you are in negotiation with is as equally important as the negotiation itself, and here’s why:

-Through understanding each other, you’re able to communicate more effectively, at a level of each other’s understanding

-This understanding allows for a smoother negotiation and setting boundaries will be a seamless process

-Your relationship will reach greater heights because you value each other’s opinions, boundaries, and style of communication

Keep in mind that you can negotiate boundaries either directly or indirectly. Use the method that works best for you. In certain cases, boundaries might have to be in written form and signed by both parties for an acknowledgment (and implementation). If this happens, be sure to have a copy on hand for you and whoever else is involved in the process. 

All in all, implementing boundaries is important in any relationship because it establishes trust, solidifies peace, and prepares you for more difficult conversations that could take place in the future. When you have the proper strategy to set boundaries and negotiate with your partner, colleague, or client, the easier it will be for you to understand each other. Respect is a two-way street, and through negotiating boundaries, you are better prepared for the ride.  


This article contains general information and opinions from Sheena Burke Williams and is not intended to be a source of legal advice for any purpose. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of information included in this article without seeking legal advice of counsel. Sheena Burke Williams expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any content in this article.