A great formula to remember when setting boundaries is: “I feel _____________ when ______________, and I need ______________________”.
Think about the difference between:
“You are late again, you don’t care about me, it is so disrespectful” and “I feel disrespected and sad when you are late to meet me, and I need you to call and let me know you will be late”.
With the first version, the other person will go into defence mode. Why? Because they are being attacked. YOU are late again. YOU don’t care about me. YOU are so disrespectful. This is what the Gottman’s (incredible relationship researchers) like to call a harsh start up, and it ends in conflict most of the time.
When we can formulate a soft start up, our chances of having a productive conversation go up exponentially. Notice that with the first version there is a lot of ‘you’ and in the second version there is a lot of ‘I’. I use that as a memory peg for when I am in stressful situations and my brain isn’t working. It just wants to repeat the kind of communication I grew up with, which like most people, was ‘you’ focused. It still takes effort for me to use ‘I’ statements, I think because they are more vulnerable, and when I am angry, I don’t like to feel vulnerable.
In the moment, I take a few deep breaths into my belly, slowly and with focus. I allow myself to drop under the anger and touch whatever is there. I remind myself what I want to achieve through having the conversation. I remind myself of the power of the ‘I’ conversation, and then I do it.
I hope this is helpful.
Still learning, and loving being on this healing journey with you all.