#103 – Can Boundaries Be Gentle?

One of the biggest misconceptions about boundaries is that they’re harsh, rigid, or mean, and that they damage intimacy. In fact, boundaries can absolutely be expressed in a gentle way. And that’s exactly what I’m going to talk about in detail today! I’ll share six easy and specific ways that you can express a limit gently.

Biggest Takeaways From Episode #103:

  • Sometimes we go from one extreme to another, going from struggling to say “no” to saying “no” frequently or in a way that’s difficult for other people to hear.
  • Here are six ways you can express a limit gently:
  1. “Thanks, but I can’t.” (Then stop talking!)
  2. “That is so kind of you! But I can’t accept/do that today.”
  3. “I understand. I’m not able to do that.” Or, “I understand, but I can’t.” (Use this when you’re getting pushback or feeling baited.)
  4. “I hear you” or “I hear that.” (Use this when you’ve previously said “no” to the same request.)
  5. “Thanks for the opportunity. I’m not available, but I hope your event is fabulous!”
  6. “That’s a generous offer, but I’m not able to accept it. I’ll pass, but thank you so much.”
  • Even though these responses are gentle, the recipient may still tell you that you’re being harsh. Your gentleness doesn’t guarantee a certain response.

Highlights from Episode #103:

  • Vicki welcomes listeners to the episode and introduces its topic: whether boundaries can be gentle. She also shares a story from Sheri Winston, who was previously on the podcast. [00:39]
  • It’s common to go from one extreme to the other, Vicki explains. [03:52]
  • We hear what it sounds like when we haven’t found ways to express boundaries gently. [08:11]
  • Vicki shares the first four of her strategies for expressing boundaries in a gentle way. [10:44]
  • The recipient of these responses may still say you’re being harsh, Vicki points out, then shares the remaining strategies. [15:11]
  • Each of Vicki’s strategies begins with an acknowledgment, and most have appreciation. [18:56]
  • Vicki points out that you have no control over how the listener responds. [20:26]

Links and Resources:


Hi, I'm Victoria!

I love guiding my clients on a journey of Returning to the authentic truth of who they are, Reclaiming what is theirs, and Receiving everything that is meant for them.


  1. Anna on August 26, 2020 at 10:00 am

    I enjoyed this episode. I find that the pressure of requests by others is a large part of my stress. I have on many occasions over extended myself for the pleasure of others. I am currently working on placing myself at the top of my todo list. Today that started with your podcast…

    • Vicki Tidwell Palmer on August 30, 2020 at 8:09 pm

      Anna, I love your self-awareness that pressure from others is a large part of your stress. Good for you for working on placing yourself at the top of your to do list!

  2. Amelia on August 29, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    I just started listening to this podcast and I’m finding it very helpful.

    In particular, I really enjoyed the podcast about one sided relationships. I had a close friendship where I started to notice that I was the only one reaching out or suggesting plans. After feeling this way for some time, I decided to take a step back and leave the ball in her court. I didn’t hear anything for months (after being in touch weekly prior to that), which bothered me.

    My friend sent a short text because she had some big news. I also had some big news around this time and so responded to her news, and then shared mine, but she didn’t really seem to take an interest or to be happy for me, which was a bit disappointing.

    This theme continued for a while – I would reach out here or there, but less than before, and had other occasions where I was disappointed when she didn’t seem happy for me/interested. And I never heard from her first.

    We’ve now pretty much lost touch, but I still beat myself up for not doing more – maybe I should have told her how I was feeling, maybe we just got into a pattern where I was the one making the effort, and when I backed off, she assumed that I wasn’t interested in being in touch and responded in kind. I do think that she also considered me a close friend, but I had noticed other instances, in our friendship and in her relationships with others, where she seemed to sort of wash her hands of things if the other person stopped making the effort.

    As much as I blame myself, I try to remind myself that she has agency as well, and it shouldn’t be 100% on me to make all effort in the friendship.

    Do you have any suggestions as to how I could have addressed this more directly without putting my friend on the defensive? Every time I considered what to say, it just didn’t feel right (e.g. something like “My sense is that for a while now we’ve only been in touch when I reach out. Is everything ok?”)

    • Vicki Tidwell Palmer on August 30, 2020 at 8:17 pm

      Hi Amelia, I hear that you are beating yourself up for not doing more and blaming yourself. I also hear that every time you considered what to say it just didn’t feel right. This is all good information for you to sort out your truth and what you might/might not want to do.

      I wonder, is it really true that you put your friend on the defensive? I also wonder, do you want to have a relationship with her? Your honest answers to these questions may give you all that you need.

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