#18 – The Knife & The Spatula: Knowing When to Keep Your Mouth Shut

Today’s title may sound cryptic and odd, but by the time you’ve listened to this episode, I promise you will totally get it! I’ll cover what is called the “internal boundary” using a recent event from my own life that will help clarify exactly what the internal boundary is and how it works.

Biggest Takeaways From Episode #18:

  • The internal boundary is the boundary that all of us have—or should have. When you experience an event or situation, you filter that experience through your perception and judgments. You then decide what you think and how you feel, and decide want to do about what you’ve experienced—if anything. This is how the internal boundary works.
  • When your internal boundary is solid, you respond rather than react.
  • When you’re trying to decide what to do about an issue, take a moment to think about how important it is to you. Rate it on a scale of 1-10, and use that to help you decide.
  • If you rate something as a 7 or higher, you probably need to respond in some way, rather than letting it go.

Highlights from Episode #18:

  • Vicki introduces the topic (and the title) of today’s episode. [00:48]
  • To illuminate the internal boundary and how it works, Vicki offers a simple example of what happened to her—internally—when she made the mundane realization that the spatula she wanted to use was in the dishwasher. [04:54]
  • Vicki discusses Step 1 of the 5-Step Boundary Solution process, then returns to talking about the spatula incident. [13:28]
  • When you experience something that you don’t like (especially when it has to do with another person), most of us have a default toward either talking to the other person about it or letting it go. Take a moment and ask yourself what your default is. [17:34]
  • Vicki talks about the expression, “would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?” [20:01]
  • Vicki discussed the three options of what to do shen something another person does doesn’t work for you. [24:24]

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. BJohnson on October 8, 2020 at 8:01 am

    I have a question: How does one as the receiver of a “sharing your reality” distinguish this from what one could easily see as a passive aggressive form of complaining? (which could be interpreted as manipulation) What the receiver could easily hear is “I want this to appear to be nice and well boundary-ed, and I am going to appear that I am just letting go of this and SAY that I am just informing you of how I interpreted what I experienced, but you did something that I did not like and REALLY want you to change and I am going about this in a mode that appears that I am being the bigger person. And I don’t really care what your situation is or what your motivation was to put my spatula in the dishwasher and run the dishwasher. I don’t care that you just might have been cleaning up after me. Really what you did is inconvenience me and my ability to harmoniously make my own breakfast” It would appear that the only way that you can tell the difference between “sharing your reality” and complaining is to somehow divine out another persons intention.

    • Vicki Tidwell Palmer on October 8, 2020 at 11:03 am

      Hi BJohnson, the short answer is that a receiver is responsible for their thoughts, interpretations, and perceptions about what they have received. As the sender, I am only responsible for what and how I send. I am not responsible for how it is received. If the receiver interprets my “sharing reality” either as a complaint or as a gift of knowing who I am as I shared my reality with him/her, I cannot control or be responsible for either of the receiver’s perceptions.

      Hope this helps.

      • BJohnson on October 8, 2020 at 2:45 pm

        So then, how would this get clarified and/or have actual reality understood (not each others respective perceived realities – which has been stated early as “the story I made up” [I think that was what it was called in earlier episodes]) so that each of us can talk about reality, rather than what each of us “makes up” about each other and each other’s actions?
        Having it be the receiver’s responsibility to interpret someone else’s intention really sounds dangerous and not good, commonly understood (both parties), and successful communication.
        It really looks dangerous if we are just talking about our very possible false perceptions of reality (and our respective feelings about it) rather than having both of us working toward reality.
        If all we are talking about is how we perceived what the other said (or did) and then try to decipher what they intended rather than wanting to get to what is really there: What really happened? then we are not going to get to that real understanding. Or even to get to understanding what is real.
        Where in this do we each seek for what is real?
        To build on the example used: What if the reason the spatula is in the dishwasher is that he got up in the morning, found the dirty dishes still in the sink, loaded up the dishwasher, started the dishwasher, hand washed the non-dishwasher safe items and then went to work? He thought he was being helpful, but then gets in return the message of something more…self serving, but presented as a form of valid communication “….the spatula I use most often was in the dishwasher and it was an inconvenience for me.” …And I had several thoughts about it… “I wonder why you ran it at that time. That is not the best time to run the dishwasher. …. So what I would like in the future would be for you to wait until after I have breakfast before you run the dishwasher. Is that something you are willing to do?” HIS perception of reality would then be, I just cleaned up after her! I thought I was doing a kind thing, a sort of gift of service. And what I get back is a complaint that is disguised as a request, (granted it is in the form of a request), a false interpretation of what actually happened. And appears to be pretty self centered too (“it was an inconvenience for me.” “I was a little irritated”) . How do you think he would respond at this point? I know that I would not receive that message very kindly. I see a downward spiral. And I am only able to see that spiral because I am not there in the situation directly. Now tack on real emotional involvement in the situation with some history of mistrust and misunderstanding.

        If I am not responsible for “for their thoughts, interpretations, and perceptions about what they have received” and all I am presenting is my “made up story” then how do we, as couple get to the reality of what just happened and away from the false “story I am telling myself”, especially when that story is just not true? At what point do we even try understand the other? Or at least the true facts of the situation?

        I am honestly not trying to be difficult here. I am trying to apply my own situation to this.

        • Vicki Tidwell Palmer on October 8, 2020 at 4:34 pm

          Hi BJohnson, I think you are asking what is the difference between “what I make up” and “reality,” and how to have understanding with another person without knowing what reality is?

          When it comes to thoughts, what you “make up” and your reality are one and the same. Your thoughts are your reality, even when your thoughts are not true. Confusing, isn’t it? That is why learning how to work with thoughts is one of the most important endeavors a person can commit herself to, and that is why I did not say anything to my husband about the spatula. I was aware that my thinking (not his action or even the intention behind his action which was/is unknown to me) was the root and the cause of my irritation.

          We will add your question to the list of listener questions for a future episode.

          • BJohnson on October 10, 2020 at 9:21 pm

            I understand the difference between “what I make up” and “reality”. I understand the concept of understanding your thoughts and “your reality” so you can get a sense of how and why you are feeling the way that you are in that moment. And begin to understand your visceral response that you have to it.
            – Identify the data, facts you could record (granted, these are only the facts that you see at that point of time and from that vantage point)?
            – What you think about the data?
            – How did it make you feel, the emotions?

            Those are not my questions.
            When and how do you get to the true reality? This would then have you in a place where you can understand where the other person is coming from and then also see where one or BOTH of “your realities” went wrong. And you could learn the WHOLE story. (what are the things you did not see the first time you looked at it? Or misinterpreted.)
            How do you get to the point where you see where your “made up” story potentially got you to the wrong conclusion?
            How do you get so your thoughts are in line with the true reality of the situation? (Rather than staying in you “make up” version of reality?)
            Help me understand how staying in that false reality is good for you?
            It seams like with out this, you would be doomed to repeat the same false interpretation.
            And you would have a new starting point of your thoughts about your husband for the next set of situations. And that new starting point would not necessarily be based on reality and based on a false conclusion. I don’t see that we, as humans beings, are able to completely release that thought of “HE’S the one that interrupted my access to my spatula!” with out finding out what the true reality is (something an outsider’s objective view would agree with). Yes, there is letting go. But that still leaves something there that you can easily jump back to. Especially if you are predisposed to that conclusion.
            I do understand that sometime you can’t know that true reality.
            It looks like you are missing the opportunity to understand where your husband was coming from in that situation. Did he do a kind thing for you? (or at least try to?) Yes, you have the risk of finding out that he may have done it to upset you and irritate you and throw off your breakfast. But I am betting that it was not on that side of the continuum.
            You may have come to the conclusion that it was your thinking that was the root of your irritation. But you don’t know the true reality…. Yet.
            Wouldn’t “your reality” instantly change once you realized that he, in true reality, cleaned up the kitchen for you?

            This is more a general question to the 5 step process. I just started questioning it as I was listening to this episode.

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