#7: Six Common Mistakes People Make When Setting Boundaries

If you’re worried about making mistakes when setting boundaries, this episode is for you! I’ll share the six most common mistakes people make when they’re getting started with boundary work. You’ll also learn helpful, easy-to-learn strategies for avoiding these mistakes so that you can take your boundary work to the next level.

Biggest Takeaways From Episode #7:

  • There are six common mistakes in setting boundaries: not understanding power by either underestimating or overestimating how much you have, confusing boundaries with demands, making unclear agreements which often set you up for disappointment or broken agreements, not being committed to the response you chose for broken agreements or boundary violations, not knowing what to do when a boundary doesn’t work, and using ultimatums instead of boundaries.
  • Setting good boundaries isn’t the same as telling other people what to do. Boundaries build connections in the long term, but telling other people what to do isn’t relational, or a long-term, healthy strategy.
  • When you aren’t committed to the response you state for a boundary, it can cause huge problems for you. You lose credibility both with others, and more importantly, with yourself.
  • The difference between a non-negotiable boundary and an ultimatum is that ultimatums involve a power-over strategy that comes across as threatening or intimidating. Ultimatums can sound like non-negotiable boundaries, but there’s a distinct difference

Highlights from Episode #7:

  • The first mistake people often make when learning boundary work is not realizing the power that they have, or thinking they have more power than they do. [01:40]
  • The second common mistake is confusing demands with boundaries. [04:51]
  • Making an unclear agreement with another person is the third common mistake people make when setting boundaries. [08:51]
  • The fourth mistake that people make when they’re starting to do boundary work is telling someone what you’re going to do or how you’re going to respond to a situation, but not being committed to your response. [14:32]
  • Vicki explains why not being committed to your response to a boundary violation is a barrier to intimacy with others. [17:30]
  • The fifth common mistake is not knowing what to do when boundaries “don’t work.” [21:05]
  • For a more detailed look at what to do when boundaries don’t work, take a look at the 5-Step Boundary Solution Clarifier to identify, establish, and maintain healthy boundaries. [22:57]
  • The sixth and final mistake people make when learning boundary work is relying on ultimatums instead of setting a boundary. This is similar to confusing demands and boundaries, but takes using a “power over” strategy to the next level.  [23:54]
  • Vicki highlights some of the problems with using ultimatums v. good boundary work. [28:15]

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. Maddy on June 3, 2021 at 3:06 pm

    Setting boundaries while in a permanent relationship with a narcissistic person or narcissistic abuser seems unworkable. When someone can’t leave the relationship, it is even harder, if not impossible, to set boundaries like a normal person might be able to with knowledge and practice. What guidance might you give to someone who has no choice but to try to learn the “art of setting boundaries” for the first time within relationships which can’t be left but also in which attempts to set boundaries are probably not going to result in any of the four options mentioned (yes, no, negotiate, or remove oneself from the person). It sort of feels like trying to set healthy boundaries at the “Mad Hatter’s tea party.”

    • Vicki Tidwell Palmer on June 3, 2021 at 5:24 pm

      Hi Maddy, I’m not sure if you are speaking in general or for yourself, but if a person is in an abusive situation they need to get help. I recommend anyone experiencing ongoing abuse in a relationship contact their local domestic violence hotline or The National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE.

      It is simply not possible to create meaningful agreements with a person who is truly narcissistic. The thought, “I can’t leave” is extremely disempowering, and may not actually be true. Your time is best spent focusing on you and you self-care, and what you have the power to do to protect yourself, or how you are going to leave the relationship if that is your wish.

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