Overstepping Boundaries And What To Do About It

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“I think you’re overstepping boundaries. What can we do about it?”

There are some cases when someone is pushing the limits of what is socially acceptable and steps in to say that they’ve gone too far. The phrase ‘overstepping boundaries’ suggests that there may be a set of rules, unstated but agreed upon, to govern behavior and that someone has broken those rules.

What can we do about it? Well, it’s up to you whether or not the person who overstepped boundaries meant their actions as a compliment, insult, joke, or oblivious to your personal space. If they did mean to bother you then there are some things you can say, depending on what exactly pushed your buttons.

Establishing personal boundaries

It’s an important part of your relationships. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that not everyone knows the unspoken boundaries and it’s our job, as humans who live in a society, to teach them and help adjust behavior accordingly.

Remember: You Don’t Have To Be A Victim.

If somebody oversteps your boundaries you don’t have to make yourself a victim. You don’t have to cower in fear or be too polite to tell them off. You can make your boundaries clear and you can learn how to say “No, thank you” without feeling like a jerk (see below).

The Wonderful World of Personal Boundaries

You should know what is appropriate and inappropriate in every relationship that you have with another person. This is kind of a first-time lesson for all people who are just starting to date, dealing with mood swings, or possibly a new work scenario. It’s also good for every person to review periodically, because being in relationships – personal, workplace, family or other – can sometimes bring out the worst in us and we might start doing things that are hurtful or rude without meaning to do so.

This Lesson Will Change Your Life!

I’m not kidding. This will be one of the most important lessons you can learn in your life, because it’s about how to avoid being a jerk and hurting another person’s feelings, while also keeping yourself from being walked all over.

So…who is responsible for maintaining these boundaries? Obviously, the person who is in a position of less power in the relationship is responsible for setting boundaries. It doesn’t matter if they have a PhD or if their parents are loaded – when it comes to being mean, there’s nobody who can dish it out better than an under-confident person who has no idea how to say “No”

Taking responsibility for setting personal boundaries is one of the most important life skills you can learn. If you don’t, then people will walk all over you and treat you like dirt.

The Art Of Saying “No”

Saying No is your right!

Nobody has the right to make you do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or unhappy. You are entitled to say No at any time. This is the first step in learning how to set boundaries and it should be used as a self-defense mechanism, because if you don’t have a boundary then other people will push against it until it breaks down.

Everyone has the right to reject someone’s advances, refuse an unreasonable work request, or deal with family drama. In fact, you can say No to anything that makes you uncomfortable or unhappy. Nobody has the right to judge you if you refuse an offer because they think it’s unfair.

Laying Down Your Boundaries

Most people don’t know how to say No. They want to be polite, so they accept things that make them unhappy or uncomfortable because they think it’s their responsibility to do what other people ask of them. But this is simply not true.

Knowing How To Set Personal Boundaries

Learning how to set personal boundaries is all about taking responsibility for yourself and your actions. Remember: It’s not always other people who are causing problems. Sometimes, by not setting boundaries, you’re the one letting people walk all over you and making your life unpleasant. Who wants to live like that?

It’s important to learn how to say No because, again, nobody is required to do anything they don’t want to do. If you’re saying No because somebody is being pushy or mean, then that’s a sign that they are probably not someone you should be hanging out with anyway .

Your Personal Rights

Nobody has the right to pressure or demand anything from you. You have the right to set boundaries and decide what you will and won’t do. Your happiness and your comfort is the most important thing to consider in every situation.

In a relationship, you have the right to question why your partner wants you to do something that makes you uncomfortable or unhappy. You have the right to say No if it’s not something that you want or feel comfortable doing. Nobody can force you into anything that you don’t want to do.

Trying To Manipulate Others Using Guilt

One of the most common ways of overstepping boundaries is using guilt to manipulate someone into doing something for us. We all try it from time to time, especially if we are insecure or unhappy with ourselves. But sometimes it’s another person who’s trying to take advantage of us.

It makes us feel bad if we are told that “we should” do something that doesn’t make us happy, especially if it’s a person in authority or an older family member, or partner. It might even be someone whom we love and respect – this is when guilt becomes dangerous because it can ruin relationships.

Being Manipulated By Guilt

If someone is trying to manipulate you by guilt, then it’s a sign that they don’t have a boundary and they want something from you. They might be looking for your approval or attention, which makes them feel good about themselves. It’s important to call the person on their guilt trip if this happens.

“You should…”

People like to say things like “you should,” “you ought to,” and “it would be nice.” They use this type of language when they’re trying to manipulate you into doing something that doesn’t really matter much.

This type of manipulation attempts to control your actions by making you feel bad about yourself or guilty. It’s a way of making you feel bad about saying No. But if you really don’t want to do something, then it’s your right to say No and still respect yourself.

“You always…”

This is another attempt at guilt tripping you by criticizing the way that you usually behave. For example, someone might say “you always do this” or “you never do that.” This is a way of saying that you are only doing something because you are being selfish or lazy, so it’s up to you to correct your bad behaviour.

Nobody has the right to criticize the way that you usually behave without knowing what goes on in your life. If someone is criticizing you unfairly then it’s a way of overstepping boundaries.

“I wish you would…”, “You should…”

These are usually said with an exasperated tone of voice that suggests that the person feels they are putting up with you and your bad behaviour. They use this type of language when they want to get something from you but feel guilty about doing it.

If they feel that you are not doing something they want, then it’s a way of pressuring you into changing your behaviour by guilt tripping you into thinking that the situation is your fault. You might end up feeling bad about yourself or having an argument with the person who wants something from you. It’s important to remember that criticism and guilt are attempts to manipulate you.

What To Do About Boundaries Crossed

You can confront the person who is trying to rule or rule over your life. You can tell them that they are crossing your boundaries by acting like they know everything about you. And if they don’t respect your boundaries, then they aren’t respecting you. Sometimes they will apologize or even stop what they are doing.

But if they don’t respect your boundaries, then you need to seriously think about whether or not this person can be in your life. It might be that the only way for them to change is for you to walk away from them. You have the right to decide who is in your life and who isn’t.

Unless someone has a right to rule over you, then they don’t have the authority to do so. For example, your parents have the right to be responsible for you until you are 18 years old because it’s their job. Your best friend doesn’t have the right to tell you what clothes to wear or who to have relationships with because it’s not their job.

You might find that people try to overstep boundaries when they are stressed or having problems in their own lives. If this happens, then you should be there for them as much as you can without being taken advantage of. However, if they are trying to rule over your life by guilt tripping you, then it’s time to say No and put your foot down.

If someone is overstepping boundaries with you regularly, then it might be a sign that they are too controlling in their own life. For example, if they are regularly saying “you should…” or “I wish you would…”, then they probably have difficulty making their own decisions. They’re probably not thinking about what they want, but rather what they think you should do.

People who are controlling in their own lives often don’t like it when other people make their own decisions, especially if those people don’t follow the rules that the controller set up. For example, imagine a parent who says “you should tell me where you’re going and who you’re going out with at all times”, but when the child tells them where they are or who they are with, then the parent loses it.

The person might feel angry because they aren’t getting what they want from the child. And rather than figuring out how to handle their own anger, they may blame the child for causing their anger. This is a problem because it’s out of balance and not fair to the child, who often feels bad about themselves.

People with controlling personalities might also feel that they know everything. They might say things like: “you should just know…” and “how could you…” If someone says something like this to you, then they are suggesting that you don’t know anything. And it’s possible that they feel bad about themselves because something happened in their life that made them feel stupid or useless.

They might be trying to make you feel stupid by making comments like this. They may do it unconsciously, but if it makes you feel badly about yourself, then it’s time to tell them to stop. You also might want to encourage them to find a support group for people who don’t feel good about themselves because this is, in fact, one of the biggest problems that such people have.

If you are dealing with someone who doesn’t respect your boundaries and tries to overstep your boundaries on a regular basis, then you need to say No and stick with it. This isn’t selfish; rather, it’s a way for both of you be happy. Because if they are constantly pressuring you or telling you what to do, then they probably aren’t very happy themselves.

If you find that people keep trying to overstep your boundaries in the workplace, you need to speak up and say No. You should also let them know that if they keep it up, then you will find another job. This might be a good time for them to evaluate their own boundaries because controlling people often don’t like it when other people say “no” to them.

Also, don’t try to be the “nice guy” and put up with overstepping boundaries. It’s better to be kind, but still set limits. You can be caring without giving away your own self-worth or respect for yourself.

This is part of how you take care of yourself and put your foot down when people try to control you by guilt tripping you or telling you what to do. If this happens regularly, then it’s time to say No and stick with it. Remember that the only person who can control your life is yourself.

People who are constantly trying to rule over your life by guilt tripping you are in the wrong, not you. You have a right to be happy in your own life. And you have a right to set boundaries, even if other people don’t like it.

This is your life and the only person who has any right to control it is you. So speak up and say No when someone tries to overstep your boundaries for their own benefit. You also need to speak up about it in a calm, collected manner.

Here are some suggestions and you can mix and match if necessary:


  • “I’m not sure I like how… [describe specific action].”
  • “That’s a little personal.”
  • “Is that really necessary?”
  • “I’m not comfortable with that.”
  • “That’s not appropriate.”

Note: These phrases are general enough to use for a wide range of situations, from “you’re being too loud” and “that comment was racist/sexist/ableist,” to “please don’t touch me without asking first.”

  • – “Why do I need to do that?”

For some people, they might ask why you need them to do something or stop doing something. Sometimes this question is asked because the person doesn’t understand how their behavior could be a problem; other times it’s as if they’re challenging you to give a reason as an excuse for having told them off in the first place.


  • “I don’t know what you mean.”
  • “Can you explain what I’m doing wrong?”
  • “Are you asking me why you should do that?”
  • If they ask why simply because they’re arguing with your request, try the following:
  • “You’re not explaining yourself well enough.”
  • “It’s as if you’re not understanding what I’m saying.”
  • “I’m not sure I can explain it well enough.”
  • If they ask why because they want to argue, try the following:
  • “I can’t give a reason for something that makes sense to me.”
  • “You don’t even know what the problem is, so why should I give reasons?”
  • “I’m not trying to be difficult, it just doesn’t make sense.”
  • “It appears that you’re challenging me on this for some reason. Is there a problem with what I said?”
  • – “You don’t get to tell me what to do!”

People who are overly defensive about being told what to do might say this. It’s as if they’re taking the phrase “I’m not trying to tell you what to do” too literally and arguing that someone can’t control or direct their behavior in any way.


  • “I don’t want to tell you what to do.”
  • “I’m not trying to tell you what to do.”
  • “It’s not about wanting or not wanting to control/direct you.”
  • “I’m only suggesting the best way I know how to handle this situation.”
  • – “That was really mean!”

Some people might accuse you of being ‘mean’ for telling them off. If someone is accusing you of this, it’s as if they think that there’s something inherently wrong with speaking up when someone is being unpleasant or unfair.


  • “I’m not trying to be mean.”
  • “This isn’t about ‘meanness,'”
  • “‘Mean’ is a harsh word for what I did.”
  • “I’m not trying to be rude either, but…”
  • – “You’re too sensitive.”

Someone might accuse you of being ‘too sensitive’ when they don’t want to accept that their behavior was the problem. It’s as if they feel entitled to your consideration without having to give any in return.


  • “I’m quite capable of deciding for myself what bothers me.”
  • “This isn’t about ‘sensitivity.'”
  • “Being sensitive isn’t bad, but…”
  • “It’s not like I couldn’t handle hearing what you said; rather it feels like you’re taking advantage of that fact.”
  • – “What are people going to think?”

Here, someone might be worried that other people will judge them or worry about their reputation. It’s as if they’re expecting you to prioritize their comfort over your own needs and the effects on others.


  • “I don’t care what other people think.”     “This isn’t an issue of how other people will view you.”
  • “What other people think isn’t your problem.”
  • “I can’t ignore what I’m feeling just to avoid hurting yours/other people’s feelings.”
  • – “I have a right-” [to do X, say Y, feel Z]

When someone tries to make a point of their ‘right’ to do or say something, it’s as if they think that their comfort matters more than someone else’s.


  • “I understand your rights.”
  • “But what about my feelings?”
  • “Your behavior isn’t about your rights; it feels like you’re taking advantage of them.”
  • – “I’m not like that!”

This is a phrase someone might use when they’re accused of doing something unfair or hurtful, and they try to make themselves look better by saying ‘I’m not like that!’ It’s as if they think you should accept their self-serving opinion rather than considering the facts.


  • “You don’t know me well enough to say that.”
  • “You’re exaggerating.”
  • “I don’t think you have all the information about what I did/said/meant.”
  • “My actions are not who I am as a person. You can’t judge me for this one thing.”
  • – “Don’t be so sensitive!”

This is a variation on the “You’re too sensitive” response. Someone might say this to try and get rid of their guilt or shame for doing something bad or problematic.


  • “I’m not being overly sensitive.”
  • “Being ‘sensitive’ isn’t bad, but…”
  • “Why are you trying to tell me what I’m thinking/feeling?”
  • “Being sensitive isn’t a bad thing, but…”
  • – “I’m not going to apologize for this.”

Someone might say this when they’re accused of doing something hurtful or problematic. It’s as if they think that apologizing (and having their actions questioned) is more distasteful to them than the other person being hurt.


  • “I don’t know what you want from me.”
  • “I’m not trying to tell you what to do.”
  • “Go ahead and be upset, I can handle it.” “What would an apology solve?”
  • – “You have nothing better to do?”

This is a response someone might give you when you express frustration about their behavior. It’s as if they think that it’s bad of you to be upset and that there aren’t any problems or situations worth getting angry over.


  • “I’m busy and I still find the time to do this.”
  • “My time is my own and I choose to spend it like this.”
  • “I value my free time. Being told that I’m wasting it hurts me.”
  • – “You’re overreacting {“to my behavior,” “to what I did”,”to what you heard”}.” […other things in the same vein]

People who make these kinds of comments don’t like it when you ask them to consider how their behavior affects others or that they should have some empathy. They seem to think that their comfort, including the difficulty that comes from having to change a habit, is more important than other people’s feelings.


  • “I understand your point of view.”
  • “I can see it from your perspective. That doesn’t change how I feel though.”
  • “You might be right, but this still hurt me.”
  • “I don’t think you understand what this feels like for me.”
  • – “What are people going to think?” [“about {“what they did,” “you being upset,” “you saying what you said”}”]

Someone who makes a point of asking about what other people might think usually cares more about their image and how they’re perceived than actually taking responsibility for problematic behavior or working to make things right with the person hurt.


  • “I think you care more about what other people think than about me.”
  • “You keep deflecting. What do you have to say for yourself?”
  • “…about what I just said?”
  • “Do you want to be honest with yourself or not?”
  • – “It’s not that big of a deal.” [“that {“I did {something bad}”},” “what you’re feeling is wrong”]

People who say this generally want to make themselves feel better and don’t care about how you feel, even though they say they do. They might devalue your emotions based on their own needs and comfort level (for example, thinking that if they can’t handle something then it’s too much for anyone to deal with).


  • “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
  • “It’s not about what I think. It’s about how you feel.”
  • “If it hurts, maybe I can try to understand/figure out what happened.”
  • – …and anything in this vein (e.g., “You’re too sensitive,” “You’re not {as/too} hurt as you think,” “It wasn’t that bad,” etc.)

People who do this think they understand how you feel better than you do. They assume to know the cause of your pain and often blame you for it. Assuming their own interpretation is true, they act like there’s nothing to fix or work on.


  • “I think you’re reading more into this than there is.”
  • “I can’t know how you feel, so I’m really interested in hearing that for myself.”
  • “Is that what happened?”
  • – “Why are you trying to guilt trip me?” [“when {“what I said,” “how I feel,” “what you did”}”]

People who react in this way think that your feelings, thoughts, and needs aren’t a good enough reason to change a behavior or demand understanding from someone. They don’t want to feel bad about their actions, so they accuse you of manipulation when you hold them accountable for their part in a problem.


  • “What you did hurt me, and I just want things to be better.”
  • “For now, I’m trying for us to have a good relationship again.”
  • “I don’t think I deserve to feel this way.”
  • – “I’m going to find someone else.”

This is an attempt to make you feel insecure about the relationship. It’s a way of pleading for attention without actually changing anything or taking responsibility. All they want is validation that things are okay with you and that there’s no chance they’ll find someone better than you. Suggestions:

  • “I think I can do better.”
  • “I don’t think you can anymore.”
  • “Is there anything you’re willing to do differently?”
  • – “It’s not like I meant it that way!” [“when {“what I said,” “how I acted”,”what happened”}”]

People who say this are trying to avoid responsibility for how something came across. They want to make it seem like they didn’t really say or do anything wrong, even if that’s not true.


  • “I heard you say/do {“this thing”}.”
  • “How was I supposed to interpret what happened?”
  • “That’s how it came across to me.”
  • – “I didn’t really mean it that way.” [“when {“what I said,” “how I acted”,”what happened”}”]

People who say this are trying to convince themselves that something wasn’t offensive or hurtful, even if it was. They’d rather attribute their behavior to a misunderstanding than own up to what they did and consider how insensitive it might have been.


  • “I may not be the best judge of that, but I still think {“this thing”}.”
  • “What do you mean?” (“…What did you mean?” if it seems like they’re hedging because what they said was bad.)
  • If necessary, repeat their statement back to them and ask if that’s what they meant.
  • – “That’s just how I am!” [“when {“what I said,” “how I acted”,”what happened”}”]

People who say this think their behavior is okay, regardless of the effect on others. They might truly believe it or be trying to justify something they’ve done.


  • “I’m not willing to act like that anymore.”
  • “You can’t change me, but I can change how I act around you.”
  • “How would you like us to handle this?” (If they don’t answer, repeat their statement back to them with emphasis on the “that.”)
  • – “I can’t do anything about it.” [“when {“what I said,” “how I acted”,”what happened”}”]

People who say this think that you shouldn’t get upset or hurt by what they did, so no action could change their behavior. They don’t acknowledge how much it bothers you and may even believe that being open about their actions will make you feel worse.


  • “I’d still like for us to have a good relationship again.”
  • “How would you want me to react?” (“…if it were me?” if they say this.)
  • “It doesn’t bother you, so there’s nothing to fix.” (If they say this, it’s probably because they haven’t thought about the problem and don’t know or want to know how much their actions mean to you.)
  • “I’m not giving up on this.”
  • – “If I can’t talk about it with you, who can I talk about it with?” [“when {“who else I’ve tried to talk to”}”]

People who say this don’t believe they can talk about something in your presence and want you to convince them that it’s okay. They may also be fishing for information about what you’ve told other people, which is a way of establishing trust without actually earning it.


  • “I think there are some things we can talk about in front of each other.”
  • “I think you should be able to bring it up with me if you want to.”
  • “We might not have the best relationship, but I still want what’s best for you.”
  • – “If that’s how you feel, then maybe we shouldn’t see each other.” [“when {“what we’re doing right now”}”]

People who say this want to try and scare you into giving them what they want by acting like they won’t care if you don’t do it. They think that you should prioritize whatever they’re asking for over your own feelings and plans.


  • “I’m not willing to do that.”
  • “I’d rather not do that if it makes you feel uncomfortable.”
  • “Is there anything I could do to get you to change your mind?” (If they’re not willing.)
  • “I’m not going to let this go without a fight.”

It May Feel Uncomfortable

When you’re establishing boundaries, it’s important to remain firm in your stance, embrace the discomfort, and not let someone overstep those boundaries. You should also be willing to recognize when a person is trying to manipulate or coerce you into doing something against your will.