: something (such as a river, a fence, or an imaginary line) that shows where an area ends and another area begins

a point or limit that indicates where two things become different

: unofficial rules about what should not be done : limits that define acceptable behavior

The only consistent action you can count on in dealing with difficult people is that they will challenge your boundaries. They will take more than you offer, take more than they give back, and assume that you are the one with the problem if you challenge them on it. Dealing with difficult people necessitates that you are first able to construct and maintain boundaries.

Generally, problems with maintaining strong interpersonal boundaries occur from a need to please others, the fear of hurting people, the belief that the boundary will sever the relationship, or the assumption that the other person will change.

To increase your boundary-setting skills:

  1. Define who you are, the roles you want to play in life, and the types of relationships you want to have.
  2. Figure out what you will tolerate and what you will not allow in your environment.
  3. Increase your skill in assertiveness—graciously but firmly standing up for your own needs.
  4. Concise and consistent verbal responses are the most effective in training others to respect your boundaries.

See the book Boundaries (Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend), for more in-depth information about identifying and dealing with the people who are crossing yours.