The Importance of Creating Communication Boundaries With Friends Right Now

Whether you’re in complete isolation mode or occasionally going on socially distanced picnics with friends, communication with loved ones can feel tricky right now. You may have trouble telling a friend you don’t feel comfortable going to their house, or you might not be up to FaceTiming your family as much as you were at the beginning of the pandemic. Because of this, it’s increasingly important right now to set up boundaries around communication with friends.

“We all have different ways of responding to what is happening around us and how we navigate through this challenging time,” Pamela Krasner, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist tells Allure. “Some of us crave connection with others in an effort to lessen our feelings of isolation, while others withdraw from social interaction as a way to preserve themselves. Boundary setting allows you to communicate the level of social engagement that will feel supportive and uplifting during this time, rather than overwhelming or depleting.”

Adjusting to socializing differently can feel mentally and emotionally exhausting, especially if you are not on the same page as your loved ones. If you’re feeling like you don’t have the capacity to communicate with your friends or like you’re tapped out of talking about a particular subject, it’s important to recognize that boundary and communicate clearly and intentionally.

The importance of creating strong boundaries with friends

Setting boundaries with loved ones is often easier said than done, as it can be difficult to set a firm boundary without hurting anybody’s feelings. According to Santa Barbara, California-based relationship coach Silvy Khoucasian, clarity about what boundary you want to create can eliminate future issues or hurt feelings amongst friends.

“It’s important to remember that boundary setting is both personal and relational, and your boundaries affect more than just you,” Khoucasian tells Allure. “Being clear and not leaving any gray area about what you are expecting from a friend is really beneficial. It’s important to get in touch with your emotional capacity around how much you can text, talk, or hear someone else vent and then just be really honest with people about it.” 

Khoucasian added that in addition to honesty, it’s also important to be compassionate while setting boundaries. While it’s important that we all advocate for our own mental health and insist on silence and alone time when we need it, we should make sure that our friends still feel wanted and appreciated even as we take space.

Creating boundaries does not mean severing a relationship.

“During such hard times we might see new sensitivities that we didn’t experience before,” Khoucasian explains. “People might be more prone to feeling rejected or abandoned when we set a boundary. So it’s important to let friends know that a communication boundary isn’t something personal and it’s not because they did something wrong — remind your friend that your boundary is only about you.”

In addition to being firm and clear when drawing boundaries, it can also be very helpful to explain the reason you need a certain communication boundary with a friend. You might feel that less social interaction would be healthier for you because you feel drained from Zoom calls at work or you may be dealing with a lot of stressful phone calls from family members and need space to decompress. While an acquaintance or friendly coworker may not need this level of detail about your personal life, it can be helpful to let your close friends know this context when you tell them you need some space. Those who care about you will want to support you in feeling your best even if it means setting some stricter boundaries about when you can talk or what you talk about.

“Creating boundaries does not mean severing a relationship, it is just recreating the structures around the relationship in a way that feels healthier for the current situation,” says Krasner. “It is still possible to maintain the same level of connection and friendship during times of interaction, even if they are less often.”

Creating boundaries around specific topics

It can be important to not only create boundaries around how often we communicate but around the subject of communication. Sometimes an inundation of highly political conversations or hearing a friend vent too many times can take a toll on our mental health. If this is how you’re feeling, it’s important to communicate this boundary clearly and ideally sooner rather than later.

“People are sending news to their friends more and more and are also venting more frequently right now, and I think it’s important to still assume best intent,” Khoucasian explains. “When you communicate a boundary about a specific topic, it’s important to not make it personal, and emphasize that this boundary is about you. For example, if someone is sending you too much news and that is harmful to you, you can tell your friend that you appreciate them trying to keep you in the loop, but you prefer to do your research on your own when you have space to do it.”

It’s important to remember that you can’t help your friends unless you are taken care of, too.

It can seem harsh to tell a friend that you can’t talk about a certain topic with them, and it can be particularly hard to tell a friend you don’t have the capacity to listen to them vent about a bad boss, financial issues, or any other problem they may be having. However, it’s important to remember that you can’t help your friends unless you are taken care of, too.

“Along with the boundary itself, you should also be communicating reassurance,” Silvy explained. “If a friend wants to vent and you know you’re not in the right headspace, you should let them know you don’t have the capacity to hear them out properly or give good advice at the moment, but you will let them know when you’re ready to talk. It can also be helpful to point them in another direction to vent out their frustration. For example, you might not be in the right place to listen, but maybe another mutual friend is.”

What to do if someone oversteps a boundary

Though we all may try our best to respect each other’s boundaries, mistakes can happen even to the best of us. If a friend oversteps your boundary, there are ways to advocate for yourself and start productive conversations to ensure this does not happen again.

If a friend lets you know they didn’t like the way you communicated with them, be sure to hear your friend out. 

“Tread lightly and speak up if someone offends you,” Emma Hare, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, tells Allure.  It might be an issue of clarity or it might be just a result of fatigue on someone’s social skills from so many video calls. It is hard to bring up conflict with a friend under any circumstances but working through a tough moment in real-time can bring all parties much closer.”

The same is true if you overstep someone else’s boundary — if a friend lets you know they didn’t like the way you communicated with them, be sure to hear your friend out. If needed, you can find a time to talk or video chat about what happened and set more clear boundaries about communicating moving forward.

“This challenging time can be a moment of reflection for us all around the ways we interact as social beings and how our choices around social engagement can affect our internal states,” Krasner says. “Through mindful reflection we can begin to understand what healthy social interaction looks like for us, as individuals, and begin to create boundaries around those interactions that, in turn, enhance our internal states and overall well-being.”

Read more about mental health on Allure: 

Watch Now: Allure Video.

Don't forget to follow Allure on Instagram and Twitter.

Originally Appeared on Allure