Are You Setting a Boundary or Giving an Ultimatum?

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giving an ultimatum

People often confuse setting boundaries with giving an ultimatum. In this video, you’ll learn the key differences between the two.

Do you know the difference between setting a boundary and giving an ultimatum? In this video, I define and share examples of both, so you can easily know when you’re using language that pushes people away instead of bringing them closer.

Are You Setting a Boundary or Giving an Ultimatum?

What’s a boundary?

A boundary is a limit you set for yourself. These limits determine what you will and won’t do or accept or tolerate. Effective boundaries are about your choices not someone else’s. This is why setting healthy boundaries is so important, especially in romantic relationships.

It’s empowering when you can identify your needs and set clear boundaries to protect them. You can’t control whether somebody will respect your boundaries, but you can control how you respond to them if they push back.

What’s an ultimatum?

An ultimatum is a demand that someone do something or change for you. It’s an attempt to control a situation by threatening or pointing a finger at another person. You might get someone to do what you want, but it will be out of fear, not because they really want to. It probably won’t last, because an ultimatum is coercive.

Examples of a boundary vs an ultimatum:

Setting a Boundary:

  • I want to speak to you, but not when you’re yelling at me. I’m going to take a walk around the block so we can both calm down, and when I return, let’s continue this conversation in a more loving way. 

Giving an Ultimatum:

  • Stop yelling at me or I’ll walk out of here right now and never come back!

Healthy boundaries are a powerful way to take care of yourself and have the most respectful relationships. When you understand that boundaries are about your choices and how you express them — firmly and kindly — it feels empowering. 

When you set boundaries with people who respect them, you’re more likely to get your needs met, because you’re being clear about what you will and won’t do. Giving an ultimatum is about powering over someone by threatening them, and that leads to dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships. Every relationship can become mutually satisfying with clear boundaries!



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