Your Quick Guide to Setting Boundaries

Learning to set healthy boundaries is crucial to maintaining your recovery over time. Setting boundaries helps protect your physical and mental health. When you stand up for yourself, know who you are, and what you want, that will do wonders for your healing.

However, before we start setting boundaries, we must understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries help people define who they are as a way to ensure relationships are safe, supportive, and respectful. Unhealthy boundaries are thoughts or behaviors used as a means to manipulate or control relationships to keep people away. 

 Three Keys to Setting Healthy Boundaries

  • Boundaries should be based on your values, or the things that are important to you. So you should establish in which areas of your life you would want to set boundaries. These areas will likely include your religion, ethics, thoughts, time, personal space, emotions, sexuality, energy, and culture.
  • Your boundaries are yours, and yours alone. Know that many of your boundaries might align with those who are close to you, but others will be unique and that is quite alright.
  • Know your boundaries before entering situations. This will make it less likely you’ll do something you’re not comfortable with.
Women chatting

Communicating Your Boundaries

Once you have understood what your boundaries are, the next step is to communicate them by standing up for ourselves when we are placed in situations that challenge them. 

The acronym DEAR MAN outlines a strategy for communicating effectively. This strategy will help you express your wants and needs in a way that is respectful to yourself and others. Using DEAR MAN will increase the likelihood of positive outcomes from your interactions.


Clearly and concisely describe the facts of the situation, without any judgment.
“You have asked me to work late 3 days this week.”


Use “I” statements to express your emotions.
“I feel overwhelmed by the extra work I’ve been given,” or   ”I am not comfortable with this.”


Clearly state what you want or need. Be specific when giving instructions or making requests.
“I need to resume my regular 40-hour work week.”


Reward the other person if they respond well to you.
Smiling, saying “thank you”, and other kind gestures work well as reinforcement.


Being mindful of your goal means not getting distracted by other issues.
“I would like to resolve the overtime issue before talking about the upcoming project.”

Appear confident

Use body language to show confidence, even if you don’t feel it.
Stand up straight, make appropriate eye contact, speak clearly, and avoid fidgeting.


Know the limits of what you are willing to accept, but be willing to compromise within them.
“I’ll finish the extra work this week, but I won’t be able to manage the same amount of work next week.”

 DEAR MAN Acronym is included here courtesy of

More information about assertive communication is included in our blog dedicated to this topic.

About the Authors

Renascent Staff
The staff at Renascent is passionate about helping people with substance addictions so they can reach their full recovery – with compassion, respect, empathy and understanding. Our staff includes our counsellors, all of whom have lived experience of addiction and recovery.