What irony is it that in the poem “Mending Wall” where poet Robert Frost questions the wisdom behind the importance of good boundaries at all, he coined the proverb: “Good fences make good neighbours”.

Boundaries are a life enhancing system enabled by “yes’ and “no‟.  Boundaries are stop signs and borders you install to protect yourself that make it clear to yourself and all around you that you own your life, can make good choices, and pursue the authentic expression of who you are in the way you live, love, give and relate.

Boundaries are a limit you set between yourself and people when thoughts, activities and events are not in your best interest.

Boundaries can be healthy and vary with the situation and people. Clarity about your values will help you decide how strongly you hold onto and defend your boundaries

  • Strong, absolute, or non-negotiable referring to lines that you decide you will not cross under any circumstances. Eg. “I am fundamentally an honest and ethical person, so I do not steal, and I care for my clients’ records in a safe and secure manner”.
  • Soft or contextual where the situation or people may influence how strongly you adhere to the boundary. There may be behaviours you tolerate or even accept from your partner or friends, that you would never accept from a stranger or even a work colleague.
  • Porous especially in the company of demanding or manipulative people.

A person with healthy boundaries can say “no” to others when they want to. They are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships.

Having rigid boundaries that where a person always keeps others at a distance is unlikely to be in that person’s best interests as they will miss opportunities to let people in closely to them.

Having clear and healthy boundaries is a crucial component of self-care and wellbeing. That is because “in work or in our personal relationships, poor boundaries lead to resentment, anger, and burnout” (Nelson, 2016).

Boundaries in Context

There are many different ways and contexts for thinking about boundaries. It is valuable to spend time thinking about the shape of your boundaries in relation to these many different contexts, so you are more prepared when your boundaries are challenged. Some contexts include

  • Physical Boundaries
  • Emotional Boundaries
  • Sexual Boundaries
  • Intellectual Boundaries
  • Financial Boundaries
  • Time boundaries
  • Sexual boundaries
  • Intellectual boundaries
  • Material boundaries

So how do you build better boundaries

  • The more you can articulate your personal and organisational values, the easier you will find it to recognise when your boundaries are being pressured or breached in some way.
  •  Develop and practice using essential communication skills to set your boundaries.
  •  Recognise when others are attempting to manipulate you into feeling bad when you attempt to set boundaries especially against their intrusive behaviours.

Frost was wrong – good fences do make good neighbours.

To help you or your organisation understand boundaries, please view our website: https://www.iod.com.au/

To join a From Mates to Manager workshop, click here: https://www.iod.com.au/workshop-and-events/

To read more Individual & Organisational Development blogs, click here: https://www.iod.com.au/blog/

Good Fences Make Good Neighbours Mending Wall – By Robert Frost


Self-Care 101: Setting Healthy Boundaries by Dr Dana Nelson 2016