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Using words as a part of self defense

by Lori Hoeck on August 19, 2009

sayingnoThis may seem a little backward. I’m going to list some statements demonstrating verbal boundary setting. I’m doing this before writing about the subject.


I can explain boundary setting all day, but it really comes through in these words, don’t you think?

✦ It’s not OK to leer at me like that.

✦ I don’t agree that you have a right to judge my appearance, to put me on your 1-10 scale for beauty, or to make comments on my clothing.

✦ Stop trying to take a parental role over me. I will not be treated like a child.

✦ Your greater years of experience at this company do not mean you have every answer, nor do you have the right to belittle my ideas because I’m new.

✦ I will not stand here and take your anger. I’m going in the other room. We will talk later when we can have a more meaningful conversation.

✦ You keep telling me that “You just don’t understand!” Perhaps your communication isn’t as clear as you think. Can you find a way to re-phrase what you are saying?

✦ When you make fun of me in front of your friends, I feel you value their laughter more than you value me, and I don’t like that.

✦ I find it thoughtless of you to say you are going to meet me and then show up an hour late without texting or calling me.

✦ I love talking to you, but I don’t want to hear any office gossip.

✦ Unless it’s an emergency, don’t call me at home. I work 8-5, Monday through Friday and that’s it.

✦ Excuse me. I don’t appreciate being interrupted. I would like to finish what I was saying.

✦ When you say dismissively, “OK, I get it. I get it,” I feel you are trying to shut me down so you can move away from the subject.

✦ I don’t know if you realize this or not, but you are standing way too close to me for normal, business discussions. Step back a bit. No, more. There, that’s better.

✦ I appreciate you have strong feelings about this, but now is not a good time to talk. Can I meet you later?

✦ I don’t appreciate being badgered to give you my reasons. My thoughts on this are my own, and I don’t owe them to anyone.

QUESTION: If someone is stepping over your “No” and pushing past sensible boundaries of time, energy, intimacy, money, and resources, do you find it tough to set boundaries with them? Why is it so hard sometimes?


Thank you for visiting and learning about self defense.
If you think others can benefit, please pass it on!

Lori Hoeck


Photo Credit: James Emery

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Social Media Lesson: Reach out – Listen – Learn
August 20, 2009 at 12:06 pm


1 Timothy August 19, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Excellent! Thanks for this great lesson on verbal boundary-setting. The dark hearts, as you so skillfully describe them, hate to be constrained by boundaries. But if we don’t assertively set our own boundaries, as you’ve discussed here, they’ll cross them every time. Great post!

2 Betsy Wuebker August 19, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Hi Lori – These are all great. Another thing I learned either in counseling or from the book Coping with Difficult People, is always stay on message. Even if you’re repeating the same thing over and over and over again, don’t budge. Stand your ground or these people will bulldoze you (even if they’re your teenagers LOL). Great post!

3 Lori Hoeck August 19, 2009 at 8:29 pm

Hi Timothy,
I think boundary setting with a narcissist is often like trying to pet an unfriendly dog. The trick is seeing them as a chihuahua instead of the doberman they think they are.

Hi Betsy,
Stay on message is an excellent point! They do know how to bulldoze and dodge around a lot.

Your reference to Coping with Difficult People led me to a good resource:
Quick Reference for Coping with Difficult People.

4 Betsy Wuebker August 20, 2009 at 6:34 am

Hi Lori – That is an excellent table! I have forwarded it on to several people I know who are in the midst of a situation. Thanks!

5 Barbara Swafford August 20, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Hi Lori,

When I worked in the corporate world I remember using the one about office gossip as it seemed whomever wasn’t there at the time, got talked about. A friend and I made a pact that we wouldn’t participate in the negativity, so every time something bad was said about someone (who wasn’t there to defend themselves) we played devil’s advocate. Soon it was just my friend and I who took breaks together as we got tired of the backstabbing.

As you may have guessed, breaks became a joyful experience instead of 15 minutes of negativity.

6 Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach August 21, 2009 at 3:09 am

Defining boundaries can make your life that much easier. You’re the most important person in the world (you really are) and you deserve to be treated with respect.

When you internalize the above, you realize…it’s OKAY to tell folks, hey, I’m not your punching bad, you WILL treat me well. It’s amazing how effective that is.

7 Ulla Hennig August 21, 2009 at 3:15 am

this is an excellent post! I will translate those sentences into German and keep them in mind for using when needed. A big thank you!

8 Lori Hoeck August 21, 2009 at 7:37 am

Hi Betsy,
Thank you for mentioning the book! Hope the link helps your friends.

Hi Barbara Swafford,
Not gossiping hurt both my husband and me in different work places because when you don’t gossip, you are seen as even more fodder for the backstabbing machine. I’m glad you found someone who agreed with you in the workplace! The power of one is cool, but it’s much more fun with the power of two.

Hi Barbara Ling,
It’s ironic, but both narcissists (and control freaks) and falling for their tactics often have roots in insecurity. Once we draw the line in the sand, freedom and sense of self rises dramatically. It’s like chains falling off a freed prisoner.

Hi Ulla,
I hope they are as powerful for you in German as they can be in English!

9 Davina August 22, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Hi Lori. Setting boundaries is difficult for people who don’t value or believe in themselves. I’ve been in situations where I’ve been feeling off that day and if/when a situation comes up, I have less energy or desire to stand up for myself. On other days, when I’m feeling great and accepting of life as it is, I can stand up for myself… and not in a reacting way.

10 Lori Hoeck August 25, 2009 at 10:34 am

Hi Davina,
So true! My worst falls for narcissists or Dark Hearts came from Father Loss issues that include a lack of trust in self. My dad — and sister — died a few months apart when I was in second grade. Such things screw with sense of self big time.

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