7 phrases classy people use to establish boundaries (without causing offense)

We sometimes include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate disclosure.

Have you ever wanted to establish boundaries with others, but found yourself worried that you’re going to offend someone as you do it?

Well, there are some great phrases that classy people often use so as not to get pushed into things they aren’t comfortable with. And the bonus? They do it while also keeping everyone on side.

Read on to discover some of these phrases.

1) “Right now, I need to focus on my own needs.”

Have you ever wanted to say “No” to someone’s request to help them, but weren’t sure how to do it? If you’re nodding, you’ve probably also ended up helping them out and as a result, not having time for something you needed or wanted to do.

I used to find myself in this situation all the time until I figured out it was all in the words I used to decline their request.

I hate saying “No” because I feel like I’m letting people down or offending them. But sometimes I have to because I have a lot of things in my life that I need to prioritize. If I’m always saying “Yes”, I’m doing myself a disservice.

This article explains that we can use a sentence like this one, when we want to say no but without explanation. 

When you say to someone, “Right now, I need to focus on my own needs,” the person you’re speaking with will understand that you have a lot going on, which makes it easier for them to see why you can’t help out. It’s also polite and you haven’t said outright that you just don’t want to help them.

They also may begin to respect your time in the future instead of thinking you’re always readily available.

2) “I appreciate your interest, but I’d prefer to keep that information private.”

I don’t know about you, but when someone asks me a question, often I’ll answer without thinking whether I should divulge that information or not. 

Because this has gotten me into a lot of trouble in the past, I had to try and figure out how to keep my big mouth shut without offending the person asking the question. 

When you use the phrase, “I appreciate your interest, but I’d prefer to keep that information private,” you have time to think about whether you are happy to share it at a later date. It also shuts down that area of conversation. 

“I appreciate your interest” helps to make the other person not feel rude for asking the question, and “I’d prefer to keep some things private” asserts your boundaries

I’ve found that nine times out of ten when I’ve used this sentence, the other person respects my decision and begins a new topic of conversation.

3) “I’m not comfortable with that, thank you for understanding.”

Have you ever gone along with something you weren’t comfortable with just because you didn’t want to offend the other person?

It’s easy to do but isn’t always the best option. 

The best part about this sentence is the last part. When you conclude with “thank you for understanding,” the other person doesn’t get a choice to try and coerce you anymore.

You’ve already ended the conversation by saying thank you. You’ve changed the whole situation and have taken your power back. 

When a friend of mine did his Police training he told me that they learn how to speak with people in a way that manipulates them to do what they need them to do. 

One of the words they use is “thank you” instead of please.

For example, “Get in the car, thank you”. It gives you authority rather than sounding like you’re begging them to do something. And yet it still sounds polite.

4) “I’d rather not get involved with that. I hope you understand.”

Have you ever found yourself amid gossip you felt uncomfortable being a part of?

Sometimes we fall into the trap of saying things we didn’t want to or didn’t mean just because of the situation we are in. Or because we aren’t sure how to say “no” politely.

One way we can say “no” politely, is by using the sentence, “I’d rather not get involved with that. I hope you understand.” 

When we use the phrase, “I hope you understand” we are, in a way, cutting off the other person from trying to keep the uncomfortable conversation flowing.

It’s similar to “thank you for understanding”, in the sense that if they say that they don’t understand, then they look like the rude one. 

It simply stops someone in their tracks, and they are likely to apologize and change the subject.

5) “I value my personal space. I hope you can respect that.”

Can you think of a time when someone just wouldn’t leave you alone

It can be so frustrating. And if we don’t create proper boundaries then we can end up like a friend of mine who began avoiding a certain person, because they were always turning up to find them.

We were on a long holiday and my friend had the bungalow next to mine. This woman, who really liked my friend’s company, just kept looking for her. Sometimes my friend would tell me not to let this woman know if she was in the bungalow or where she was because it was happening so frequently.

If only my friend had used this simple sentence! She might have kept a friendship and not been so stressed out that someone was going to turn up at her bungalow every day looking for her.

6) “I’d rather not discuss that topic. Shall we change the subject?”

“I’d rather not discuss that topic. Shall we change the subject?” is a sentence I had to learn when I was young, as I have a religious mother. 

Once she found out that I had decided to no longer go to church or follow the same religion as her, she would always talk about it with me. This would lead to big arguments and become so frustrating that I would avoid calling her or going to visit, because I knew she would bring it up.

But wow, what a difference it made to our relationship when I used that one sentence. She would suddenly realize what she was doing and was able to change the subject. Suddenly we were able to get along much better than previously.

Sometimes people don’t realize that they are speaking about something that is not what someone else wants to hear. Why? Because they are so passionate about the topic. They just need a polite reminder and a redirection of the conversation. 

7) “Let’s keep our conversation more positive, shall we?”

Have you ever been having a conversation with someone and you’ve noticed it takes a negative turn?

Suddenly the other person is just having a big old moan and it’s not doing anything for your mood nor is it making you feel good.

Sometimes I feel like I need to let someone moan and let out their negative feelings, but I don’t like it if it continues and begins to bring me down.

This article shares how to end a conversation on a high note by using phrases similar to this one. 

You can turn a conversation around without seeming rude by either using this phrase or by pointing out a positive twist to something negative they have just mentioned.

Final thoughts 

Now you can have positive conversations and keep your boundaries intact, without making the other person feel uncomfortable. And of course while still staying classy!

Who wouldn’t want that?

Louisa Lopez

Louisa is writer, wellbeing coach, and world traveler, with a Masters in Social Anthropology. She is fascinated by people, psychology, spirituality and exploring psychedelics for personal growth and healing. She’s passionate about helping people and has been giving empowering advice professionally for over 10 years using the tarot. Louisa loves magical adventures and can often be found on a remote jungle island with her dogs. You can connect with her on Twitter: @StormJewel

7 phrases only emotionally mature men use, according to psychology

5 behaviors of women who seem nice but lack integrity, according to psychology