12 phrases confident people use to set boundaries (without causing offense)

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It’s a word that’s become popular in the last couple of years, and for good reason. 

In a nutshell, setting boundaries is essential in all types of relationships. It’s your way of protecting yourself, emotionally, mentally, and physically. 

When you set a boundary, you’re effectively setting the tone for how others treat you. 

But I get that it can be hard to set boundaries and stick to them, especially if you’re new to this. I’ve been practicing for a while now, and one of the hardest things is putting a boundary in place without offending people. 

That’s why I wanted to create this list – 12 phrases confident people use to set boundaries (without causing offense). 

Want to find out more? Let’s dive in:

1) “I need to prioritize my time right now, so I won’t be able to commit to this.”

One of the most important things to remember when setting a boundary is to be clear and concise. 

Don’t be too vague, and avoid rambling on with 101 excuses as to why you don’t want to do something

What I love about this phrase is that it’s to the point, but it’s also polite.

You’re letting the other person know the reason why you can’t commit – it’s not that you don’t want to, but rather that you have other priorities in life right now. 

2) “Thank you for thinking of me, but I have to pass on this opportunity.”

A little trick I learned a while back was to avoid saying “sorry” when you’re unable to do something, as this puts you on the back foot. 

It’s like you’re accepting fault even though you haven’t done anything wrong. 

Instead, thank the other person and politely decline the offer. 

This shows appreciation to the other person and keeps the interaction warm and positive. 

3) “I appreciate your understanding as I take some time for myself.”

The great thing about this phrase is you’re letting the other person know that their empathy is valued. 

Confident people use this because as I mentioned above, they know they don’t need to be sorry for putting their wellbeing first. 

And rather than just saying, “Well, I needed time off…” they’re avoiding causing offense by acknowledging the role the other person has played in giving them time to themselves. 

4) “I’m working on being more mindful of my schedule, so I need to be selective with my commitments.”

We’re all on a journey, right?

To better ourselves, our work, and our lives in general. 

There’s nothing wrong with being honest about this. If you’re trying to be more organized with your schedule so you have more of a work-life balance, that’s your right to do so. 

And if that means turning down invitations, so be it. 

5) “I value our relationship, and I want to be upfront with you about my limitations.”

I recently gave a cousin some advice on setting boundaries. She’s been having problems with her best friend and wanted to know how to set boundaries without causing a fallout. 

I told her to start with this phrase as it sets the tone – you care about that person, but in order to continue the relationship, there needs to be mutual respect. 

She messaged me the other day and said the conversation went really well. Her friend was receptive and understood where my cousin was coming from.

They’re still close, but now with certain limits in place that allow my cousin to enjoy the friendship rather than feel disrespected. 

6) “I’ve realized I need to take a step back and focus on my health right now.”

It’s frustrating when you’ve got a lot on in your personal life, especially health issues, but your employers fail to recognize it. 

That’s where this phrase will help you. 

You’re politely but firmly letting them know that you’re putting your health first and that’s why you can’t take on certain tasks right now. 

But it doesn’t mean that once you’re better you won’t be contributing as you normally would. 

7) “I’ve committed to giving myself more downtime, so I won’t be able to join this time.”

I had to use this phrase recently – I have a friend who loves planning social events. But I have a lot on my plate, and going out multiple times a week is absolutely draining. 

When I made the decision to focus on my downtime more, I expressed this to her. 

Thankfully, she understood and didn’t take offense. 

And if she had?

It would have been a red flag to me that she isn’t a good friend like I initially thought. 

8) “I’m really working on balancing my work and personal life, so I need to say no for now.”

The truth is, most people are trying desperately to work on this, so you’re not alone.

And by being honest and upfront, others will probably be able to relate to you. 

Rather than be hurt or upset, you may even inspire someone else to take a firm stance on this matter and set their own boundaries. 

9) “I’m focusing on a few priorities right now, so I can’t give this the attention it deserves.”

Rather than take on more they can chew, confident people use this phrase to avoid two things:

  • Letting down the person they promised to help
  • Feeling guilty when they can’t fulfill the commitment 

So it works both ways. 

When you use this phrase, you’re essentially saying:

“My cup is full right now, and your project is important, so I’d rather it go to someone who can do a good job with it.” 

Pretty hard to take offense to that, especially as you’re showing you’ve got their best interests (and your own) at heart. 

10) “I need to protect my energy, so I’m being more mindful about how I spend my time.”

I come from a pretty toxic extended family, so on a recent trip back to my hometown, I knew I needed to put boundaries in place. For the first time.

Trust me when I say I was crapping myself! 

But when my parents suggested seeing certain family members, I knew it was time. 

I wanted to have a positive experience, and not feel drained and emotionally abused. 

This is what confident people do daily – they choose carefully who they surround themselves with.

And they don’t apologize for avoiding certain people, they just make it politely clear that they’re putting their energy first. 

11) “I’ve decided to take a break from social engagements for a while to recharge.”

This phrase is quite similar to point 7 – when you need to recharge your batteries, it’s a considerate way to decline social invitations. 

And look, whoever you set this boundary with should understand where you’re coming from.

Just because you don’t attend every party they organize, it doesn’t mean there’s an issue with the friendship. It’s simply that you need to prioritize your well-being, even if it means missing out sometimes. 

12) “I’m learning to listen to my own needs, and right now, I need to take a step back.”

And finally, listening to your own needs ALWAYS comes first. 

If that means you’re less available for those around you, that’s okay. 

If they truly care about you, they won’t take offense, especially if you use the phrase above. 

Confident people aren’t afraid to let others know that they’re prioritizing themselves – if anything they know that by doing this, they can show up better for others later down the line. 

So, you’ve now been armed with 12 phrases to use to set boundaries without causing offense. Print off this list and stick it on your fridge, save it to your phone, or screenshot the phrases you relate to the most.

When you need to set a boundary, you’ll know how to do so, confidently and effectively. 

Kiran Athar

Kiran is a freelance writer with a degree in multimedia journalism. She enjoys exploring spirituality, psychology, and love in her writing. As she continues blazing ahead on her journey of self-discovery, she hopes to help her readers do the same. She thrives on building a sense of community and bridging the gaps between people. You can reach out to Kiran on Twitter: @KiranAthar1

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