Communicating Boundaries

Effectively communicating your boundaries can minimize misunderstandings and potential conflicts with roommates, family members, and friends. Below are some common examples of how effective communication of boundaries are essential in college.

Communicating with Roommates

Living with a roommate for the first time is a common experience for many college students. Many roommate conflicts arise because students fail to communicate their boundaries. For example, if you prefer your living environment to be tidy, but you never communicate this to your roommate, how will they know that leaving their clothes all over the floor makes you feel stressed out? If they prefer to go to bed by 11pm but never tell you this, how will you know that inviting friends over at 11pm crosses one of their boundaries?

Asserting your boundaries about cleanliness of space, quiet hours, room temperature, volume of music, sharing of clothes or food, people sitting on your bed, and more are all important boundaries to talk through with roommates.

Communicating with Family Members

Establishing autonomy from family members is another common experience for college students. It is important for you to figure out how often you prefer to communicate and check in with family members, when it is ok for them to check in on you, and what topics you feel comfortable speaking with them about. Similarly, what are your expectations (and theirs) around staying out when you are home on break? These are boundary issues for you and your family to communicate and navigate. 

Communicating with Friends

It’s very easy to spend a lot of time with peers at school. Communicating boundaries about space and time needed for yourself and schoolwork in one example of a boundary students navigate. Setting boundaries about conversational topics is sometimes necessary. If you have a friend that is guilty of sharing TMI, it would be helpful for you to explain how that level of information-sharing makes you uncomfortable. Similarly, behavioral boundaries may arise in peer groups. If a peer says something that is harmful to another person, or does something that puts themselves at risk, communicating how these are not ok for you helps to establish a boundary.