Boundaries: Three levels to help you discover and communicate yours.

Do you ever feel unsure about knowing or communicating your own boundaries? If you do, don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone – and solving this challenge might be easier than you think.

If you prefer text over video, you'll find the transcript below.

In case you didn’t know, I’m TJ Guttormsen, and I was askedto shoot a video for you guys about boundaries, so I figured I’d share a simple but powerful framework that will help you both discover and better understand your own boundaries – and give you an effective way to communicate them to others.

Our boundaries can – and should - be sorted into three levels of importance.

Starting at the least important and working our way up, these levels are: Wants, needs, and hard boundaries.

Although these might sound self-explanatory, let me define each of them with a few examples of what they might look like, to make sure that we’re on the same page, and make it easy for you to use them to share your boundaries.

Your wants.

Let’s start at the simplest one: Our Wants are the things that we would like to have – but that are not critically important for the relationship or our own well-being.

You can think of it as candy, or ice cream, or whatever your favorite non-critical food item is.

It’s something that you might WANT to have, but if you don’t have it you’ll be fine.

So in a relationship with a romantic partner, for example, you might want your partner to love your favorite types of movies, or be able and willing to give you massages whenever you’re tired, or … always pick up their dirty socks or whatever.

But if they don’t, you’re not gonna end the relationship over it.

Your needs.

The second level, needs, are the things that you can’t really go without.

But you might not need them all the time. And you might be willing to forego them under certain circumstances - and if asked – although only for a limited time.

Needs are like food.

You do need food on a regular basis to survive, but you CAN go some time without it if you have to.

It might not be enjoyable, but it might be something you’re willing to do for a greater goal, to take care of your partner, or other such reasons.

So you might, for example, need your romantic partner to be affectionate and intimate with you. Or your friend or colleague to be reliable and supportive.

But if there’s a good reason for it, like them temporarily being under a lot of pressure and stress, or going through a traumatic experience, or anything else that might make it hard for them to fulfill that need for a limited time – that might be ok.

Your hard boundaries.

And then the third level, hard boundaries, are the things that have to be present, respected, and upheld in a relationship at all times.

To continue the simile with physiological needs, our hard boundaries are like air. Take away our air, and odds are that things will go bad pretty fast.

So you might have hard boundaries around things like faithfulness, dishonesty, safety and security, or whatever else.

And if someone breaks those boundaries, the relationship might be in significant trouble.

Your boundaries are specific to you.

Now keep in mind that these are all just examples.

Your wants, needs, and hard boundaries are – and should be – highly individual and based only on what’s right for you - and not on what’s right for other people or on what other people think your boundaries should be.

Your boundaries might also be different from relationship to relationship.

Something that is a want with one person might be a need with another, and that’s ok. There are no universal rules here.

Your boundary exercise.

Set aside time to write down your wants, needs, and hard boundaries for the important relationships in your life where it feels like a good idea to explore them.

It’s important that you’re very honest with yourself about the things that you put into the Needs and Hard Boundaries categories.

Remember that this is not about controlling others or “getting your way”.

These are things that can significantly affect – and even end – relationships. So make sure they’re real and in the correct category.

The goal and purpose of boundaries.

The goal of sharing needs and boundaries should be to create the best possible relationship we can – whether it’s romantic, platonic, or even professional.

And when our Needs and Hard Boundaries are honest and accurate it becomes a lot easier to have a nice and pleasant boundary-conversation, than if our goal is to control or limit others.

After you’ve written things down it can be a good idea to leave your lists alone for at least a few days and then double-check them when you’re in a different mood than you were when you first wrote them - to make sure that everything still looks accurate.


Well, because our wants, needs, and hard boundaries can sometimes be influenced by our mood.

When we’re happy, it can be easy to underestimate the importance of things, and when we feel upset, stressed, anxious, or similar, it can be easy to overestimate them.

So make sure that you’re confident that what you’ve written down is based on what’s real to you generally speaking - and not on your mood in the moment. And when you are, it’s time to share them in your relevant relationships.

Now, it’s beyond the scope of this video to cover all of the details about how to do that.

But in a nutshell it’s a good idea to plan these conversations by letting people know that you’d love to sit down and talk about how the two of you can be the best ... whatever you are to each other.

And when you do sit down together, you can share these three categories with them and go through your lists.

Answer and discuss any questions or comments they may have, and when you’re done, ask if they can think of any of their own things in any of these categories.

If they can – listen. And if they need some time to think about it, give them that time and sit down with them again at some later point.

If it feels appropriate, you can also, of course, share these categories with them before the conversation – or even just send them the link to this article.

Boundary conversations should be a positive experience.

Lastly, please keep in mind that this conversation can – and should – be a positive one.

It’s not about being firm and strict and “laying down the law” with people.

This is a conversation between two people who play a significant role in each other’s lives, meant to help both of you learn how you can create even more love, trust, comfort, collaboration, or whatever else that is relevant for that relationship.

Fair enough?

Ok! That’s it for now, let me know if you have any questions, and thanks for watching!

Hi, I'm TJ Guttormsen.

Since 2009 I’ve coached clients ranging from Olympic gold medalists and billionaires, to people who simply want more out life.

I’ve done over 100 national media appearances, published books, and created online courses that have earned several “Highest Rated” titles from their 11 000+ members.

Today I coach clients from all over the world, and teach seminars for business and events from my home in Las Vegas.

Come join me in my Facebook group, follow my Instagram, or subscribe to my YouTube channel for fresh content on a regular basis.