How to Respect People's Boundaries

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Healthy boundaries allow you and the people in your life to feel safe and respected. They are essential for happy, healthy relationships. However, respecting people’s boundaries is difficult for adults with ADHD. It isn’t intentional, but common ADHD characteristics can mean boundaries are crossed. For example, impulsive behaviour might result in you interrupting people when they are speaking, or time management problems could mean you are often late.

Developing skills to respect people’s boundaries might require some minor adjustments or major changes in your behaviour. However, when you start to honor people's boundaries,  relationships improve and there are less arguments, feelings of disappointment, and resentment. Which means you can focus on enjoying each other’s company.   

Some boundaries are very clear and don't even have to be spoken. For example, ‘no physical violence.’  Not all boundaries are so well-defined and they vary from person to person, which can be difficult to navigate when you have ADHD.

Here are 5 ways to respect someone’s boundaries:

1) Verbal messages.

People will often tell you when you have crossed a boundary. The problem is you might dismiss it, forget about it, or be insulted. Instead, if you can take note and change your actions based on this feedback, the relationship will improve. For example, a friend might ask you not to telephone after 9pm because they go to bed early.

If you make sure to always call them before 9pm your friend will be happy to hear from you, rather than sleepy and possibly grumpy.

2) No means no.

This is an extension of verbal messages. If someone says no to you, try to accept it, even if you don’t like it. Some people with ADHD don't take no for an answer, and keep asking in the hope that the person will change their mind.

 It might be asking a girl on a date or asking a friend to borrow their squash racket. However, no means no. Don't try to wear the person down. They have expressed their boundary clearly and will feel resentful if you keep persisting.

3) Read nonverbal cues.

People often express their boundaries nonverbally. For example, if during a conversation with a colleague you notice them stepping away, their physical boundary might have been crossed and they are feeling uncomfortable. Your natural instinct might be to step forward to close the gap. Resist that urge! Give them the physical distance they need. People with ADHD can miss these clues because they are distracted. So if you find your mind drifting, gently bring yourself back to the present and watch as well as listen.

4) Respect Beliefs

It's easy to dismiss someone’s point of view if it doesn’t match your own or it doesn’t sound logical to you. For example, I was a vegetarian for 7 years and during that time many meat eaters would try to find holes in my beliefs and reasons for being a vegetarian.

It wasn’t enjoyable for me at all! If you can be open-minded and accept someone’s thoughts, beliefs, and values, then you will also be respecting their boundaries.

5) Timekeeping

Becoming a good time-manager is an excellent way to respect other people’s boundaries. Bosses, friends, and family all feel respected and cared about when you arrive at the agreed upon time. Time management is a challenge for many people with ADHD; however, it is a skill that can be developed. By showing up on time, not only will your relationships improve, but you will notice that people respect you more.


This article focuses on how you can respect other people's boundaries. For healthy relationships it is important that your personal boundaries are respected too.

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