Learning how to apply appropriate boundaries


  • Pitcrew

    I am fairly self-aware when it comes to personal character flaws, and being a people pleaser is near the top of that list. It means I am usually willing to overlook behavior that makes me uncomfortable because I would far rather be mildly uncomfortable than make someone else upset. I'll save the dime-store sob story about why I am the way I am, but I've been working on being better to myself and part of that is in learning how to establish and maintain boundaries. The biggest hurdle I am experiencing right now, however, is identifying when something is a legitimate issue rather than me being picky or fussy. I am struggling to figure out if I am being judgmental and overly standoffish, or if it is okay to for me to speak up. The problem is, I do not want to harsh someone else's fun. I know we all come to MU*ing to get access to pretendy-fun time and I really don't want to be the jackass that tells someone they are doing it wrong.

    So, this is my long-winded way of asking for advice or tips on how to ascertain if something is worth broaching and most importantly, how to address an issue in a way that doesn't come across assholish.
    I'm an asshole



  • Honestly, I'd say if you are having this inner conflict at all... there is an issue that needs to be communicated. My rules for these types of situations (which I never follow) are 1) establish what action I am going to take "if it happens again" which I guess is just establishing boundaries 101 and 2) don't be a mindreader. And definitely don't Jessica Jones this shit.


  • Pitcrew

    @aerianyx I dunno if i have any advice, but this struck close to home. I tolerate a lot of shit, especially from 'friends' because i am adverse to burning bridges, or the thought i might hurt other people. Of course until it hit a line and then i switch it up by becoming salty and spiteful and all growley tooth gnashy. Especially when people are wrong on the internet. It's something that I have been working on myself. I mean sure this person might be my BFF, but telling them that their actions are bothering me... what if they suddenly hate me forever now OH GOD. Or suddenly a switch flicks in me and i forget they exist.


  • Pitcrew

    1. If it makes you uncomfortable, you have the right to ask it to stop.

    It does not matter if it's "all in your head", or you being fussy. If it makes you uncomfortable, then it's okay to set boundaries.

    'Please don't do that, I don't like it.'

    Normal people who do not have behavioral issues will generally respond to this sort of thing in a healthy fashion; they might get hurt feelings, but it absolutely will not be the end of the world or a dramatastic explosion.

    If you get the dramatastic explosion, or you get someone yelling at you for being stuffy, or stuck up, or picky, then they are trying to use guilt to manipulate you. It is literally part of the con, to get past those boundaries -- having a fit is part of the 'over the line behavior' in the first place.

    If you're not sure that what they're doing is over the line or not, then either ask a trusted friend for their opinion, or just tell staff on the game that you're not sure and need a sanity check, but honestly, it really DOES get to be a litmus of 'is this making me uncomfortable' and if the answer is 'yes' it doesn't MATTER if you're just being picky or fussy.

    You need to tell them to stop. Politely. 'I do not like X, please stop doing it to me.'

    It doesn't have to be more than that. If they react to that badly, that is on THEM, not on you, and dealing with that fallout is where you are going to have to (painfully) grow as a person, unfortunately. Because typically people who are used to violating boundaries are VERY likely to throw an everloving tantrum when you start making them stop.



  • @aerianyx

    1. Be aware that your boundaries are your boundaries. They may not be another person's boundaries, but that's irrelevant; the question is what makes you uncomfortable.

    2. People who tell you you're overly sensitive are assholes. The proper response to "this RP is making me feel uncomfortable" is "I'm sorry I'll stop." Anything less than that is unacceptable, and a sign of an asshole.

    3. Quid pro quo is disgusting and should be reported. I really don't (edited) care if it is totally in-character; it's disgusting and is one of the sorts of behaviors that should not exist in our hobby.

    4. Stand firm, and get backup. When you set your foot down, it helps to talk to someone else about what happened. You don't need to identify who did it, but it's always helpful to know people have your back. And, by the way, if that "backup" tells you that you are being overly sensitive, remember Point 2 above.

    5. It is always okay to suddenly disconnect. You never, ever, ever have an obligation to stick around. Ever. You may have to deal with the consequences later, but you never, ever, ever have to stick around.

    Hopefully, this helps. I don't have much personal experience with this because I have very distant boundaries, but I've been told I'm a good listener. Also, I fuck up a lot but have enough presence of mind and awareness of self to not hold what I felt against the person I wronged.


  • Pitcrew

    Oh also.

    Don't get caught up in an argument about whether or not you should be made uncomfortable by that behavior. That is tactic #1 for boundary violating assholes everywhere, arguing with you about your right to set that boundary in the first place.

    KISS, every time. Keep it simple, stupid.

    'I do not like that. Please stop.'

    'But... <insert thing here>'

    'I understand. I do not like it. Please stop.'

    If you give them more than that, then they get something to twist and argue. If you keep it polite, direct, and simple, there's nothing to latch on about, there's nothing to FIGHT about.

    'I do not like that. Please stop.'

    'Why?'

    'Why does not matter. I want you to stop.'


  • Pitcrew

    One very important thing to keep in mind when you're developing boundaries is this: your feelings are worth the same as other people's.

    I find that people who have trouble enforcing their own boundaries tend to regularly underrate the importance of their own feelings in order to protect others'. But why should you have to suffer discomfort to protect someone else from the discomfort of having to mildly adjust? GUESS WHAT! Your discomfort is a valid feeling that you are feeling, and it's okay to politely seek for a way to make it go away.

    Think of what you would want someone else to do if you were doing something to unknowingly make them uncomfortable. Wouldn't you feel bad if you knew they'd been keeping it quiet so they didn't upset you? Since my impression of you is that you're a generally decent person who cares about those around her, I'd be willing to guess that you'd much rather endure whatever discomfort and upset you might feel at being asked to change something a little.


  • Pitcrew

    Also, make it about you, not them.

    'I do not like this' NOT 'When you do this, it makes me'

    Keep it subjective. If it's about your personal tastes/boundaries as a person rather than an objective observation of someone's behavior, it doesn't challenge their reality as much to be asked to stop something. If they are a reasonable person and not a creeper, then this will help you and the other person recover on the other side of the conversation.

    There's also (again) less to challenge you about, because it's not about whether they are RIGHT or WRONG, but instead whether or not you LIKE it, which they cannot legitimately make a case against.

    (ETA: This soapbox edition brought to you care of the two nasty creepers I've had to put out the airlock in the last 6 months or so. I am SO BAD at setting boundaries, so I have to work at it really hard, but this is where I go from when this bear does finally get woken up.)



  • @roz said in Learning how to apply appropriate boundaries:

    One very important thing to keep in mind when you're developing boundaries is this: your feelings are worth the same as other people's.

    I'm a bit more aggressive on this point, and would say:

    One very important thing to keep in mind when you're developing boundaries is that no one else's feelings matter as much as yours if you are made to feel uncomfortable.

    Because, to me, that's the best way to put it.

    I don't really care if the other person's enjoyment will be threatened or ended. So long as a particular line of RP is making me feel honestly uncomfortable, I will terminate it.



  • As someone who struggles with this as well, my number one piece of advice (which goes hand in hand with what everyone else has said) is this:

    Learning how to consistently do this after a lifetime of not is difficult. You’re not going to wake up tomorrow after this thread being capable of being Wonder Woman. It’s easy to read good advice, harder to apply it and hardest to internalize it as habit and reflex. Do NOT beat yourself up if you don’t always manage it, remind yourself “this is a process”, and know there will be ups and downs, failures and successes, as internal and external circumstances have their way with you.

    You’re already doing good to recognize the issue. The rest will come with time and effort and a few bruises. Be easy with yourself.


  • Pitcrew

    I think I would divide it into two categories, and there's a slightly different response for each.

    OOC behavior:

    This includes how someone speaks to you/treats you on channels, in OOC chatter, pages, and other non-IC communication (though if things in play veer towards the meta that starts to involve this, I'd consider that ooc behavior as well). It also includes things thrust upon your PC that you may or may not agree to (like the Surprise! Incest! stuff that has been talked about elsethread, but it can also mean people imposing offputting subjects onto your play that you're uncomfortable with without asking.)

    I think that it is always okay to put up personal boundaries when it comes to how people treat you OOCly. If someone is haranguing you about something on channel, or constantly paging you to do something for them ect, and it is starting to make you uncomfortable, it is okay to ask them to stop, oocly. If someone is constantly negatively venting to you about the game/something, and it is impairing your enjoyment of the game, it's okay to tell them that you need some space from complaints for now. If someone really wants to RP about a subject you're deeply uncomfortable with or have a squick about (my main one is miscarriage or infertility stuff that is overly intimate) then it's okay to tell that person "I'm sorry, but I really don't enjoy that subject, and would prefer to not be involved in those discussions, but I'd love to RP about something else" (if you otherwise enjoy their RP.

    IC Behavior:

    When it comes to IC canon or worldviews though, I think that you have to be a little more careful, if you are not staff and not a lorekeeper for the game.

    If it is GLARINGLY out of theme (Like on Arx, someone playing a character who is super sexist) then I think it's kind if they're a new player to let them know that they're way out of canon and do they know that. And then depending on their response, you could point them towards the right resources if you want to. If they freak out, I would say that's time to just back off and then involve staff, just so they know.

    If it's just something that annoys you (like someone who isn't playing a fealty stereotype how you would, someone who gets titles wrong and needs to be reminded frequently) or a playstyle mismatch (spammy poses to your terse ones or vice versa) or just someone whom you oocly don't really care for that much, but they are not harming anything, just annoying you--then honestly I would just let it go and concentrate on other people whom you do enjoy.

    I would say making a big ooc deal about annoyance issues rather than truly deep discomfort ones can be a boundary violation in itself, so I understand the caution.

    I would always err on the side of speaking up if someone is being rude, disruptive, or mean OOCly. Even if they're getting everything else "right". But if it's just a matter of taste, I would probably err on the side of caution.


  • Pitcrew

    A good tip I picked up from several Captain Awkward's letter replies (because she is GREAT at writing about how to set boundaries) dovetails quite nicely off of @Sunny's thing with keeping things simple. A common defense when someone is pushing at boundaries is to pull a whole "oh well I didn't mean it like that!" or "I was just joking around!" thing. Don't argue with this. It doesn't matter. You just go, "Great, then it won't be a big deal to stop!" It can really take the wind out of the sails of defenses like that. They can have all sorts of reasons or defenses, but it's useless to get caught up in arguing about them. They literally don't matter when you're just trying to get someone to stop a behavior that's making you uncomfortable.


  • Pitcrew

    I think suspicion alone that another player wants a scene or interaction to result in something you are uncomfortable with is enough to speak on it. I had a player once tell me "this is not going to lead to sexy times" right out the gate. I wasn't wanting or looking for that and told them so. I appreciated them sharing their concerns because then I knew we could do the scene without any awkwardness, anxiety or hidden suspicions.

    So, yeah, whenever you even have a hint that 'A' might go to 'B', and you don't like B, you should speak up on it. I don't think anyone worth spending time with would take offense and, on the contrary, should appreciate your candor.


  • Pitcrew

    This is absolutely something I struggle at from both sides, so, here's my take on it.

    First off, I have been incredibly slow at calling out behaviour that makes me uncomfortable in the past. To the point where I've just let it continue and instead of being honest, just ghosted an entire game because of it. So call it out early and often - to the person at first and escalate as needed if they don't listen or they argue.

    On the other hand, I constantly worry that I'm the person making someone else feel uncomfortable. My two ways of handling that are either a) check in with the person or b) back off. I tend to do option b without starting with option a, because I worry that that too will make the other person uncomfortable (yay anxiety).

    So I as a player am all for being called on it as soon as possible, because I would rather know. And yeah, it's not nice and it can be a bit of a gutpunch for all parties, but a) as others have said, if the person is worth talking to, they'll respect that and b) if the person on the other side is as horrifically anxious as me about it, then they'll appreciate knowing sooner rather than later.

    I've looked back over that and I'm not completely sure if I articulated that at all clearly, but it'll have to do.


  • Pitcrew

    Thank you guys. Seriously, thank you so much. This is all really super helpful. Seeing it in writing really helps me absorb stuff, and as much as it sucks that some of you clearly have the same sort of anxiety I do, it's also something of a relief to know I'm not the only one dancing and trying not to trip over myself at the same time.



  • @aerianyx I don't have a lot to contribute that hasn't been said, but just figured I'd +1 to the set of people with the same sort of anxiety/issues. I've been actively working on it for at least a couple years now, and still kind of suck at it, but some improvement beats no improvement, right? It's slightly less terrifying than before... Good luck!


  • Pitcrew

    @mietze said in Learning how to apply appropriate boundaries:

    I would say making a big ooc deal about annoyance issues rather than truly deep discomfort ones can be a boundary violation in itself, so I understand the caution.

    I think this is where I always stumble, and I've never been able to figure out where I fall on it. There's an issue on one of my games where there's someone I simply can't stand. But I can't think of any game rules they're breaking - or even bending.

    So even though they make me really uncomfortable to the point where I turn off channels/log off to get away from them... they aren't doing anything wrong.

    In the end I usually err on the side of not doing anything and praying they go away before I reach my limit. Which... isn't helpful, but they're not doing anything wrong, you know?


  • Pitcrew

    It is good when you realize that it's just a dislike of that person on your part rather than a fault of theirs. Because someone deciding that their dislike of someone needs to drum up to that person being offensive has caused a lot of pain and is in fact used as a manipulative tactic by a memorable handful of folks.

    So I do think people need to be both less tolerant of genuinely rude, thoughtless, and bad behavior while at the same time more tolerant of different playstyles and things other people like that you may not.

    Sometimes the line is fine, but in my experience the line can also be fudged and used as an excuse to engage in truly vile behavior.

    Someone not jumping through all the hoops you want to to include them in your personal play or someone who you feel is stupid for not getting "obvious" things that you think they should, or who is boring or who only seems to be interested in the <gender of choice> in the room, ect--these are not things that I would have a discussion with someone about.

    Someone imposing on me in a proactive way, such as channel or OOC browbeating, trying to force types of play on me that I didn't want, ect? That's worth both a discussion and immediate staff intervention if it is not listened to.



  • @mietze We need a Your Fun Is Not My Fun But Your Fun Is OK variant of the kinky one just for this.


  • Pitcrew

    Or that it is okay to not like doing everything with everyone. You should be able to maintain civility around people you do not like but are not putting anything on you but their existence, on a game. But everyone should ideally understand that: 1) just because you see your person you want to engage indulging in certain play with other people does not mean that they need to do it with you, 2) you do not need to give your same time commitment to people you dislike as you do with people you do like, and in fact if you try to do this you are probably going to end up being needlessly mean or impatient with them because nobody hides their genuine dislike of someone as well as they think they do, and 3)it is always okay to tell someone to stop a behavior that is distressing to you even if they have not broken rules per se as long as that behavior is not "being on the same game" and as long as you are willing to take ownership of the fact that as you discuss you may need to yield as much as them, when it comes to things like shared spaces and people.


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