My Story: Setting Boundaries and Communicating

By Amy Agigian —

MB shares how important it is to communicate and set boundaries with others. She recalls a time where communicating helped her at work.


OBOS Today: So, I know that you do some work with like consent and survivor justice, and I was wondering if you could talk about like how that kind of work that you do has influenced like the way that you personally communicate.

MB: Yeah, I think that one of the biggest things that I’ve learned—and I’m definitely not an expert on all of this, I am just someone who is interested in it and is trying to learn more—is that, like, consent and communication, navigating power, and boundaries, are things that are so part of, like, navigating sexual experiences and relationships, and that those skills are also something that completely, like, influence everything else in your life. And that, like, the skills, while they’re heightened in sexual relationships because sometimes the boundary crossing has much, like, worse consequences—but I think like if you learn how to communicate, like how to set like a small boundary, this one thing that you do, like, “You know, I really don’t like it,” or “It makes me uncomfortable and this is what I actually really like to do.” I think that’s something that is a skill that we can use in our sexual relationships.

And it is also a skill that we can use in our working relationships about, like, what tasks and stuff do we like to take on, and what do we not like to take on, and what are we uncomfortable taking on but it’s still okay if you need to. Kind of that kind of in-between zone.

Yeah, and so I think that’s one thing is that, like, if we’re teaching people, I think it’s, like, a problem in our society around how we talk about sex, and it’s also a problem in our society how we talk about, like, actually communicating with each other in our relationships, and that, like, hopefully as we’re addressing it on both those scales, they’ll help each other as we’re all just learning, like, how to communicate our boundaries, be vulnerable, and also be upfront, and like learn how to accept “no”s and learn how to say no.

But I’ll give an example, like: on the survivor justice team that I’m helping coordinate as part of the Sunrise movement, you know, we talk about, you know, consent, of course, and we talk about boundaries and being really explicit about, you know, what we like, what we don’t want to do.

And that’s something that we talk about in the context of, like, sex and relationships. However, I’ve realized that I was specifically like kind of biting off a little more than I could chew, and feeling really overwhelmed as a coordinator of that team, so I was able to use the skills that we were talking about and how we use in our sexual relationships—I was able to use that skill and really set a boundary with the team in my work as a coordinator and say, “Hi, like, this is something that is actually, you know— this work isn’t, like— the work of holding the, you know, listing of the things that I didn’t want to do is actually not really working for me. This is the work that I really want to be doing. I’m wondering if anyone else can take on, you know, these pieces and I’m going to set a boundary that I’m going to work on this thing and not that.”

And so I think that is something that, like, modeling, setting boundaries, being communicative, and saying what we like and don’t like is something that we can do in everything. And we can do it when with intimate partners.

Yeah! Which is, which has been really, really cool and I also do think that, like, the communication and consent around sexual and intimate experiences, interactions, does need its own specific individual attention, because it does have, like, really serious implications when boundaries are broken. Yeah.