Be honest… on a scale of 1-10, how good are you at setting boundaries?
Boundaries with clients? Boundaries with loved ones? Boundaries with YOURSELF?
In this exclusive interview with, Terri Cole, yes the Boundary Boss herself and author of a book by the same name…
✅ How to create bulletproof boundaries and stop people-pleasing – once and for all!
✅ The biggest misconception people have about setting boundaries – and what boundaries ACTUALLY look like.
✅ The 3 levels of boundaries you need to pinpoint in order to show up more authentically, feel less resentful and cultivate deeper relationships.
And so much more! Keep watching.
Hey Posse! What’s up? It’s Alex.
And I’m so excited to bring you this exclusive interview with Terri Cole.
“Boundaries” has definitely become a buzzword recently – but what does that even mean? What does it look like? How do we actually set boundaries in a way that feels good and doesn’t leave us friendless AND clientless?
Well, my girl, Terri has got you covered!
Terri is a licensed psychotherapist, global relationship and empowerment expert, and the author of Boundary Boss: The Essential Guide to Talk True, Be Seen & (Finally) Live Free.
For over two decades, Terri has worked with a diverse group of clients that includes everyone from stay-at-home moms to celebrities and Fortune 500 CEOs.
She has a gift for making complex psychological concepts accessible and actionable so that her clients and students achieve sustainable change.
And now she’s sharing some of that wisdom with YOU here today.
This interview is a part of the exclusive insider training she gave to my Reign Makers – members of my high-level mentorship program – and let me tell you…. oooooooof we walked away from that session with so many actionable strategies and empowering lessons we can start applying in our lives and business immediately…
And we’re even reading Terri’s Book Boundary Boss as our Book Club next month! So feel free to join along! And if you love these expert interviews – and want to see more – then be sure to comment below.
Now let’s get into the interview!
How to Set Better Boundaries as an Entrepreneur
Terri, welcome to the Copy Posse. I’m so thrilled to have you here.
Thanks for having me, Alex. I’m so psyched to be here.
I love this conversation right now because no matter when you’re watching this, we are recording this at the top of the year. So we are gonna talk a little bit about New Year’s resolutions and why setting boundaries at the top of a new year is so important. But no matter when you’re listening to this, this conversation is so critical because I was thinking about this earlier.
You know the fact that a boundary is defined as this like very set limit or edge, they’re slippery suckers. Like they’re a lot more elusive than they sound. And I think as your business grows for everyone listening to this as you start on your journey of entrepreneurship, maybe you’re navigating a 9 to 5 plus starting your business, plus a relationship, plus parenting and all of that makes it so much harder to set and honor our own limits and boundaries. And so that’s one of the reasons why I’m really excited to have this conversation right now.
But the first question that I have for you, Terri, I actually saw you post this on Instagram and I thought it was so interesting. You shared that a New Year’s resolution without reflection is a wish. Can you explain what you mean by that?
Yeah, I’ve always been kind of thumbs down on the New Year’s resolutions because they seem to be very forward-thinking. Like, this is what I want, but our behavior, not to be a psychotherapist, but I am one, so our behavior, our past behavior is predictive. And so it’s really crucial that we go and look at the last, certainly business-wise, we look at the last 12 months and go, okay, best practices, what’s working, what’s not, what needs to change? How is our profit margin? Like what is going on with the business?
You can have a wish, to you know make 2 million in profits next year, yay. But it’s only by looking back, you’ll be able to understand if that’s even a feasibility and what changes need to be made. So my feeling is all the good stuff that we need, all of the information that we need, like actual raw data points exist in our experience. And so I don’t say dampen your dreams, I don’t say make it smaller, I say make it informed. I always have this process that I give every year, you know, at the new year where it’s basically called what crap are you leaving in last year?
And that’s one of the biggest things is being like, what are you tolerating? What are you dealing with like you should really be done dealing with? And that’s important. And that’s not the only thing we focus on, but we focus on what worked, what didn’t, peak experiences, good and bad. So you’re able to, we have to integrate our life experiences, this whole like, you know, just basically, you know, drilling through the day, dropping, getting up and doing it again, that doesn’t work because the insight that we need is in our past behavior. That’s how we know what to change.
Yeah and this whole new year, new you, it’s like, actually no, there’s not this invisible boundary at midnight on New Year’s Eve where all of a sudden you’re like, now I’m gonna start doing all the things that I said I was gonna do or start living my New Year’s resolutions. And so part of what I think about a lot and it kind of is along this vein of reflection is I’m imagining that a part of getting better at setting boundaries is really identifying where you’re not setting boundaries.
And so you ask the question like what are you tolerating and all of that. What are three signs, let’s say, of where, of how to determine whether or not you are setting boundaries or three signs that you’re not setting boundaries? How might you feel or what might show up for you?
Well, let’s start with what boundaries are because actually it’s funny. You said you have this preconceived notion, not a preconceived notion. You shared a misconception that’s out there about boundaries. Like they’re all like “No, oh, I’m verbally punching people in the face and saying, no, I’m all rejection.” It’s my way or the highway, right? It’s obviously none of that works and it’s not that. Right. But we do have this fear that it is that. So I like to always establish, what are they?
So according to me, your boundaries are, I want you to think of them as your own personal rules of engagement, right? Letting other people know what’s okay with you and what’s not okay with you because they can’t know it because they’re not us. And we always make this positive projection assumption that other people are really a lot like us. You know what you find out in the world? They’re really not, and that doesn’t make them better or worse. That just makes them different, right? So your own rules of engagement and yes, exactly, faith.
What they’re made up of is your preferences, your limits, your deal breakers. So preferences, limits, deal breakers. So this is why I also talk about boundaries. They’re not all made the same because they don’t all hold equal importance. A preference, coffee over tea is not the same as a deal breaker, like infidelity, let’s say in a relationship. And we all have our own preferences, limits and deal breakers. And here’s the reason they’re important in your business and in your life.
Because they’re not just the things, those things, they don’t just make up your boundaries. Those are the things that make you uniquely you. So this whole idea, certainly in personal life and women in particular have been sort of conditioned to be like the good girl, the pleaser, the I’m the cool chick, like whatever works for you guys is great for me, like having no preference is preferred or like our preference is like a burden on someone else. And the shift in perspective there is that when you don’t tell people your preferences, ’cause my therapy clients would be like, but it’s not a big deal.
Like I’m not saying it’s a big deal. I’m saying your preference matters. That’s what I’m saying. This is how we negotiate in relationships, where your partner says, I really wanna have pizza tonight. And you say, I’m really not doing carbs. So I would not like pizza tonight. I would like a big salad. We negotiate for what we want. Does that mean that we never compromise? Of course not. But if we’re always self-abandoning under the guise of keeping the peace, where do you think that leads us? And where that leads us, we can go right back, Alex, to your actual, that was the longest way around the barn to get back to your question.
I love it. Oh my gosh, that was so good.
You said, how would you feel? How do you know? Well, how resentful are you and with whom? That’s kind of how you know. If you feel put upon, if you find yourself saying often, “This person’s entitled, that person’s entitled, I can’t believe how selfish this one is.” Because a lot of times what happens is that and this certainly happened for me in my life, like why did I become a boundaries expert? Obviously, I was a boundaries disaster. Clearly you teach what you most need to learn is what they say and it’s absolutely true in my case.
But what ends up happening is instead of being able to go, “Hmm, I didn’t set a limit with Betty.” We go, “Betty is so entitled. Betty is selfish. I cannot believe Betty would ask me to do that again.” We could just establish right now, people can and will ask you the most messed up things in life, in business. They’ll feel entitled. They’ll feel like they have a right. Now we can either be offended, which is such a mother effing waste of time. So let’s just not, who cares? Like whatever, Betty. You know what I’m saying?
We’re not responsible. What we are responsible for is giving Betty the proper data. Because when we’re not sharing our preferences, our limits and our boundaries, like our deal breakers with people, we are giving them corrupted information about who we are. And then we’re like, why don’t they know who I am? Well, they don’t know who you are because you’re not letting them. And so the flip for me in my 20s was, I realized through years of therapy, that it wasn’t about them. I know, captain obvious, that seems obvious, but it was about me.
And instead of judging what I thought Betty’s intention was, I could just have it be a clean experience and I could simply say, “I actually don’t have the bandwidth. I know I helped you the last three times you moved. I actually don’t have the bandwidth to do it this time. Good luck.” Learn to say no. And so we get so mad. It’s funny, I dunno if you guys know Kate Northrop, she’s a girlfriend of mine. Anyway, she wrote a book on money and do less, make more, all that. Anyway, she’s great.
So like 15 years ago we were walking in the West Village. We were going to some event and she’s just complaining like about a Betty, I know exactly who it was, but it was like “I can’t believe she’s asking me to do this. I’ve done so much for this person. Like what is her problem? Who raises people like this?” Like 15 blocks, she’s just going off on this person and we get there. She reminded me of this in an interview we did like two years ago. I literally had zero recollection of the experience, but, and she’s, I turned, she said, I turned to her and said, “Yeah Kate, she’s got some nerve putting you in the position to have to say no.”
And she was like, “Oh my God, that was kind of mean. But so right Terri, you’re right. Why am I acting like, why am I acting like a victim in a prisoner?” It never entered her mind to say no. She felt like she had to do the thing. Hopefully, I said it with more love than she retold it. Maybe I didn’t, I don’t know. But the point is that that switch in perspective where you’re like, let’s stop asking the unanswerable why’s. Who the hell cares why your client feels entitled to ask for things outside of the purview of the contract? Who cares why? What happened to them in their childhood is not your problem.
They had a sister who was favored, they didn’t get their due. What does that have to do with you? Nothing and everyone will have their own why. But when my therapy clients will be like, or my coaching clients, but why would they do that? I’m like, here’s the thing, why do we care? Unless it’s an important person in your life. Hey, if these are your VIPs, of course we care. I’m not talking about them, I’m talking about other people where the getting all caught up in the why are they like this is very much a way to avoid doing the thing that you must do, which is be honest, share your preference, share your limit, share your deal breaker.
And this can be done in a loving way when it’s appropriate. A kind way, if it’s like Bob from accounting who’s like an effing idiot, then it could be done with more heat, it depends on the situation, right? But the bottom line is that you always have choices. So anyway, again, back to what you asked, think about who you’re holding resentment for and who you’ve written a bunch of narratives about their selfishness and their self-obsession and their self-centeredness and then really look at that and go, did I give them an opportunity to step up for me? Did I give them the right data, the correct, the actual data of how I feel or how I felt about this or what my limits were?
And if the answer is no, you might be shocked at how not jerky Betty or Bob can be if you give them the information. But we make assumptions. We do all this projecting about how selfish they’re being and really we’re just mad that just like Kate was, that they’re putting us in a position to have to set a limit.
Right and being so fearful of being judged or I know for me and again, why, who cares? But it’s this idea of letting people down. And I feel like and I don’t know ’cause you mentioned that this comes up a lot for women and I can feel that, and I can think of times in my life where I’m like, “Oh, that’s, that’s where that came from.” But yeah, this idea of people pleasing because you’re afraid of confrontation, you’re afraid of being judged, you’re afraid of letting people down.
I feel like when I was in my early 20s, I don’t know if I just didn’t have the awareness or the empathy, but I felt like I was a lot better and clearer and had firmer boundaries than I am now. And I’m like, wait a second, this isn’t something that just keeps building and you get better and better over time. I feel like new circumstances emerge that forced me to have to consistently reevaluate my boundaries. And do you notice that happening with a lot of entrepreneurs, especially?
I think that, you know, Alex, what you probably were experiencing is, you know, in our 20s we’re just like doing it. Yeah. We’re just like going through life. Like there wasn’t, even though I’d already had quite a bit of therapy at that point in my life, aging creates more space and more desire for self-reflection, especially in the space that most of us are in. So I don’t know if you were, you thought about it less then, but I think that self-reflection is something that grows as we age.
And the stakes are higher now, especially when we’re talking about business things. Like it’s difficult to set healthy boundaries in our personal lives and for some people and I was one of them as well, difficult to do it in my professional life. I was a talent agent before I became a psychotherapist and then before I then created a public platform on all the stuff that I have now. And that had a lot of people pleasing there in a business that had very muddy boundaries. But we were all in our 20s.
My clients were, the casting directors were, I was an agent, you have power over people, but you’re socializing with people. I mean there were so many showmances and God knows what, like where boundaries crossing left and right, you know, I was really concentrating in therapy during that decade of understanding why it was so hard to say no when I wanted to say no. And what the people pleasing was about, why? I mean think about this, I would care about, it wasn’t just the people who I loved that I cared about what they thought.
If I found out that someone I didn’t like, I already didn’t like Betty and if I found out that Betty said something that meant she didn’t like me, I’d be like, why? I didn’t do anything to Betty. Everyone likes me, I’m nice. Like why? Talk about the extreme example of super why the hell do you care? So instead of why does Betty not like me, the real question that was most revealing is why did I care when I did not prefer that person? And it was that, you know, the disease to please. That’s all about people pleasing. Where there isn’t enough adoration, there isn’t enough over-functioning, there isn’t enough gold stars in the world to do what needed to happen there at least for me because it was all about self-love.
It was all about knowing myself, shadow self, all of that work that I had yet to do and that I was in the process of doing. There’s no amount of success that can fill that space inside of you that only self-love and holding yourself in high esteem can fill. And that takes time to actually analyze, what do I think I’m worth? Do I think the way that I feel matters? I think this is probably the biggest takeaway when we’re talking about personal and professional boundaries, is that start from the assumption that how you feel, what you think, what you want needs to matter to you the most more than anyone’s.
Your partners, your business partner, your subordinates, your boss, I don’t care who it is, it must matter to you the most. And if that isn’t the case, that’s where you start because we need to look at why. Because if not, then we’re seeking that sense of self from somewhere else. And of course, that leads to disordered boundaries.
Oh my gosh, yeah. The way you explain it is so, it’s so simple. I don’t think I’ve ever really grasped it, especially the levels, the preferences, the limits, the boundaries. Because what happens to me is I find myself saying that’s a boundary and then I’m so willing to compromise and then I feel guilt about making a compromise when I go, well wait a second, am I not honoring my boundaries? But realizing that there are degrees and figuring out what is a deal breaker and what absolutely is you not honoring a boundary.
Because I was thinking about it earlier and I’m like, okay, I’m really good if, you know, in my freelancing business, before I started the Copy Posse, if a client came to me and said, “I need this by tomorrow. Can we hop on a call at 7:00 a.m. to review it?” It’s like nothing in my body fell guilty about saying no. But I will set boundaries or I guess with myself, like I’m not gonna work this weekend and then I work and I’m like, why? What am I doing this for? Why is it easier for me to say no to others in certain areas but then so hard to say no to myself?
And you use this word self-abandonment and I’d love for you to talk a little bit more about what that looks like because I think, I think it’s an interesting concept and something that probably a lot of us do more often than we think.
I mean, every time you do crap you don’t wanna do, and I don’t mean when we’re in relationships, when we have families. Like obviously we’re human beings in a civilized society, we’re gonna do some crap we don’t wanna do. This is just or you’re not gonna have any friends or a partner or a business, right? Right. But I mean mindfully, as long as we are mindfully choosing those things, I make a compromise. My husband likes to go see live classical music. I definitely don’t, but I really like him and he really likes it. So therefore I get dressed up and we meet friends and I go and sometimes a movement, they don’t go out a song, a movement can be like an hour long. But I’m like literally poking him. Like, are you, you could have warned me. If Mariah Carey was gonna sing a song that was an hour, I’d at least tell you.
Anyway, point is we make sacrifices, compromises, we meet in the middle in our relationships. But self-abandonment is the first stop on the train. Where there’s any pushback or we fear, we project this person’s not gonna like what I’m saying, I’m gonna literally change what I’m saying. And for those of you who are empaths, always see it. Literally, there could be like a micro change of a facial expression and suddenly you’re like, “And what I was saying is that that does work. Okay!” Suddenly you’re literally changing what you were gonna say because you’re so energetically dialed into other people. And what happens when you become a boundary boss is that you realize you are not that fragile. Your relationships are not that fragile.
So if you see a micro shift in someone’s face, they don’t like what you’re saying, too bad. Like everyone’s gonna be okay, nobody’s gonna die, and the repeated action of self-abandonment, that will create martyrdom, what do I like to say? That is literally a one-way ticket on like the slow boat to like bitter land because there’s no other stops on that thing. If we keep self-abandoning, where we’re prioritizing other people’s wants, needs, desires above our own, really. Sometimes we’ll say it’s like I’m taking one for the team and maybe sometimes you are, right? And as a leader, you know, sometimes we do. We must do things we don’t want to do, but there’s all these ways that we justify tolerating things that when you’re a boundary boss, you know that that’s not loving, that’s not driven by love, we’re not doing it because we wanna be nice, saying yes when we wanna say no.
I mean think about it, is that nice? No, that’s straight up dishonest. That’s it. So that person now thinks that whatever it is that happened between you, that moment, that experience, that that’s good with you. And in your mind you’re like filing it in the bitterness file cabinet, just the resentment file cabinet of you know, reason 7,440 why Bob’s annoying, right? Like that is so heavy to carry and we don’t need to and what so many people from the book and courses, my mastermind have told me like the biggest “has” around really becoming masterful with boundaries is it like the world didn’t stop spinning on its axis.
And that how many people in their life were like, “Oh my God, thank you so much for sharing that with me. Like that really means I feel loved by the fact that you had that hard conversation with me”. Or that you handled it rather than just ghosting someone or even just letting someone go, right? Even just having to let someone go. Doing it in a way and it’s like literally my least favorite thing as a business owner to do ’cause I always, you know, I always fall in love like, you know, we spend so much time together. Gotta do it, have a real conversation. Tell the truth.
Yeah and there’s something, when we flip it and we think of the people who we know in our lives who are really good at communicating their boundaries, there is a safety there ’cause you’re like, oh, huh, I know how to interact with them because I’m not worried that I’m gonna do something that’s causing resentment that they’re gonna hold onto and I don’t even know about it. So it does really create, like if you flip it on the opposite, you go, no, I actually enjoy being around people who are really clear on their boundaries.
And so they will feel the same way when you yourself can get clear on that. And I think that’s the best thing.
It’s so true. That’s such an important point though, Alex, about who are the emotionally trustworthy people? And they are the best boundaried people ’cause you’re not guessing, right? You know your friends who are people pleasers. You know them when they’re like, I’ll definitely be there for New Year’s Eve, no doubt. And then in your mind, or I will say to my husband, oh yeah, you know, so-and-so said they were coming. So it’s like, there’s like a 48% chance she’s gonna show up, it’s fine. I mean we accept people. But here’s the thing, if you’re a people pleaser and you’re doing that in your life, everyone is the worst-kept secret. You’re the only one who thinks that people don’t know. Right. People do not trust you because you’re actually not trustworthy.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Oh my gosh, totally, yeah. So to everyone listening who wants to become a boundary boss, what are, I’m guessing it’s identifying your, you know, your preferences, your limits, your deal breakers. What’s an action step that everyone here today can take with them and go, okay, I’m gonna start moving in this direction so that I can start getting more, you know, better at talking at setting boundaries?
Yes. I think a really good place to start is for people who just feel compelled to give an insta yes to others. When someone’s asking you to do something and in your mind you’re like, nope, like there’s no way I’m going camping, but you’re like sounds great, let’s talk about tents, right? I love sleeping in the woods. Yeah, never, don’t wanna sleep in the woods. Not today, don’t wanna glamp, don’t wanna camp, no. But anyway, we can, what we can do is we can buy time and instead of the auto yes, we can buy time ’cause it can be, it can be confronting if you’re someone who everyone’s used to you being like, yes, yes, yes, it can be confronting just, you don’t wanna suddenly be like the no, no, no person either, right? ‘Cause then anything that’s all the time is not real.
But what we can do is we can buy time. Commit to the next 7 days, no immediate yes answer to anything. So we’re starting to train the people in our life differently. You’ve trained them, what they expect from you is what you’ve taught them to expect from you. So if you’re someone who always texts right back no matter what, that’s on you, right? If you’re someone who leaves your phone and listen, if you do not have teenagers and you leave your phone on at night, okay, get into therapy because there’s literally no reason in the world you would need to do that. I mean, if you have teenagers or kids, you know there’s an ailing parent, sure.
But there’s gotta be times when you protect yourself. When we buy time by saying, someone asks you, you’re gonna have like three things you’re gonna say, if they’re like to not say insta yes, you’re gonna say, oh hey, you know what, I need to check my calendar. I’ll get back to you. Oh hey, I’ve created a 24-hour decision-making policy. So I’ll let you know for my sanity I’ll keep you posted. Or I need to check with my partner, my whoever, my roommate, my dog, whoever you’re checking with to check your availability. Or if they’re asking you to take on more work, you can say, “I really need to look at what’s on my plate right now to see whether I can honestly and fully commit to doing that. I’ll get back to you on Wednesday.” So we buy time because here’s the thing, it is so much easier to come back and give an authentic no when you haven’t already given a BS yes.
Yep and the other thing that I have really had to work on, and I don’t know if this is the Canadian in me and I call out some of my team members who are chronic apologizers, but when you say no, do not use the word sorry. Like it’s this, it’s like in our DNA, I don’t know if it’s a common thing, but I think women are probably worse at it than men are as well for other reasons that you talked about earlier. It’s just this story, I really, I have to say no and it’s like, ah, you know, stop apologizing.
And stop writing a dissertation. Nobody needs, you don’t need to write a thesis on why you’re saying no and here’s the thing, when we do, it makes other people mad. Like it makes them feel like they have a right to be like, “why so many words? Why should talking so much?” Why is that, where if you come back after 7 days of not giving any insta yeses, when you come back and say, actually I checked my schedule and we’re already committed on that night, I hope you guys have a great time, don’t even tell the person what you’re committed to unless it’s a friend and you want to, right? We can provide context when we need to say no to people who matter to us.
If my best friend has an important thing that she wants me to come to, but I have an important meeting at 7:00 a.m. the next day and I can’t be out late, I’m not just gonna be like, I’m not available, bye, to my bestie, obviously, ’cause that would make no sense. I will give context like, “You know I would be there and I’ll be there in spirit, but I have this 7:00 a.m. thing that I have to prepare for. So I can’t.” We share information because when we wanna be more deeply understood, but we need to make sure that we are making a distinction between providing context to be more understood and convincing the other person that we have a right to say no or that our no is good enough.
Yeah, yeah, oh, I love that. And I think that that’s so important too, the context, because every now and then you, let’s say we’ll ask someone a question and they’ll get back to you in a way that feels like, oh, they just read a book on boundaries or something because it feels performative almost or like or harsh or there’s a disconnect there. So it’s like kind of using that social awareness to be like, you can say no in a way that feels good and makes sense. And you don’t have to keep kicking, this is another thing that I’ve been guilty of in the past is when I wanna say no. And so I go, “Oh, I’ll check my schedule and I get back to you. And then I go, “It doesn’t work that day but-” and I’m like, no, it’s a no for me. It’s a no now, it’s gonna be a no in a year, it’s no and so really being like, don’t kick the can, don’t apologize and just really fully standing in your power as, “No, I’m good, thanks.”
It’s so true. Kicking the can is the worst because you’re like, oh look, I’m just keeping this uncomfortable feeling going for another three weeks until the person comes back and asks me the same frigging thing and I’m gonna have the same frigging answer because I don’t wanna do it. How about just no?
Yeah, yeah, so that’s all of your homework, everyone listening to stop saying instant yeses. Instead, buy yourself time. No apologizing, no kicking the can if it truly is a no. No is a complete sentence, I love saying that. And so this has been so helpful. Terri, thank you so much for joining me on my channel. Where can everyone go to find out more about you and the amazing work that you do?
Why thanks, my friend. If anyone wants to take a free quiz, they can go to boundaryquiz.com and this will give you your archetype. So there are different ways that boundaries are disordered, right? It could be you’re a pushover, but it could be you’re an ice queen, right? There are different ways that it shows up. So anyway, that’s boundaryquiz.com. It’s only 13 questions, but it’s actually really pretty predictive.
And you can go to Terricole.com, that’s my website to see what I’m up to. I also have a podcast, “The Terri Cole Show”, I’m always hanging out on Instagram just @terricole.
I love your Instagram. I get so many nuggets of wisdom from your Instagram channel. So all the content you share is absolutely incredible. So Terri, thank you so much and can’t wait till next time and have a great day!