Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Setting Boundaries with Difficult People by Allison Bottke

People probably don't set out to make us life virtually unbearable, but they do. “For that reason, we can and should set healthy boundaries with the difficult people in our lives.” Our focus cannot be on changing them but on changing the way we respond to them. Could God be using difficult people to help us be the people He wants us to be?
Bottke's goal in this book is to identify the role we play in the relationship with the difficult person and then empower us to make new choices.
We need to have a goal: to achieve freedom from the bondage that often accompanies challenging relationships. Dealing with her own boundary issues, she came up with her “Six Steps to SANITY”:
S – stop your own negative behavior
A – assemble a support group
N – nip excuses in the bud
I – implement rules and boundaries
T – trust your instincts
Y – yield everything to God
“Without necessary boundaries, our lives become unmanageable.” (29) She defines “boundaries” and explains why we need them. She addresses the impact of emotions. “Personal boundaries are limits or borders that define where you end and others begin.” (34)
There are physical and psychological boundaries.
She helps us know whether our boundaries are healthy or not. Setting healthy boundaries requires a foundation of faith. We must love our neighbors as ourselves (this does not mean we let them abuse). She reminds us that this is going to be a process. One doesn't set healthy boundaries over night.
We are helped to identify difficult people. We are also helped to identify our own issues such as, where we enable (as opposed to help), are codependent, or have a history of abuse.
Bottke has us identify our difficult people and rate their severity. We explore emotional triggers and are helped to understand emotions. We are taught about the four temperaments. She reports on the necessity of change and that we always have a choice. She advises prayer and journaling.
In Part Two we move forward, using the SANITY technique. We focus on changing our own attitudes and behaviors, starting with the heart. “Our ultimate goal in achieving SANITY is to guard our hearts and to enjoy right relationships with God and with others in our lives.” (113)
The first step, stop your own negative behavior, may be the hardest but is essential. Bottke encourages getting support around us (assemble a support group), giving several suggestions.
In Part Three, Bottke helps us with great practical suggestions on confrontations and dealing with consequences. She includes some sample letters of confrontation.

Those who are very familiar with the concept of boundaries or have read much of Cloud and Townsend may find the first part of the book a review of their material with Bottke's twist. The second half of the book, however, is packed full of practical ideas. If you feel you need to, skim the first half, but glean the great ideas in the second half.
Bottke is well read and quotes from many sources. Reading this book is like reading a small library and getting the best points out of each book.
We all have difficult people in our lives. Some may be in a close circle, such as a spouse or relative. Others may be more distant, such as a store clerk. We've all got them so we can all benefit from this book.

Harvest House Publishers, 241 pages.

See more from Bottke at or

I received an egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Joan Nienhus! My study group is looking at this topic...I've skimmed Cloud and Townsend's Boundaries book---and Allison Bottke's looks like it may be an excellent addition to our study!