Good Fences make Good Neighbors

Updated: Aug 6, 2019



Most of us are taught from a young age that “good fences make good neighbors.” It means that people should respect other people’s property and privacy and generally mind their own business. Another term for good fences is “setting good boundaries.” This is a skill we learn over time, and practice daily as adults.


There are many ways to set good boundaries. It can mean practicing self-care, when others make demands on us. It can mean saying NO, and not backing down. It can mean walking away from a gossipy conversation, or keeping someone else’s secret safe. It can mean taking only your share, and leaving the rest for others.

"Much of our stress comes from mentally living outside of our own 'business'."

Byron Katie, an American speaker and author who teaches a method of self-inquiry known as "The Work”, says “there is my business, your business and God’s business.” She says that much of our stress comes from mentally living outside of our own “business”. “Anything that’s out of my control, your control, and everyone else’s control -- I call that God’s business,” says Katie. She recommends asking yourself, “Whose business am I in right now?” and then come back to yourself and the things that are under your own control.


Self-care comes in many forms: Do you spend your time doing things that bring you joy, or always do the things others want to do? Do you say yes to please others, when you really want to say no? Do you take time for yourself to re-charge, or do you run on empty until you’re completely exhausted? Do you make healthy food, exercise, and personal time a priority?


The fences between people’s property are a good mental image for how mature adults practice good boundaries. Poor boundaries look like this: interfering in other people’s lives, criticizing, giving unwanted advice, relationship drama, and over-sharing, which can lead to excessive guilt and anxiety. Good boundaries look like: clear communication, living from your values, creating structure, explaining, and giving good feedback. Good boundaries build healthy relationships, and decrease the stress in your life.

If you would like to learn more about stress management, good boundaries and healthy relationships, call Southeast Health Group at 800-511-5446.