Henry Cloud on Boundaries

From Dr Henry Cloud

“Being emotionally present and connected while we are confronting another person is the first essential of a good conversation. It truly requires a work of grace in us. Being present refers to being in touch and in tune with our own feelings as well as those of the other person. This is an important skill, because when we are “there”—that is, emotionally present—we are available to the other person. They are not shut off from us while we are telling them a difficult reality about themselves and the relationship. It is hard for anyone to absorb a confrontation. Presence and connection help to make it tolerable.

A boundary conversation is very difficult because it feels unnatural—and it is unnatural, in that the natural person within us does not think this way. On our own, we seek to protect ourselves from discomfort because we are “weak in [our] natural selves” (Rom. 6:19). We don’t want to be vulnerable and emotional in a confrontation, as we might be hurt. That is why we need grace for this essential.

Also, when you are present and connected to the other person, you are doing something very important for the relationship: You are providing what you are requesting. You want the other person to be “there” with you. This is why you are confronting a problem in the first place; the issue has caused a rift in emotional presence. In the same way that God takes initiative to reach out to his alienated children, you are being with the person who is not with you.

Because you have taken the first step, this helps them be emotionally present with you.”