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How To Set Boundaries In Networking Without Burning Bridges

Written by: Twanna Carter, PhD, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

Executive Contributor Twanna Carter, PhD

Networking is a key part of building your career, but it can also be exhausting when you don’t have boundaries. It's hard to know where to draw the line between being friendly and being overly accommodating. Here are some tips for setting boundaries with networking colleagues while still protecting yourself in the process.

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Set your boundaries

Set your boundaries clearly.

  • Don't be afraid to say no. If someone asks you for something that you don't have time or energy for, it’s better to politely decline. Than to accept, and not be able to follow through.

  • Ask for help when you need it! It's okay to ask someone for advice or assistance with something if they have the resources and expertise needed to help you out.

  • Don't be afraid of saying yes when appropriate either! Providing value is how you expand your network to deeper depths.

  • You may want some time alone after networking events, so schedule that in.

  • If you find yourself needing additional support at home while juggling work and other commitments, ask for it.

These are all good reasons why setting clear boundaries around how much time people should spend with each other will benefit everyone involved in an authentic way. And can even lead towards forming some lasting friendships!

Communicate your boundaries clearly and assertively

When communicating your boundaries, it is important to be clear and assertive. This means stating your needs and expectations in a direct and confident way, without being aggressive or passive.

Here are some tips for communicating your boundaries clearly and assertively:

  • Use "I" statements to express your feelings and needs. For example, instead of saying "You're making me uncomfortable," you could say "I feel uncomfortable when you touch me."

  • Be specific about what you are and are not willing to do. For example, instead of saying "I don't want to do that," you could say "I'm not comfortable sharing my personal information with you."

  • Be willing to say no. It's okay to say no to requests that make you feel uncomfortable or that you don't have time for.

  • Don't be afraid to change your mind. If you initially agree to something and then change your mind, that's okay. Just be sure to communicate your change of heart clearly and respectfully.

When someone asks you for something that makes you uncomfortable, it is important to speak up. You can do this by saying something like:

  • "I'm not comfortable with that."

  • "I'm not willing to do that."

  • "I'm sorry, but I need to set a boundary here."

If the other person continues to push past your boundaries, it is important to set a firm boundary and walk away from the conversation. You can say something like:

  • "I've said no. Please stop asking."

  • "I'm not comfortable talking about this anymore. I'm going to leave now."

It is important to remember that you have the right to set boundaries and to have those boundaries respected. If someone is not willing to respect your boundaries, it is best to remove yourself from the situation.

Here are some additional tips for communicating your boundaries

  • Choose a time and place where you will feel comfortable and safe talking about your boundaries.

  • Be prepared to answer questions about your boundaries.

  • Be willing to compromise, but don't be afraid to stand up for yourself.

  • Remember that you are not alone. There are many people who have been in similar situations and who can offer support.

Communicating your boundaries clearly and assertively can be difficult, but it is an important skill to learn. By following these tips, you can set boundaries that protect your physical and emotional well-being.

Be prepared to intervene if you feel a boundary is being crossed

There will be times when you feel a boundary has been crossed. This can happen for a number of reasons, including:

  • You are in an uncomfortable situation and want to leave the conversation.

  • Someone is taking advantage of your boundaries and it makes you feel bad about yourself or annoyed at them for doing so.

  • Someone is manipulating or pressuring you into doing something that violates one of your personal rules for interacting with others (such as sharing too much information).

If any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, then chances are good that someone has breached one of your personal boundaries. Sometimes, without realizing it. That’s why it’s important to have boundaries and communicate them to others.

Be prepared to walk away

As you set boundaries in networking, you may find that some people are unwilling to respect your limits. That's okay! You don't have to stay in a relationship if it isn't healthy for you or if it's making things worse for everyone involved. If someone consistently makes you feel bad about yourself and/or treats others poorly, then they're probably not someone who deserves your time and energy anyway.

If someone continues to cross boundaries with their behavior (even after several conversations), then walk away from the toxic situations. This is easier to do because you’ve set your limits up front. Be sure to stick with them! It muddles the water you say no today, and yes another day.

You can have successful relationships while protecting

You can have successful relationships and still protect yourself, your time, and your energy. Here are a few tips:

  • Set boundaries. Decide what you will and won't do for others. This means being clear about your limits and expectations. For example, if someone asks for a favor that would take up an hour of your day, you can say something like, "I'm sorry, I'm not able to do that right now. I have other commitments."

  • Be assertive. It's okay to say no, even if you feel bad about it. It's important to set boundaries that you are comfortable with, even if it means disappointing someone.

  • Be respectful. When you say no, be sure to do it in a polite and respectful way. Explain why you are saying no and offer an alternative if possible.

  • Take care of yourself. Make sure to make time for yourself and your own needs. This means getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly.

Remind yourself that you are not responsible for other people's feelings or reactions. If someone is upset that you said no to a request, that is their problem, not yours. You have the right to protect yourself and your boundaries.

Here are some additional tips for setting boundaries in relationships:

  • Be honest and upfront about your needs and expectations.

  • Be willing to compromise, but don't be afraid to stand up for yourself.

  • Be patient and understanding. It may take time for people to adjust to your new boundaries.

  • Remember that you are not alone. There are many people who struggle with setting boundaries. There are resources available to help you, such as books, articles, and online forums.

By setting boundaries, you can protect yourself, your time, and your energy, while still having successful relationships.


Networking is a great way to build relationships and make connections with people. It is also important to set boundaries in order to protect your time, energy, and well-being.

Remember, networking is a two-way street. It's not just about taking from others, but also about providing value and helping those in your network succeed. By setting boundaries, you can protect yourself from overextending yourself and ensure that your networking efforts are productive and rewarding.

Twanna Carter, PhD, ICF Professional Certified Coach (PCC), is a career coach and relationship coach for Twanna Carter Professional & Personal Coaching, LLC. She is a career coach dedicated to empowering Black women leaders, helping them achieve their career goals. With more than 20+ years of experience, Dr. Twanna is recognized as an expert in leadership, personal development, business strategy, career development, and lifestyle balance. Helping professional women navigate change and uncertainty by providing them with the tools and strategies they need to be successful.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

Twanna Carter, PhD Brainz Magazine

Twanna Carter, Ph.D., Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

An ICF Professional Certified Coach (PCC) who empowers stressed, busy women execs, tackling impostor syndrome, self-criticism, and doubt to alleviate their stress so that they can find peace of mind and focus on excelling in their careers.

Rather than coach symptoms, she leverages her coaching so that women work on the root causes that threaten to sabotage their career and life. Which means clients see immediate change resulting in decreased stress, increased confidence, and shifting from overwhelm to relaxation.

Recognized as an Office of Personnel Management Presidential Management Fellow, Twanna left full-time federal employment to be an entrepreneur. She is currently the CEO of Twanna Carter Professional & Personal Coaching, LLC.



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