5-10 minutes.  Can go longer and evolve into a fruitful group discussion.  It’s helpful to write the Skills on the board as you explain them.


Name It, Direct It, Repeat It, End It

The Four Skills are simple boundary setting tools that can be useful in many different contexts — with close people as well as strangers.  These can be shared with the class at the end of the Hand on the Knee Game debrief, as most of the Skills will have already been demonstrated by participants during that activity.


1. Naming the behavior    

Naming the behavior can be as simple as stating, “Your hand is on my knee,” or “You’re all up in my personal space,” or “You keep asking me to go home with you even though I’ve already told you no.”  Ask participants why this might be a useful technique to use.

–     Maybe the person actually didn’t realize what they’re doing

–     Relatively non-confrontational; gives the person an out

–     Other people nearby may hear and be alerted to the situation

You can share the story of a young woman who had been sexually abused by her uncle.  Like many survivors of child sexual abuse, she had carried around the shame and secrecy for years.  One day at a family gathering, the uncle patted her butt as she passed by.  She said, loudly, “Uncle Frank, your hand is on my butt!”  Everyone turned and looked at Uncle Frank.  It was like taking all the guilt and ickiness of the abuse off her own self and handing it off to the abuser, where it more rightly belongs.

Naming it can also help you gain more clarity about a situation that feels off to you, even if you can’t yet pinpoint why.  You can use the tool to validate your own intuition and instincts, however vague, by naming them even if only inside your own head.


2. Give a directive

Tell the person exactly what you want them to do, as concisely and clearly as possible.  This can sound like “Take your hand off my knee,” or “Back off,” or “I need this conversation to stop now; we can discuss it more tomorrow.”  Ask participants why this technique could be valuable.

–     Sometimes people respond well to direct orders

–     Demonstrates that you are clear about what you want

–     Again, may alert bystanders to the situation

You can share the story of an older, wheelchair-bound woman who opened her front door to a man pointing a gun at her.  She ordered, “You put that gun down right now!” and the guy dropped it.  Sometimes giving a directive works really well!


3. Repeat it

Stay focused on the directive you are giving, and don’t let yourself be diverted until it is respected.  Call it broken record or skipping CD; this skill is about demonstrating persistence.  Ask participants why this technique might be useful.

–     Demonstrates serious clarity and intention

–     Prevents you from being diverted by a clever manipulator

–     Makes the situation abundantly clear to bystanders


4. End it

Sometimes all this good boundary-setting you’ve been doing does not yield the desired results.  You’re not in control of how other people act and respond to you, after all, and sometimes people are just not willing to respect others.  This may mean that you get up and leave the room, or that you seek out someone in the environment to assist you in ending the interaction, or that you end a relationship in which your boundaries are repeatedly disrespected.