When you hear the word assertiveness, what do you think of? It is often thought of as being aggressive, or trying to get your own way. “Assert yourself” your parents / teachers/ coaches might say. “Be assertive, demand your rights!”
It isn’t about dominating others, however. It’s about preventing yourself from being dominated, beaten down or abused. It’s simply standing up for your rights as a person.
How many times have you backed off and let yourself be stepped on, or allowed yourself to be put off and ignored? When you don’t assert your rights as an individual, you weaken your own self-esteem and sense of self worth.
They are ignoring you or putting you down, and by allowing them to do that you are reinforcing the idea that you are not worth paying attention to - that your wants or needs don’t matter.
Maybe you aren’t comfortable with confrontation. That’s OK! There are ways to assert yourself that are non-combative - you just have to be persistent until you are heard.
Perhaps you always end up signed up to do fifty school events per year - you can’t figure it out. You don’t really have time, and it stresses you out, but you haven’t figured out how to say no!
Next time you find yourself in a situation where you are being urged to sign that participation sheet, explain with a smile that you have already committed to four other projects this month, and you are afraid you wont be able to do a good job if you spread yourself too thin.
If you are still pressed to sign up, smile again, and say “I’m sorry, I really can’t. Thanks for thinking of me, though! Excuse me,” and LEAVE. That’s not being rude - they should have accepted your refusal, and pushing you was actually rudeness on their part!
Maybe you have trouble getting your coworkers or family members to fulfill their obligations. Learn to kindly but firmly insist that they hold up their end. Let them know that you can’t be responsible for everything, and that they must carry their share. If they don’t listen, warn them politely that you will not be able to cover for them, and give yourself permission to feel guilt free.
They may be surprised or even angry the first time a deadline goes by and you haven’t greased all the wheels for them, but they will learn that you are done being taken advantage of! If they object, remind them that you did try to give them notice that they needed to get on the ball, and let them know you have no intention of taking blame for something that isn’t your fault.
You have the right to say YES. You have the right to say NO. You have the right to CHANGE YOUR MIND. You have the right to say that you don’t understand, that you don’t know, or even that you don’t care. You have the right to not feel guilty for refusing to manage everyone’s responsibilities!
Simply claiming these rights is what assertiveness is all about. Sometimes saying no to others is saying yes to yourself!
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