In order to be yourself and lead the life that suits you, you have to be assertive. Being assertive means you communicate your rights, boundaries and values and at the same time respect other people's rights, boundaries and values. Being assertive doesn't equal being aggressive. Aggressive people don't respect others, they merely (try to) dominate. Assertive behaviour is about equality in relationships with others. You're assertive when you say 'No' to a request you don't like, when you stand up for your opinion, when you tell what's bothering you or when you tell how you feel. If you don't stand up for yourself, you let others or your obligations determine your life.
Not determining your own life will cause a lot of stress. Some people even suffer from all kinds of physical stress symptoms such as insomnia, hyperventilation or even burn-out. Being assertive isn't just advantageous for your own wellbeing. Others will also gain. If you say 'No' or make understood what it is you want, the other will know where he stands.
Besides, others can only be considerate if they know your boundaries. A lot of misunderstandings are caused by people not saying what they really want. Afterwards others often say: Then why didn't you say so?
Assertive or aggressive?
Babies are very assertive. They cry when they're hungry or thirsty and they protest if they don't agree with something. Somewhere during childhood the idea one has to be humble and polite creeps in. Saying 'No', getting angry, speaking up when you don't agree with something, telling others what it is you want, goes against the idea of friendliness and modesty.
A lot of people are afraid that, if they say what they think or what they want, they'll get judged negatively or are considered unfriendly or inconsiderate. They think they'll hurt the other person or they think they're impolite or rude when they speak up for themselves. What people seem to forget is that they don't have the power to hurt someone. It all depends on what this other person does with these remarks. Suppose you call someone an idiot in a fit of rage. This person might be insulted or might think you have a point, without feeling hurt by that remark.
Instead of being too humble, some people get too aggressive. Aggressive people aren't assertive either. They aren't considerate. Aggressive people think they'll get attacked and seem to think the best defence is a good offence. Aggressive people often were hurt during their childhood. A lot of people just don't know how to be assertive either. Their parents never set the example, and they're not aware things can be done differently.
Often women are considered less assertive than men, yet this isn't true. Women might be assertive in another way. Women often are less direct but they get at least as much done as men. They just communicate their criticism, demands and boundaries in a more indirect way.
Stand up for yourself
If you find it difficult to stand up for yourself, you shouldn't worry. Assertiveness can be learnt. Assertiveness is based on a healthy amount of self esteem. Only when you trust you're worth it, you will be able to demand attention for yourself and your needs.
For this reason it's important to appreciate yourself. Nevertheless it can be difficult to say 'No'. You might feel guilty, you might want to help out, even though you're incapable of helping out, or you might feel you're failing. The following tips will help you to say 'No' when someone asks you something you don't want.
Realise you're saying 'No' to the request, not to the person making the request.
When someone asks you to do something you don't want to do, give yourself some time. Say for example you're going to get a drink. This will give you time to think about what you'd like to say, for example: I would like to think about this, I'll let you know tomorrow. The next day you could e.g. say: About yesterday, I've thought about it, and I've decided not to do it. It doesn't fit me.
If you want to say 'No', don't feel obligated to give an extensive explanation. That way it seems you are apologising, while you've got every right to say 'No'. Just say: I won't do that, as I don't have the time. Or perhaps: I won't do that, as I really dislike it.
If you've given in, realise you've got the right to change your mind. 'It doesn't feel right' often is good enough an argument.
If people don't accept your answer, and do they start nagging, or are they trying to flatter you into agreeing, say something like: I already clearly said no, and I would like you to respect that. This way you've very clearly communicated your boundaries.
Eighty per cent of a message is non verbal. Use assertive body language. You can practise this in front of a mirror. Stand on both legs, straighten your back and look at yourself in the mirror, whilst saying for example: I want to be left alone now. How does this look? Aggressive, assertive or shy? Practise until you've found the right body language. Ask your partner or a friend how you come across.
In each social situation you've got the following rights:
1.The right to judge your own behaviour.
2.The right not to give an explanation for your behaviour.
3.The right to change your opinion.
4.The right to make mistakes.
5.The right to say: I don't know.
6.The right to be illogical whilst taking decisions.
7.The right to say: I don't understand.
8.The right to say: I don't care.
9.The right to decide for yourself whether you'll look for a solution to other people's problems.
No means no
Think about two situations from the past, where someone asked you something and you said 'yes' while you didn't want to. Why did you say 'yes' after all? Think about what you could have said instead. Also think about a sentence you could use next time you don't want something.
Some assertive sentences
I want you to help me.
This is your problem.
I'd rather you don't interfere.
Try it yourself.
No, I can't.
I am entitled to this.
I expect more from you.
I think it's none of your business.
You are right.
I would appreciate it if you'd consider my wishes.
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