Saturday, June 14, 2014

Are You as Assertive as You Want to be in Your Relationships?

Are You as Assertive as You Want to be in Your Relationships?

Do you sometimes feel uncomfortable, or just plain afraid to say “No”, or “That is something I am not willing to do” for instance?   Are you concerned that if you set a limit, disagree with your spouse’s decision or voice non-acceptance of a behavior at work that there will be unpleasant and hard to handle consequences? Are their certain people or situations where limit setting or speaking your truth is more difficult?  If so, this is a common experience.

I bet you would like to be able to set boundaries with ease and with an inner comfort from knowing that it is your right to do so.  Most of us do not spend very much time thinking about boundaries, what they mean to us or where out limits are being intruded upon.  We have even less experience or training around how they get communicated. But the problem is, if we ignore them for too long or too often, we get angry. Then we risk lashing out in ineffectual ways. We disappoint ourselves and feel shame. But the problem wasn’t with our boundary, it was with ignoring our feelings and then poorly reacting to the anger that ensued.  Being angry is useful if you can identify why you feel upset and find the communication necessary to respectfully address the issue at hand.

So assertive communication frees relationships to be healthy. And it actually allows you to be more calm and less resentful.  Because by attending to our own limits and needs while respecting the boundaries of others, we will be more apt to communicate appropriately and in a way where we can feel authentic and confident.  Passive aggressive behavior or reactive aggression is often the result of becoming overwhelmed with too many invasions of our time, energy, feelings or rights. 

We prosper emotionally, relationally, financially, and in innumerable ways from the ability to communicate assertively. Your values, concerns, ideas, needs and limits are important.

Women I counsel and speak with in my courses often confuse assertive communication with being rude, unkind, mean or selfish.  And who wants be seen that way? But this is largely an incorrect message we have received from our common culture. Assertive women are often judged as mean or self centered. This is incorrect. Being assertive is about respecting yourself and others. Whereas rudeness is about disrespecting the humanity and value of another person.  More often what I see is that in an attempt to avoid being viewed as “rude” or “bitchy”, we actually become rude to ourselves, by allowing others to treat us badly.  

This shows up in a myriad of ways. It effects our marriages, family relationships, friendships and professional life. Moreover, it lowers our self esteem. Our confidence and self worth is choked by repeatedly discounting our own rights. Becoming aware of limits and boundaries; physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual - to name a few - is the beginning of improved well being.  

So first, start thinking and reading about boundaries. Make a list of areas where boundaries are really important. (It might be that allowing your partner to yell at you is no longer acceptable for instance.) Then start to practice what assertive communication of your boundaries sounds and feels like. Honor your fear. This is often a very hard skill to learn. It helps to read articles or books that give concrete examples of what assertive versus aggressive or passive communication sounds like. Start small. If you would normally say nothing if your chicken was served undercooked at a restaurant, try saying, “This chicken is undercooked, please take it back and bring me another, thank you.” No apologies. You weren’t being rude, so you needn’t apologize for asking for what you deserve.  

Keep up the effort. It takes time for these skills to feel natural. But you will be glad you honored yourself by taking the journey.

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