“Darling, I know you have been up since 4 this morning but would you take the rubbish out, mend the fence and after dinner – do the dishes.
Don’t forget I want you in tip top condition, so we will go for a 45 minute run. And then I want you to make sweat passionate love to me.
Umm; I think that’s about all, but I will let you know if anything else comes up”.
The above statement is ridiculous. Do you feel obligated to say, ‘yes’ when people make a request? Is it possible that you are asking too much of yourselves when attempting to please everyone around you?
If the answer is yes, then rub your hands together and roll up your sleeves. Here is an area where you need to focus your attention on your own behaviour. The hard work is just about to begin.
The practice of being assertive and saying, ‘no’ is about to begin. We will also look at asking for your own needs to be fulfilled. Identifying these areas is the easy part. Putting this into action is where it gets a little murky.
How do you know that it is you that requires change?
If you feel anger or resentment while doing what has been asked of you, then NO should have been the answer. Performing these actions with a negative mind is a half-hearted attempt. Why would you even go to the effort to do something at 50%?
The reason ‘NO’ was not an option is because it has been assumed the person will feel a particular emotion. Generally sad, mad or bad. Saying, “no” is nothing personal. It’s a response that says; at this particular moment, whatever you are asking of me, does not suit.
We can’t be responsible for the attitudes or emotions of others. Initially being assertive will feel like a challenge. You are about to ask for your needs to be met. You have no idea how the person at the end of the request will respond.
The outcomes can be:
- Having your request accepted.
- Questioning your request.
- Getting angry at your request.
- Declining your request.
- A compromise is negotiated.
All this can be achieved in a diplomatic or tactful manner. Gaining confidence in this area frees you from feeling fear or guilt by wanting your own needs met. Self-assurance develops with repeated practice.
When you start your assertive transformation, begin with small steps. An example: Try the individuals who are looking for donations. They attempt to stop you by initiating conversation. As you walk past they are friendly and ask questions with a motivation to get you to put your hand into your purse or wallet.
These people have been taught strategies to close in on you. If you always seem to get caught up with them. Attempt putting your hand in the air to highlight ‘stop’. And even say, “I am busy” or “in a hurry”. Keep walking. How did you feel?
After you have declined their offer, they just went onto the next person and tried exactly the same strategy.
Another approach they use to target you when you are four to six meters away is, waving their hand in your direction. A very powerful tactic. Attempting to obligate you before you even get to them. It’s hard to say, “I’m busy” or “don’t have the time” from that distance.
Assertive can be steered in another direction.
You have made a request. However the individual does not answer to your needs. They steer the conversation into another subject. A normal human response in this situation is to bring up the past.
When another person attempts to change the subject, it’s avoidance. Reminding you of some action you previously did. This does not address the initial request.
When this occurs, pay attention but don’t get caught up in what they are saying. This is very important.
Allow them time to air their grievances. But when it is your turn for dialogue, go back to your request. All you are doing is managing the conversation.
When saying no can lead to conflict.
Being assertive at times can lead to conflict. But you don’t need to feel pressured by someone else’s anger.
Believe it or not – when the yelling begins you get time to think. Anger rises to a peak and then runs out of steam. When anger is at its highest, it is generally irrational.
Stand firm in what you want to address. When you get your moment to talk, remind them of the initial discussion.
You can even go as far as saying, ‘you’re happy to discuss their points once your request is out the way’. Don’t get distracted, defensive or even attempt an answer to this diversion.
You will be shocked when you learn that when someone is yelling; it gives you time to think. It is rather an unusual event. There is a lot of noise. However if you don’t get caught up in what the other person is saying or you have no intention of responding because you won’t be steered off track, it gives you a couple of seconds to collect yourself. That is all you need.You will be shocked when you learn that when someone is yelling; it gives you time to think. Click To Tweet
The only time being assertive becomes problematic is if you are in danger of physical harm. If this is the case, assertive is not the main concern, there are other pressing issues.
Reflection and Dissection.
Becoming assertive is about planning. If you are a non-assertive person, it goes without saying that you must be surrounded by people you can practice on.
One tool I strongly advice getting better at is reflection and dissection. It certainly is possible to change without reviewing a situation. However reflection is like the ace card in a hand where you have got absolutely nothing. It changes the whole the situation.
- What was your approach – when assertive was your motivation?
- How did the individual response to your request?
- How did you handle the response?
- Did you appreciate the outcome?
- How could you have done it better?
- What would you change next time?
By asking the above questions you are dissecting the outcome. A situation you entered into may seem like you have done everything wrong. However when you reflect and dissect you start to see just how many things you did right. Even though it was not a good outcome.
When being assertive can get you into trouble:-
- Asking strangers or people you have just met for sex. This could get your face slapped.
- You attempt to talk your way out of a speeding ticket. All is going well until you offer the cop a cash bribe. This can change from a small fine to larger issues.
Choosing your wars. Make sure the battle is for you. You don’t have to assert your position in every instance. In all relationships there is a give and take in compromise.
When should you be assertive?
That is entirely up to you. However if you can imagine yourself doing the request begrudgingly or it feels too much like a burden – declining should be considered.
Many years ago, I had an employer who was emotionally strung. When he laughed you heard it, when he yelled it echoed throughout the building. I had seen some of the most well-mannered, professionally sound and tough men/woman leave his office diminished.
On one occasion my task was to type a document for him. Over a two day period the file had been passed back and forth, from him to I over a dozen times. I completed my task and returned the file immediately.
I then carried on with the rest of my responsibilities. Then he requests the file. I explained that I no longer had it. His response was to firmly tell me that I did. I had a very organized fail safe work flow. I had used this method for years.
However he is an unpredictable boss and I am desperate to be wrong. I go back and double checked my routine. Even checking illogical areas – hoping the file would appear.
I then have to face my toughest challenge. I mentally prepare myself. I go into the office. It was unnerving to tell the boss that I didn’t have the file.
But as John Wayne says, courage is knowing you are scared and saddling up anyway. Sure enough he exploded into fits of verbal abuse. Carrying on like a raving lunatic. I had no choice but to stand there.
This boss had that old school attitude where he was comfortable with being unreasonably demanding and authoritarian.As John Wayne says, courage is knowing you are scared and saddling up anyway. Click To Tweet
Work continued and after a couple of days, I looked up from my work and he was standing at my desk. I knew it was about the file, I thought I was in for more trouble.
Generally when he wanted my attention he would phone his secretary to get me to go into his office, or he would just holler my name, even that depended on his moods.
I sigh deeply and wait. Then he tells he has found the file. And walks away. First I am overcome with relief and shock. Then I wanted to celebrate this very small win. I was never going to get the words, ‘I am sorry’. He acknowledged his error and that was enough for me.
In my situation saying no was not only honest but there was no other alternative. I knew his temper. I prepared for the outcome. While I had to sit through a period of difficulty, the end outcome floored me.
The point is; being assertive can be a challenge and feel uncomfortable at times.
Being assertive is a practice to be harnessed. We really can’t go about our lives doing what we feel is the right thing, at the sake of our own sanity and happiness.
Initially it will feel difficult, but we are worthy of leading our lives our own way without saying, ‘yes’ all the time. There’ll be times we do things we don’t want to and other times we are so grateful that we did say, ‘no’. Being assertive is freeing yourself from the shackles of obligation that you pinned on yourself.Being assertive is freeing yourself from the shackles of obligation that you have pinned on yourself. Click To Tweet
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