Do you know what is stopping you from being assertive?
Maybe you’re too passive, too hostile, or a mixture of both?
You know . . .
- Saying yes when you really mean NO!
- Agreeing or going along with what others want just to keep the peace.
- Snapping at others just because they're not doing things the way you’d prefer.
- Noisily demonstrating your frustration, but telling people you're ‘FINE,’ when you're really not!
If you don't know the reason that stops you from being assertive, don't worry, I do!
It's one of two reasons...
1. You either want to be liked (the thought of people not liking you is just way too scary to bear!)
2. You just want to be in control! (Uncertainty is your worst enemy!)
The thought of not being in control or not being liked by others is unbearable for us mere mortals.
That's the reason- nothing more, nothing less!
I know it's probably not quite what you want to hear!
But the reality is your basic survival instinct is driving you to behave in a non-assertive way to help you feel and stay safe.
The only problem is . . .
You know the way you're behaving isn't helping you or your relationships with others. However, trying to work against those instincts and be assertive can be seriously TOUGH!
I agree it is hard, I've been there, and so have many other people I have worked with! But, that's not to say you can't tackle and overcome those impulses not to be assertive!
Here are 6 ways to help you manage your natural impulse and to become more assertive:
1. Recognise when you’re not being assertive
Recognise when you're not being the assertive person you would like to be. Remember you're human and that it takes time to change. So accept that you're going to fall into the pattern of not being assertive. When this does occur - see it as a learning opportunity to move you in the right direction.
So, ask yourself:
- Am I acting in a way that seeks approval or avoids disapproval?
- What am I so afraid of?
2. Face up to what scares you
Explore the outcome that scares you. I promise you it won't be half as bad as what your mind is conjuring up. Plus, once it's out in the open and out of your head - you can shed more light on the reality of it. So if you're the type of person that works out the worst case scenario for a situation and could give Stephen King a run for his money, here's some useful questions to aid you:
- What's the worst that could happen if you did say or do what you want?
- Or if you let go of the need to control an outcome?
3. Give yourself space to respond
Give yourself time to reply. Don't feel like you have to provide an answer to a request straight away. Give yourself time to work out for yourself how you actually feel and what 'YOU' actually want. Responses such as “I'll get back to you on that”, “I'm not sure, I'll have to check”, “When do you need to know by?” or “I'm not sure I can fully commit until I've checked” are all replies you can say to buy yourself time to think.
4. Start off small & build on it
Set yourself a weekly challenge! Pick an area you'd like to work on - it doesn't have to be major. It could be as simple as beginning to say NO to requests at the weekend or leaving your workplace on time. Or even seeing what happens if you just let the need to clean last another day! Or if you delegate work to others - go on, have faith, they can do it as well as you.
5. Tell people assertiveness is soon to be your superpower
Make the people you trust aware you're developing your assertiveness. This will help you recognise your blind spots & they can hold you to account!
Make sure you chose the right people to support you though! A useful question to help you decide whether the person is the right person to support you is:
- What will this person lose and what will they gain if I become more assertive?
If with your assertiveness they stand to lose through you helping them out less, they may not be the right person! Get clear before you ask though.
6. Don't beat yourself up
I'll tell you now when you're working on becoming more assertive and letting go of the need to be liked or in control it can be challenging. So don't beat yourself up if you fall back into old behavioural patterns. Some situations can make us feel overwhelmed and seek comfort in our known way of dealing with it. Use it as a learning opportunity - what went well? If the situation occurred again what could I do to help me feel safe and get the outcome I prefer?
So, when you're ready, get back on the saddle and keep moving forward.
Remember to keep chipping away at it and you'll soon reap the benefit!
So get to it, and i'll speak to you again soon!
Ursula Wood is a Stress & Overwhelm Certified-Coach from sunny West Yorkshire, U.K, who works with hardworking individuals who get to a point in their lives where they feel and say "...I can't cope anymore".
She owns her own business called Your Expert Self, which specialises in providing practical stress & overwhelm coaching-based workshops, resources and support, both in-person and online. Ursula loves the outdoors and can often be found out running or walking, especially in green spaces.