Assertiveness can sometimes be mistaken for arrogance or aggression but the truth is, being assertive in the right way is actually about taking care of yourself. Taking responsibility for yourself and how you allow others to treat you is a big part of being a functioning, healthy, independent adult. Standing up for yourself, putting boundaries or parameters in place for how you expect to be treated is actually a very grown-up thing to do.
Eleanor Roosevelt apparently said that we teach people how to treat us and the truth is, no one can treat us badly unless we give them permission. I appreciate that someone who has had an abusive background will often find it difficult to stand up to negative treatment, sometimes they actually expect it and feel familiar with it, but much of my work as a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist is about setting in place positive expectations and better confidence levels for all my clients. Taking responsibility for how they allow themselves to be treated is a key part of the healing process.
I often say that ‘yes’ can be a very negative word in our vocabulary, whilst ‘no’ can be a positive word. If we keep saying ‘yes’ to everything, we can end up feeling like we are everybodys’ slave , running around, doing everything for everyone. This can lead to resentment, but if we have said yes to every request then we have only ourselves to blame. We cannot expect others to be psychic and know our position or situation. Again, this can be another important realisation as we grow into an adult. The realisation that we have to communicate our feelings to others.
Body language is often an important part of communicating confidence and self belief and of being assertive. Standing tall and making good eye contact shows that a person feels good about themselves. Phrases like ‘looking someone in the eye’ are often used to talk about a person being honest or straightforward.
Feeling relaxed and at ease with ourselves is also a factor in appearing calm and confident. Breathing comfortably can help with that as it keeps our shoulders relaxed and enables us to speak in a more normal way.
Our tone and the words we use and how we convey them is an important part of being assertive. It is important to avoid accusations. Accusations can immediately put the other person into defensive mode. They can start arguing their position and the exchange can become heated and potentially angry.
Explanations can imply that we feel we are somehow in the wrong or are doing something that we should not be doing. Similarly apologies put us in the ‘sorry’ mode of being wrong and appearing to need to be understood or excused by the other person.
Someone who is comfortable with themselves and their position or stance does not need to apologise, explain or even necessarily be understood. They can be relaxed about what is going on in their lives and what they want to do and achieve. They do not judge and do not want to be judged in return. A big component in these situations is respect, respect for themselves and for others.
Being comfortable about yourself and how you treat others and expect to be treated in return makes for a happier and healthier life. When you feel good about yourself and are treated well as a consequence, then everyone around you benefits from the pleasant atmosphere. Being assertive brings with it a positive sense of self.
Susan Leigh, Counsellor and Hypnotherapist