“And how do I use it?”
“In fact, *when* do I use it?”
“How do I know when is an appropriate time?”
“Is there such a thing as “normal” assertiveness?”
These are some of the questions I get asked a lot, which I totally 100% get because I once struggled with this too!
First, assertiveness is the middle ground between being aggressive and passive (passive aggressive is its own category all-together haha!). It’s a common misconception that “assertiveness” means you’re forceful and putting your foot down aggressively. While this may be necessary sometimes, there are definitely clearer and more effective ways to communicate.
Assertiveness, to me, is being aware of how you feel, knowing what you want and deserve, and expressing that to others in a respectful way.
Being aware of how you feel can sometimes be the hardest part! AWARE is the key word here. A lot of times, we act on auto-pilot and react a certain way without thinking about how we’re feeling or why we’re acting that way. We feel justified and react haphazardly in the heat of the moment.
It takes an emotionally mature person to check in with themselves when triggered and say “wow, I’m feeling extremely frustrated right now, and instead of lashing out or storming out, I’m going to just take a breath and sit with this frustration for a minute and then choose to respond instead of react.”
Also sometimes, knowing what you want and deserve can be the area of hangup. You may check in with yourself all day long and take inventory of your emotions regularly, but you’re not confident that what you’re feeling is “okay” or “correct” or “appropriate” or that you even have a right to that feeling in the first place! Then you begin vacillating with guilt too!
You may wonder “is it okay that I’m disappointed about not winning that award? I’ve made it so far and am successful in other areas, so I should just feel grateful.” And then shame kicks in “shame on me for feeling sad.”
Or you may also not know what you deserve… should you work harder at that relationship you just can’t seem to get on track, or walk away and cut your losses?
Maybe your subconscious is convinced you deserve to be cheated on because you “caused” it by being rude. (Or maybe infidelity was just the pattern modeled to you in your family of origin and now you unconsciously think that’s just “what happens in life.”)
Finally, once you’ve become more clear on the first two things (being aware of how you’re feeling and knowing what you deserve), you can then express those things to people close to you that cause you pain! This is the execution stage; the first two are internal to you that no one has to know about.
HOW you express yourself assertively is a topic that whole books have been written about, so I’ll just summarize it here:
Expressing yourself assertively is more about you than them! The reason you need to say something is because of how YOU’RE feeling, it’s about honoring yourself and your right to your emotions and kind treatment.
You’re telling yourself out loud that your feelings matter and that you’re worth it! Watch what happens to your confidence when you do this!
The other person’s reaction to you is irrelevant (to an extent). It’s not about changing people, it’s about making them aware of how you’d prefer to be treated. It’s up to THEM to make a change! And sometimes they will and sometimes they won’t. More on that later too…
I’ll close this note with this: if you’re feeling hurt by someone in your life, don’t ignore it. Think more about how you’re feeling and ask yourself why you’re allowing the pain to continue.
And remember, change doesn’t happen overnight! (darnit!) This is a process and something we can work at slowly over time to achieve results.
What part of this process do you need help with most? Comment below! 🙂