Saturday, August 18, 2012

Be Assertive

An important way to remain positive is by being assertive, staying in your own power.  This helps us not be taken advantage of and ensures we stick to our own values and beliefs.

Often times we need to communicate things that aren't always easy.  In our society there seems to be a fear around this as we worry about how it will be received.  We worry about: saying no, setting limits, asking for things and expressing our feelings, thoughts or opinions.  This should not be something we worry about as long as we do it in an assertive and respectful manner.  If the person on the other end reacts negatively, that is their own issue.

If I tell someone how the way their treating me makes me feel and they opt to react negatively, I then know that the problem lies with them and not with me.  For example, "I feel that (name behaviour) is unfair."  I have been assertive and respectful.  I did not blame, call anyone names or accuse anyone of anything, I simply stated how a behaviour made me feel.  If the response is, "this is B.S." they I know this person is not respectful of my feelings.  People who respond like that or in other negative ways do not deserve you as a friend.  If the response is something like, "I'm sorry you feel that way, I didn't know..."  Then the person is at least acknowledging your feelings and showing respect.  

It is important to remember that if a person responds negatively when you have been assertive and respectful, then it is their own issues interfering and really have nothing to do with you.  So if the person responds with, "Well you do..."  Then that is defensive and an attempt to deflect.  Someone assertive and emotionally healthy will not respond this way.  It doesn't mean these people are bad, it just means they are not emotionally healthy or able to respect your feelings.  I don't mean to drop everyone who doesn't respond the way you want them to.  Simply choose to hang around people who can be respectful of your feelings and how they may affect them.  

Remember you do things that affects that person as well so be open to hearing about your own behaviours and how they impact someone.  As long as it is delivered in a respectful and assertive way.  Don't discount things that aren't said in an assertive manner just be selective of what you take on and what you don't.  If someone says, "you're a jerk," I wouldn't put much weight into that.  Basically aim for the behaviour, not the person and surround yourself with those who do the same.  Be mindful though, not everyone has been taught this so if someone is a good friend but they slip, assess whether it's a regular thing that impact how you feel about yourself or just a momentary laps.  If someone is affecting how you feel about yourself in a negative way then please move on.

Formula for Assertive Communication:
The 3 F's below are the core components for assertive communications.

Facts-State the problem objectively 
Feelings-Use I statements, not "You."  express how you feel and think, not something about the other person.
Fair Request-Clear, specific, behaviours.  Not attitude.  "You're really negative," won't work.  Try, "I feel hurt when you criticize my clothes.  I wish you wouldn't make negative comments about my clothes." 

If the above does not work, then you need one more element.
Consequences-If needed can be positive rewards or negative consequences (must be reasonable and do able).  "If you continue to insult my clothes I won't go to parties with you anymore."  Or "If you stop insulting my clothes it would be more enjoyable to hand out with you and I would likely do it more."

I have used a very simply example to demonstrate how this can be applied but I am more then confident you can figure out how to use this in your own life.  You may be thinking, that is basic, common sense stuff.  It isn't always, some people were never taught this.  Others have become so overwhelmed with life that they have placed their tools to the side.  I am writing this as a reminder for both myself and you.  If we don't practice our tools, we lose them. 

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