Do you feel like you overcommit to doing things? Do you feel like you are always giving to others but are worn out by it? Do you feel like others take advantage of you and your kindness?
If you said yes to any of these questions, you might struggle with assertive communication. Oftentimes, we think we should help out anyone who asks, and say “yes” to doing anything asked of us. We might feel guilty if we don’t help out. But, if we don’t have good self care and balance, though, this overcommitting can wear us down.
Being assertive means standing up for yourself, your needs and your wants. It means possibly setting limits with others-outlining for them how they can (and can’t) treat you or what they can (and can’t) expect of you.
Even if you aren’t naturally assertive, you can learn some skills! Here are some 4 suggestions of things to think about and try to be a more assertive communicator:
How do you feel? : Paying attention to how you feel is the first step of all of these suggestions. Do you feel stressed? Overwhelmed? Do you feel others really care for you and show you concern? Journaling is a great tool to help you to recognize your feelings, and patterns with how you feel in certain situations or with certain people.
Communicate : After you know how you feel, you can express those feelings to others. Clearly state how you feel, and/or what you need from the other person, especially when you are feeling upset. Saying “I feel you aren’t listening to me” is a better option than walking away, feeling as if what you say doesn’t matter to your partner or friend. Repressing your feelings is the tendency to not share your feelings, and this can harm you in the long run. Saying something is usually better than holding those feelings inside.
Say “no” : Practice saying no, starting in situations where you don’t feel obligated to help. Things like your child’s preschool asking for a volunteer on a day where you already have a doctor’s appointment, or participating in the neighborhood yard sale might be situations where it may be easier to say “no”. Notice how you feel after you say “no”. There might be feelings of guilt or disappointment, but there also might be feelings of relief and pride. After you have had practice saying “no” in a variety of situations, then challenge yourself to say “no” to things you don’t REALLY want to do. Remind yourself it is not your responsibility to help out everyone all the time, even if they try to make you feel like it is.
Ask for help : Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance yourself. Let those in your life know if you need help getting both kids to their sports practices at the same time on the same night, or if you are working late, ask your partner to start dinner. Being able to admit that you could use some help to lighten your load is a key in being an assertive communicator.
Hopefully these tips can get you started in thinking through the things you commit to doing, and why, and will help you to be more assertive in the long run. If you’ve tried these suggestions, let us know how it is going for you!