“I can’t keep accepting that. I’ve had enough. He doesn’t respect me any more”, Julie tells me. “Did you make it clear to him what you wanted?” “He should know, we’ve been together for more than 20 years.” Well Julie, maybe he doesn’t know. It’s up to you to set clear limits.
Why do so many people have a hard time asserting themselves? We are afraid of displeasing others, of loosing their love. We are afraid of reprisals: he could shun me, yell at me, be insulted or judge me.
Being assertive means being an adult. Isn’t it a little naïve to think that everyone loves you or agrees with you? It’s true that in asserting yourself you run the risk of being judged, shunned, criticised or of displeasing others. So what? You can be judged even if you don’t affirm yourself. Even worse, you will feel frustrated, loose self-esteem and feel like life is passing you by. If you are one of those people who try to make others like you by always saying yes, if you lose their love just because you say “no” to something, you can be sure that their love is very self-serving.
But beware: asserting oneself does not mean destroying, crushing or scorning someone else or being egotistical. Asserting yourself in an adult like way means being able to express your ideas, your expectations and your limits and respecting those of others. Somewhere between passive and aggressive lies assertive (see insert).
Some hints about being assertive:
Establish your limits (what is acceptable, desirable and unacceptable in your life) and let those around you know what they are while respecting your own limits.
Always give yourself a little time to consider a request. We often tend to say yes on the spur of the moment and to regret it afterwards.
Give yourself the right to change your mind: when you realise that you were wrong, say so.
Don’t justify yourself. The more you add, the more others will try to prove you wrong.
Before getting upset with others because they don’t respect you, make sure you have been clear about what you expect. If, after having been clear, the other person doesn’t take what you say into consideration, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your relationship. It is probably a poor, immature relationship. In cases like this, it is only a matter of time before it self-destructs, unless the passive member is resigned to this kind of life.
Associations and relationships cannot be satisfying or enriching if those involved are mostly passive or aggressive. To have successful interpersonal relationships one has to be able to assert oneself in an adult way while taking the other person into consideration.
|Doesn’t express needs, expectations, dissatisfaction
|Expresses needs, expectations and desires yet is considerate of others
|Expresses and claims his rights, needs, expectations and desires and does not consider those of others
|Is not responsible for problems.
Rarely gets what he wants.
Causes and is party to very few conflicts
|Doesn’t always get what he wants
|Almost always gets what he wants
Does not meet his needs
|Has good self-esteem
Develops good relationships
Is responsible and in control of his life
|Inspires mistrust and hate in others
Has very few relationships
Work Psychologist, professionnal speaker, author and business coach