Banish Stress by being Assertive!
The way that you communicate with other people can make a huge difference to your stress levels. Being assertive means that you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others. It can boost your self-esteem and earn others’ respect. Many of us tend to take on too many responsibilities because we have a hard time saying “no”.
If you imagine a scale where “Selfless” is at one end and “Selfish” is at the other end, we tend to have the dial set too much at the “Selfless” end and fail to take into account our own needs. Being assertiveness allows you to move that dial a little more towards “Selfish”, so protecting yourself while still being honest and respectful to others. People who act too passively often end up feeling taken advantage of. They may begin to feel hurt, angry, or resentful. When you hold back what you think and feel, others don’t get to know or understand you as well as they could. Other people don’t benefit from your input or ideas. If you start to feel like your opinions or feelings don’t count, it can lower your confidence and rob you of the chance to get recognition and positive feedback for your good ideas. This can lead to feeling depressed or eve to make you physically unwell.
Being assertive doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Some people communicate in a way that is too passive while others have a style that is too aggressive. Often we learned these styles back in childhood – but what was appropriate or even essential then may not be serving us well today. An assertive style is the happy medium between passive and aggressive.
What does being assertive look like?
- You can give an opinion or say how you feel – rather than fading into the background.
- You can ask for what you want or need – rather than saying “I don’t mind.”
- You can disagree respectfully – rather than letting someone else steam roller you.
- You can offer your ideas and suggestions – rather than letting the loudest voice be the one that’s heard
- You can say “no” without feeling guilty – and you don’t have to come up with all kinds of excuses!
- You can speak up for someone else – who is less able to defend themselves than you are.
Why Does It Matter?
An assertive communication style can help you to do the things we want to do. It gives you a sense of control over your life. It shows that you respect yourself and other people. You know that your feelings and ideas matter. It gives you confidence that whatever situation you find yourself in, you can deal with it! It makes it much easier to handle conflicts and disagreements. People who give respect get respect in return.
Skill and Attitude
Being assertive is a skill that can be learned but it take practice and a certain inner attitude. Like any skill, the more you practice the easier it becomes! Even saying ”no” to something that you really don’t want to do just once can do wonders for your confidence. Imagine a situation where someone is asked again and again to babysit for a family member who has plenty of other care options they can use. Saying politely but firmly “no I can’t” is usually accepted quite happily and they will simply go and ask someone else. No big drama, no falling out. In fact they probably had no idea the person was unhappy about babysitting so often.
Reduce stress today!
- Adjust your inner dial! Remind yourself that your ideas and opinions are as important as everyone else’s. Assertiveness starts with an inner attitude of valuing yourself as much as you value others.
- Take time to think about your life and the various roles you play. Are there times when you feel put upon and resentful? Pay attention to what YOU think, feel, want, and prefer. You need to be aware of these things before you can communicate them to others. It might help to jot down some thoughts and see which areas most need attention – in the workplace, at home, involving which people etc
- If there is a situation where assertiveness could be useful, think it through carefully and again jot down some notes if that helps. With an example like the babysitting one mentioned previously, consider whether you EVER want to baby sit. Perhaps you are delighted to do so at weekends and for a maximum of 3 hours, when given plenty of notice? Be very clear in yourself what your boundaries are before you communicate them with the other person. And don’t give in to manipulation!
- Notice if you say “I don’t know,” “I don’t care,” or “it doesn’t matter” when someone asks what you want. Stop yourself. Practice saying what you’d prefer, especially on things that hardly matter such as having coffee or tea, or a particular sandwich filling.
- Practice asking for things – small things at first – “Does anyone have an extra pen I could borrow?” “Can you save me a seat?” This builds your skills and confidence for when you need to ask for something more important.
- Give your opinion when people are talking about something you have some knowledge or interest in – a TV programme or a book or a news item. You may feel you aren’t an expert – but then again, few of us are experts in most things we talk about!
- Practice using “I” statements such as: “I’d like…” “I prefer…” or “I feel…” ( Yes you! – You’re opinion matters!)
- Find a role model who’s good at being assertive —note their body language, whether they smile a lot, their tone of voice, how they handle difficult situations, even what they wear. Copy anything that you feel might work for you – remembering that sometimes you have to fake it before you can make it!
If you would like more information on stress, go to my Stress Counselling Cork page
If you would like more information on self esteem go to my Self Esteem page.
Need more advice?
If there are areas of your life where you feel that you could be more assertive, or if not being assertive is causing you stress, call Alison Winfield of Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541
Book a counselling session today!