The nourishment of asserting yourself

It is interesting that so many of us get stuck in a difficult relationship or situation because of our belief that the only way to handle it is to ignore the challenge (often to our detriment) or by behaving passive-aggressively or just aggressively.

I assure you there is another option which is to be assertive; acting in a way to get what one is entitled to and not at the expense of another’s rights. This is also very useful for those of us that get swept up in a wave of guilt when all we want to do is say ‘no’ to someone.

If this is foreign territory to you then you will be pleased to know that there are some steps that can be learned. Firstly be mindful of your body posture, assertiveness is conveyed in direct eye contact, standing steady and speaking clearly with confidence. Now just follow the outline script –

a. Describe the situation
Very briefly paint the picture of the other person’s behavior or of the situation that has you upset or has you compelled to say no. This would begin with something such as “When others give my team updated information without my knowledge I am undermined….”

b. Express yourself
Relate your feelings using only the ‘I’ format.
” I feel…”

c. Specify
Be very specific about ways in which you would like the other person’s behavior or the situation to change, and the key here is not to use ‘YOU’ as it places folks in a defensive mode, instead use statements such as ‘I would prefer….’, ‘I would like’….’I want to be able….’

d. Consequence
Outline a consequence that you will apply to the behavior or situation. What will you do if the person’s behavior or situation changes to your satisfaction? What is the reward for you both? What will be the consequences if nothing changes or if the change does not meet your needs?

Please note that when you get to ‘consequences’ being authentically assertive is what is important here, it is no time for drama; we want to avoid anything you say being misconstrued as an idle threat. A simple consequence could be ‘And then I think we’ll get along better..”.

Putting this all together in one scenario might look like –
“(a) When others give my team updated information without my knowledge I am undermined (b) and I feel frustrated. (c) I would prefer we agree that all communications will now only go through me (d) and when this occurs I will personally make sure that you and others around the team are kept in the loop.”

If the agreement is broken the assertion may being to look like –
“(a) Others remain to communicate to my team directly and I continue to be undermined, (b) I feel that this is a very ineffective way to work and I continue to feel frustrated and stressed (c) I need to know that actions will be taken for all team communications to go through me (d) I feel very strongly about the importance of our working relationships and my right in this role to control the important communications and if this cannot be resolved I will require a new role”.

Repetition is actually pretty effective in being assertive and when used correctly can really make a difference. Remember not to ‘blame’ and use ‘you’ and another helpful hint is to use ‘and’ and not ‘but’. Using ‘but’ in a sentence acts like an eraser of what has just been said which we often interpret as being disrespectful or as not being listened to. Many blow ups can be avoided simply by exchanging ‘but’ for ‘and’ as it prevents an either/or situation, instead it opens up dialogue. One person can have his/her own truth AND another can have theirs.

As we go into the weekend, look at the things that are causing you angst or that you feel unnecessarily guilty about then choose to assert yourself instead.

Feel good about standing up for yourself.

© The Red Barn Cooperative – Working together to nourish lives
A Red Barn Coaching initiative

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