6 April 2021
Has lockdown affected how assertive you are? Maybe Zoom meetings help you be more confident to speak up, knowing you’re not in the same room as your colleagues? Or maybe it’s been the opposite for you, being on screen instead of in an office has made it easier for you to hide? It may be the pandemic, and all the uncertainty it brings, has made it harder to say no to taking on extra tasks, even though you know you’re already working more than you should.
Perhaps it’s at home where you want to be able to assert yourself more. Have you felt that you’ve taken on the majority of the domestic load during lockdown? You may have found it particularly difficult to assert yourself when everyone is at home 24-7, wanting to keep the peace.
Or it may be you’ve taken time to listen to your friend talking about her break-up and then having to work late into the night.
You may worry more about damaging your relationships with others, especially at a time when their support is so important. Before you know it, you’re putting your own needs last and not saying anything because you’re concerned about what may happen. Then you end up feeling frustrated, irritated and resentful. You may even try to get your needs met through other means such as drinking or eating more than you would like. If this is you, don’t worry, you are not alone. We all need help to be assertive from time to time.
Assertiveness is being able to express yourself effectively. When you assert yourself, you stand up for yourself calmly and clearly, making sure to respecting others’ rights and beliefs too. Being assertive helps you to avoid feeling obliged to do things you don’t want to do and end up saying yes when you want to say no.
Nonetheless, it’s not easy to be direct. Most of us find it hard to ask for what we want. We don’t want to upset or anger the other person, cause inconvenience or seem demanding or unreasonable. If we do ask for what we want, we often end up feeling guilty about putting ourselves first.
Or, it could be anxiety holding us back. We may plan to be assertive, but in the heat of the moment get overcome with anxiety. So, it becomes hard to think clearly and take the action we had planned and practised.
For more on this check out https://www.blossomhypnotherapy.com/how-to-stop-overthinking-and-start-living/
So, we avoid anything we think might cause discomfort or tension, putting other people’s needs before our own. If we do ask, we do it in such a roundabout way, the other person isn’t clear what we are asking for. Often our hints, expressions and hidden meanings don’t get understood. We end up feeling disappointed because our needs haven’t been met. So we withdraw and keep silent, leaving others to guess what it is we want. Over time, not asserting ourselves can leave us feeling angry and frustrated, building up resentment that makes it more difficult to act assertively. What starts as a passive reaction, can end up as an explosion of anger as we gradually reach boiling point and explode.
Research shows that learning to be assertive can have a profound impact on our quality of life. Learning to communicate clearly and confidently has been shown to reduce anxiety. Social anxiety
has repeatedly been linked to a lack of assertiveness. Assertiveness training has proven beneficial in reducing and gaining control over anxiety. It can also help improve confidence, self esteem and how people view themselvesi. When people go through assertiveness training, they tend to worry less about what others’ think of them and become more self-assured.
For more help with social anxiety go to https://www.blossomhypnotherapy.com/when-social-situations-are-scary-social-anxiety-help/
i Speed, B. C., Goldstein, B. L., & Goldfried, M. R. (2017). Assertiveness training: A forgotten evidence-based treatment. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 25(1).
Being assertive is a key life skill. It helps you to be more effective in saying what you want to get across, without upsetting the other person. Being clear about what you’re asking for cuts down on misunderstanding and makes it easier to listen to the other person’s point of view.
By becoming more assertive, you can begin to express your true feelings and needs more easily. You may even find that you get more of what you want as a result.
The good news is assertiveness is a skill you can learn and practice. It can take time to change your communication style, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes. By becoming more assertive, you can begin to express your feelings and needs more easily. You may even find that you get more of what you want, more of the time.
When I work with clients who want to become more assertive, we work together to develop the skills they need to be confident. We look at the lifelong beliefs they hold about assertiveness, and develop ways to give them choices in the way they communicate. If clients know how to be assertive, but get stressed at the thought of communicating so directly, we work on ways of managing the anxiety and reducing the physical symptoms in the body. Check out understanding how your body responds to stress for more details.
Take Alex, for instance, a 45 year old Deputy Head and mother of one. Alex wanted to stop feeling drained and overwhelmed. She felt constantly under pressure to take on more and more at work. As she did so, Alex became resentful about not being able to spend time with her family. She was also overeating as a way to cope with her feelings.
We worked together to help Alex improve her assertiveness. Now, she no longer feels she has to say yes whenever she is asked. Instead, she now takes time to pause and think ‘how will taking on this extra work affect me’. She uses her new assertiveness skills to explain to her manager, “I will take that on, but it can’t be done in the timeframe you are suggesting.”
Alex reports she is not taking on nearly as much extra work these days. When she does it’s much more on her own terms. She has developed the confidence to say no. Alex now stand up for her reasons as to why she can’t take on additional responsibilities. She is happy to report she is no longer spreading herself too thin, and she now has more time and energy to spend on herself and her family. This helps her to relax and recharge, so when she is working she can give her work more energy and focus.
As Alex says,
Learning the ability to say ‘no’ and being more assertive has taken work. I now feel that I am managing work, home and family a lot better. I have more control over my over eating and now have strategies that I can utilise instead of turning to food.
Try using the tips below to help you become more assertive and spend more time doing the things you want.
Try saying “No, I’m sorry I really can’t at the moment” aloud, and use it next time someone asks you to do something you don’t want. You may need to repeat yourself a few times. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.
Think about someone you respect and who you think communicates effectively. Choose someone who is assertive, warm and friendly, and shows respect for others and themselves. This could be someone you know, someone famous or someone fictional. Imagine them dealing with a particular situation. How would they do it? What would that look like? Imagine yourself acting in a similar way. Then do it. Keep practicing.
You can start to re-programme your mind to help you become more assertive. Close your eyes and relax your body completely. Stay connected with the feelings of relaxation and imagine a situation in which you are acting assertively. Notice your posture, expression and tone of voice. Notice how it feels to be assertive. Keep the feelings with you as you go about your day.
Changing the way we communicate is not easy. Really acknowledge every little improvement as you make it. Small differences will lead to long-term change. Notice, recognise and reward your efforts to change. Remind yourself what a good job you are doing every time you respond in a more assertive way.
Try not to conduct a postmortem analysis after a situation that didn’t go well. It is more helpful to briefly review how assertive you were and plan how you’ll handle it next time.
For more ways to improve your confidence have a look at https://www.blossomhypnotherapy.com/creating-self-confidence/
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