We’re taught to say yes. Be pleasant and accommodating. We’re rewarded when we sacrifice ourselves for others, praised and called “good” whenever we put their needs ahead of our own. But, it is important to know how to have assertive communication with those around you.
We’re horrible at communicating our needs and sometimes lose the ability even to recognize what our needs are in the first place.
We expect partners to be mind readers. Why should I have to tell them? They should know, and the fact that they don’t know probably means we’re not a perfect match…
Perhaps you’ve experienced this. Something happens that you’re not really ok with, but you tell yourself it’s fine. No big deal. You tell yourself to get over it.
But it festers, and then comes pouring out. It’s big, it’s ugly, and you feel out of control.
Most people are afraid of confrontation. They resist it at all costs despite all the ensuing discomfort, loss of boundaries, and disconnection from self.
This adds a lot of unnecessary stress and messiness to life.
Yes, thoughts of communicating something uncomfortable are terrifying. A big reason for this is we’ve never done it. No one modeled it for us, no one taught us how.
If you’re sick of feeling trapped and unable to express yourself in a healthy appropriate way, here are some things to try that will help.
Most would go on the offensive upon hearing, “This is disgusting. You are so messy; how can you stand this? How can you live like this?” It can easily be interpreted as an attack. Instead, “I have a hard time being in a chaotic environment, I feel stressed and anxious” communicates the same thing, without the additional layer of judgment.
By pausing and assessing why you feel what you’re feeling, you recognize the underlying emotion or emotions. Share the emotion – how you feel – such as scared or anxious.
Say Yes to No
This is tricky. People pleasers cringe at the mere thought of saying no. Human beings are wired to be part of a tribe, and saying yes seems like the easiest way to stay in everyone’s good graces and not get booted out.
However, saying yes all the time breeds resentment. Resentment is like the bottom of cars and trucks in those midwestern states with brutal winters. All the salt added to the roads to keep tire skidding to a minimum eats away at the paint, and then the metal underside of the vehicle’s frame. Leaving ugly chewed up rusty marks of corrosion.
Every time you say yes to something you don’t want to do, your insides feel corroded, your energy chipped away and depleted.
And the underlying message you’re telling yourself is, I don’t matter. My needs don’t matter.
Your Comfort Level
A friend or loved one may do something that makes you uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s the way your friend lashed out at her toddler. It scared you a little, and you can’t shake it. You’re not sure what to do. Stop returning her calls? Confront her? All seem equally uncomfortable.
If this is someone you love and care about, approach her from a place of compassion. Share that you recognize she’s been under a lot of stress, but let her know that her reaction to her little one scared you, brought back dark memories of your father. Let her know that this didn’t seem like the person you know her to be, the one who prioritizes her kids and their well-being.
If they’re receptive, excellent! It’s a good indication that your friendship is deep, deep enough to hold space for honesty, even when it’s uncomfortable. If they are not receptive, at least you shared your feelings. You were able to articulate something that made you uncomfortable. You didn’t abandon yourself and your boundaries.
For many, communicating assertively can seem more daunting than the prospect of learning Japanese. But it’s not something anyone has to learn how to do on their own, individual therapy is an excellent resource. With the guidance of a therapist, individuals are able to explore how and why they have a hard time expressing their feelings, and slowly regain self-connection and trust.
If you would like help to learn how to have assertive communications, the GoodTherapy registry might be helpful to you. We have thousand of therapists, in addition to Relationship Therapy Center, listed with us who would love to walk with you on your journey. Find the support you need today.
From our contributor:
At the Relationship Therapy Center, we firmly believe that any successful relationship begins with an open, loving, and honest relationship to ourselves. Finding self-acceptance is not easy – nothing worthwhile ever is – but it is possible. We have helped countless people reunite with themselves, and provided them with the tools necessary for healthy, open, and honest assertive communication.
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