Healthy Assertiveness – Don’t Bottle It Up
Do you feel unable to complain or stand up for what you want, yet feel resentful that no one takes notice of you or that you can’t hold your own against more dominant people? Or do you find yourself screaming and shouting even when you know this gets everyone’s back up? Many people find it difficult to know exactly what assertive behavior is, and how to use it. Being assertive can be especially difficult for women, who intrinsically may feel that non-passive behavior isn’t feminine. Some people find that their financial situation, appearance or ethnic background can affect their social skills too. As with many other psychological difficulties, seeing the whole picture often highlights the underlying problem, and alternative therapies are particularly useful in assisting this process.
People often frustrated by their inability to say what they really thought. This results from low self esteem. Once you realize that confidence is a skill you can develop rather than something you’re born with, you can take action. We’re often wary of speaking our mind because we’re unused to doing so. Try these two key ways of speaking to begin with. First, make sure you get your point across – even if that means returning to the same point over and over again until it is fully taken on board. Secondly, express how the person makes you feel rather than being accusatory. This brings the situation within the realm of your control. For instance, instead of saying “Stop shouting at me”, try “Your attitude is making me feel defensive”.
Get To The Point
Asserting yourself means communicating clearly, coolly and confidently without unnecessarily upsetting or offending others. So be direct. How often do you find yourself skirting round issues without ever really coming out into the open about what it is you want to say? This builds resentment and stress levels. It doesn’t win you any friends either. The other person may have no idea that they are trampling on your feelings or winding you up, and may welcome the chance to clear the air.
No, that doesn’t mean arm-wrestling your assailant to the ground! The way you carry yourself and react to others speaks volumes. To put across a more confident, assertive image remember to:
- look people in the eye
- sit up straight
- look alert
- shake hands firmly
- walk confidently, swinging your arms
Just Say ‘No’
Why is ‘no’ such a big word? Usually because we fear using it makes us look awkward or unhelpful. That’s the fear, but it’s usually unfounded. It doesn’t take the most over-sensitive person in the world to pick up on resentment and stifled unwillingness, so the people you constantly say ‘yes’ to will probably know you’re feeling bullied.
When people know that you’ll say ‘yes’ only when you want to and are able to help, they will feel more comfortable asking you. They’ll know you’ll give them an honest answer and they in turn won’t have to feel guilty about overloading you.
There’s no quick fix to building confidence and self-esteem, and conventional medicine has little to offer. This is one of many instances where alternative therapies come into their own. They work particularly well because they help you to look at yourself ‘holistically’. That is, you need to consider every aspect of your life to find the root cause of your inability to assert yourself.
Autogenic therapy is one of the alternative methods that may help you speak your mind with a greater sense of self-confidence. It’s a method of using simple mental exercises with relaxation which allows the mind and body to act together to restore equilibrium to the over-stressed self. These exercises can gently bring to the fore material that may relate to past traumas, or events which have left you with negative attitudes. People who find it difficult to express what they want are often afraid of rejection, so when emotions are getting in the way, there is a need to address this as part of learning to assert oneself. Anger is very often disguised as anxiety, because childhood conditioning has taught people to be afraid of how they feel rather than comfortable with expressing it.
The content of an angry statement is rarely taken in by the listener. The trick is to express anger in private, before the confrontation, then take a confident, calm stance when faced with conflict. You will be able to state clearly what you believe, and how angry you have felt, when you are no longer afraid of exploding in public.
As with spiritual healing and hypnotherapy, to benefit from autogenic training you will need to have at least a few sessions with a qualified therapist. However, the following self-help exercise is recommended, which is usually taught in conjunction with autogenic therapy but also works well on its own. The aim is to ‘off-load’, or release yourself from, negative feelings which could be making you feel ill. This will help you learn that anger is a normal, acceptable emotion, but one that needs managing. And it will help you find it easier to tackle issues.
Anger ‘Off-Loading’ Exercise
Always practice this exercise before meeting the person/ group with whom you have difficult issues to discuss. Don’t worry if it’s hard to get started – after a few attempts, it should become easier to allow the feelings out.
- Find a time when you are alone and won’t be interrupted. If privacy is a problem in your home, turn up the TV or radio or bury yourself under the duvet.
- Think about the person you need to face and imagine, as clearly as you can, that they are in the room with you.
- Allow yourself to repeat – out loud – whatever angry thoughts come up, and address them to the imagined person.
- Continue to express your anger out loud until you feel emptied out.
- Don’t finish until you feel that ‘everything is out’ and there’s nothing more to say for the moment.
The anger must be expressed out loud (but not necessarily loudly) and not by silently thinking. Use any foul language that springs to mind – you’re not hurting anyone, simply taking care of your own well being.
You will find that your anger can be expressed in two ways. You may repeat a single phrase (such as “I hate you, X”) over and over again until your voice fades into a murmur or the words become meaningless. Or you could create a one-sided ‘slanging match’, telling the absent person concerned all the reasons why they have made you angry, until you run out of emotion. If you finish too soon, you may experience increased irritability, moodiness and even headaches. This is an indication that you need to repeat the exercise at the earliest opportunity. It doesn’t mean this exercise is unsuitable for you or not working – quite the opposite, in fact.
If you have feelings of pent up anger stemming from past conflicts, make a list of all the people who have made you feel angry. Don’t feel guilty about including the people you love – your partner, wife, husband, children, parents, brothers, sisters, etc. Then use the exercise for each of the people on your list.
Heal Your Confidence
Spiritual healing can help you look at life in perspective and build confidence. Spiritual healing enhances your powers of assertiveness by increasing your awareness of yourself as a valuable soul with your own unique voice. When you experience healing energy, you begin to understand that there is a wealth of support to tap into in the spiritual world. This support doesn’t come from some distant place. It is here, it is accessible, it strengthens your resolve to assert your voice as a vehicle of your positive, constructive thoughts, ideas and dreams. It’s then only a short step to turn those dreams into realities.
There’s nothing worse than the opinionated poppet who’s the apple of their parents’ eye and is encouraged to talk, talk and talk. But how do you steer children towards positive assertiveness without their being over critical? Encourage them to ask questions and express their feelings but, just as importantly, emphasize the need to watch and learn from other people and to be careful to listen. Explain that considering other people’s feelings is good, but so is expressing yourself. Teach them the difference between accusing and commenting and always set a good example. Bullying behavior from adults or older siblings will send totally the wrong message. So no more “because I said so!”
5 Tips For Passive People
- Stop and think – your point of view is just as valid as anyone else’s, so speak up for yourself.
- Get it off your chest – don’t bottle up your feelings and thoughts, it doesn’t do anyone any good.
- Articulate – state your thoughts and feelings succinctly, without getting emotional.
- Don’t be a doormat – other people will not respect you for it and your health and happiness will suffer in the long run.
- Practice makes perfect – don’t lose heart if you find yourself caving in to other people’s demands, keep trying.
5 Tips For Aggressive People
- Stop and think – before you start ranting and raving take a deep breath and slowly count to ten, or leave the room for a few minutes.
- Write it down – this will allow you to safely let off steam and help you put your feelings into perspective.
- Don’t alienate people – think about how you might react if someone spoke to you in a similar way.
- Don’t be a bully – there’s more than one way to get your own way. Be considerate and people will respect you and act accordingly.
- Don’t carry stress around – try using relaxation techniques and physical exercise to disperse tension.