Assertiveness for Beginners

Being assertive will reduce your stress levels and improve your confidence, but becoming assertive is a progression not an instant change. Becoming assertive overnight, say, expecting yourself to instantly speak up in situations where you haven’t previously spoken up, is an unrealistic expectation for most people.  It’s a journey and needs to be seen as such. So begin your journey with the little things.

Perhaps it’s a movie you don’t want to watch.  You could say, “I don’t want to watch [movie name] because it makes me feel [the emotion you don’t want to experience].”

It might be a takeout meal you don’t want to have: “I don’t want to eat pizza tonight because eating pizza doesn’t make me feel good tonight”.

The first time you try it, you might give in, and that’s OK. It’s all about practice, taking time to build your confidence and progressively giving your boundaries a push.  As you become more comfortable with making the initial statements of assertiveness, you can begin to add in the “broken record” technique.

Each time you are challenged on the topic, you just repeat the same statement. “I don’t want to have pizza tonight because eating pizza doesn’t make me feel good tonight”.  It doesn’t matter how many times you are pushed towards having the pizza, just keep repeating the same statement.

The basic rule of putting an assertive statement together is to:

1. State the facts
2. State how it affects you (how it feels).

Begin with the small stuff, the things that you feel you have the strength to do. Being assertive in those small areas will give you the confidence to take on bigger challenges, progressively working your way up the assertiveness ladder

**A word of caution, don’t use this technique if you are dealing with a physically or emotionally violent/abusive person. You should seek the help of an individual specialist to assist you with your situation.**

You’re here to be happy, not treated like a doormat – begin standing up for your happiness.

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Honesty vs Openness – Part One

How often have you received an emotional wound followed by the justification, “I’m only being honest!”?

“Honesty,” like other sacrosanct words such as “love,” “unselfish,” and “caring” has the ability to put our forebrains to sleep. Just uttering the word can make us rationalize many behaviors that would otherwise not stand up to scrutiny. If you are learning how to better defend your privacy and stand up for yourself, then you had better get really clear about honesty.

If you don’t get clear on the concept of honesty, you run the risk of others using your vague understanding against you.  Most commonly, this happens when someone is accused of dishonesty because they don’t tell everything.  I’m continually amazed at how many clients struggle with feelings of disloyalty because they harbor feelings they haven’t shared.

There is a common idea that sharing feelings is honest, so not sharing feelings, or not sharing all your feelings, must be dishonest, right? WRONG – or at least, not necessarily.  Not sharing your feelings may be tactful, or considerate, or maybe just plain careful. Here’s an idea that may help: Honesty is not the same thing as openness.

Suppose you see something that reminds you of an old relationship while you’re with a new partner. Suppose you know your new partner is a bit insecure and somewhat prone to jealousy. You have several choices. One possibility is to tell all about your feelings for the previous relationship. That would be both open and honest. Another choice would be to tell a “white lie,” saying nothing is going on, even though your partner has noticed a difference. That would be closed and dishonest. However, a third choice might be to say that you experienced some old feelings that had nothing to do with the present relationship, but that you don’t feel ready to share them. That would be closed but honest.

Confusing honesty with openness denies you that third option. It’s that third option of closed honesty that allows you to set necessary limits in your relationships. It can also be considered as maintaining your privacy. For some reason I find this practice is especially hard for people when dealing with their parents. For many young couples, not telling their parents details about their present romance feels like a form of dishonesty. I usually get much resistance when I counsel that they can be closed about many details without being dishonest. It is often discovered that they fear rejection if they’re honest about maintaining a separate private life.

Of course it’s possible to be closed and dishonest as well. A clear example is if you secretly break an exclusivity agreement by having an affair.  Sometimes agreements haven’t been explicitly negotiated and then we get into gray areas, but that can of worms will have to be a subject for another time.

Toxic Relationships

Every person reading this is either in, has been in, or knows someone who has been in, a toxic relationship. The term is self-descriptive, the relationship is poisonous, and it is deadly. Remaining in this type of relationship may or may not lead to physical death but its emotional toll is no less devastating.

At the risk of over-simplifying what is, in my opinion, a pandemic problem in our culture, ask yourself this basic question:  Is the relationship with my (substitute the descriptive term of any close person) making regular deposits to my positive energy account or regular withdrawals? Really ask yourself this question. Only you know who that/those person(s) are.

Every human being has a reservoir of positive energy and, hopefully, someone adding to it regularly. It’s that special someone that makes you smile, laugh, feel passionate, tickles your fancy, multiplies your dopamine output, etc. Conversely, everyone has a negative energy pool. You know all about this one. “You’re ugly, you’re fat, you’re stupid, you’re lazy, you’ll never amount to anything, or (worst of all) why are you drawing breath-you don’t even matter!”

When you are all alone with only your thoughts and your heart as company, sit down and make a list. Make two columns with the headings Positive Energy and Negative Energy. Down the side of your list name the most significant people in your world. For each name, identify the regular deposits they make in your positive energy reservoir. Put a star or some other mark by the most important contributions.  You know, the ones that make you warm just thinking about them. When you are done with the positive list, consider sending them a card, calling, or if close enough, giving them a hug to say “thank you” for loving and caring for you.

Now, do the same for the negative side.  When you complete this side, notice the people that show up regularly here, but rarely in the positive column.  Then do yourself – your mental, emotional, and physical self – a huge favor: Hit the delete button and get them the heck out of your life! Poison is for rats and other vermin, NOT for people with hearts and souls worth celebrating.