Note: This is a guest post by Lori Jewett.
We’ve all had moments where we’ve failed to speak up for ourselves, said yes when we really wanted to say no, or allowed someone to walk all over our feelings without making a peep. No matter how self-assured, most of us wonder at one time or another if perhaps we couldn’t be just a bit more assertive. Do you wonder? Is assertiveness something that you need to work on? Let’s find out.
How Assertive Are You?
Look over the questions that follow.
As you work your way through the list, search for patterns.
You may find yourself feeling a twinge of guilt or embarrassment here and there.
If so, don’t worry. There are no absolutely right or wrong answers here.
There are only clues pointing to areas where your assertiveness might stand a little improvement.
- How likely are you to express your opinion if it differs from that of the people you are talking with?
- Do you speak up when someone cuts in front of you in line?
- Do you try to blend in with the woodwork at meetings or parties?
- When a salesperson is trying really hard to pitch you on a product you don’t want, is it hard to say no?
- If a person has borrowed money and not paid you back, do you ask for it or just write it off?
- Are you likely to try not to let things bother you but then fly off the handle and lash out in anger?
- Is it hard to maintain eye contact when you are talking to people?
- Do you yell at people and shout obscenities when you are pushed too far?
- Are you able to refuse unreasonable requests from friends or colleagues?
- Can you ask for small favors or help?
- Do you clam up during an argument?
- If someone is disturbing you during a movie, do you ask them to stop or do you stew about it instead?
- If your meal in a restaurant is unsatisfactory, do you tell the waitress or just make the best of it?
- If you feel that someone is misinformed, do you try to clear it up or do you just wait for a chance to change the subject?
- If you buy something that doesn’t work properly, do you return it?
Did you notice anything about your responses? Chances are that certain types of items gave you pause. We all have situations where our resolve fails us. In fact, sometimes we deliberately choose to not speak out or to just let things slide. That’s okay too. The important thing is your ability to choose, that’s what assertiveness is all about. If remaining passive in a certain situation is your choice, it is in fact a form of assertive behavior.
The Benefits of Assertive Behavior
Becoming more assertive may be starting to sound like a good idea, but perhaps you’re not yet convinced. Right now you might be saying â€œI’m just not the assertive typeâ€, â€œI’m too busyâ€ or â€œIf I behave like that what will everyone else think of me?â€ Put those worries aside for now because there are five very good reasons why becoming more assertive should be at the top of your to-do list:
1. Decreased anxiety.
Assertive people are much less anxious and tense in uncomfortable situations. When you become more comfortable expressing your opinions or saying no, awkward spots become less so. Those pesky conversations about politics and religion at the water-cooler become less anxiety-provoking. You can stop pretending to not be home when your mother-in-law calls. You might even cringe less when the boss asks for your opinion.
Being in control of your own life and deciding for yourself what to do and not to do, allows you a sense of freedom and control that a passive person just doesn’t have. There is no substitute for feeling that you make the decisions and that your life is truly your own.
3. Free time.
Helping out is wonderful and when people need you it is great to say yes whenever you can. But it’s also nice to sometimes be able to say no. It is amazing how much more time you can free up for the things that really matter to you when you can confidently say no to the things that don’t.
4. Improved relationships with others.
If you’ve lived your life passively up until now, make no mistake, the people around you will not be happy with your new found assertiveness. At least, not at first. People don’t like change, particularly if it inconveniences them. But rest assured that the negative response you may get from those closest to you will fade as they adjust their expectations. In the end, the relationships are usually better for it. The more passive of us may agree to everything and do whatever we are asked, but deep down we tend to resent it. This resentment seeps out in a myriad of ways and puts a strain on the very relationships saying yes was designed to preserve.
5. A better self-image.
Many avoid disagreeing with people or saying no because they think people will stop liking them, or because they think their own opinions are stupid or worthless. This attitude not only stems from, but helps perpetuate, low self-esteem. It is true that sometimes expressing an unpopular opinion or saying no to a request will make you a little less popular for the moment but, in the long run, assertive people usually earn the respect of others and as a result begin to have more respect for themselves.
So, are you convinced yet? You have to admit, assertiveness comes with a lot of perks. Like any new skill, learning to be more assertive takes time and practice, but it is definitely worth the effort.
Are you ready to become more assertive but you’re not sure how? Check out â€œHow to Become More Assertiveâ€ at Between Us Girls.
Lori Jewett is a counselor who shares information on health, wellness and personal transformation on her Between Us Girls blog.