There is a mistaken notion that assertiveness equals aggressiveness or abusiveness. However, this is far from the truth. In reality, being assertive simply means articulating your needs and wants, while also welcoming the needs and wants of your partner. It is a stark contrast to being passive or aggressive, and one that can help improve your relationship tremendously. Here, we provide some tips for how to assert yourself in healthy, meaningful ways so that you can live life authentically. Keep in mind that assertiveness is a skill, one that takes practice before mastery.
Recognize the difference
Many people are afraid of asserting themselves because they fear being called a bitch. Here’s an analogy to help. If you assume a passive role, everyone is allowed to play at the park except you. Instead, you stand on the sidelines and watch. If you assume an aggressive role, no one else plays there because you bully them away. If you’re assertive, everyone is allowed to play at the park and be themselves, you and them included.
Learn to say “no”
More often than not, the word that divides people between being a pushover and being strong is the word “no.” For a variety of reasons, we are taught that saying no either doesn’t matter or isn’t acceptable. Instead, we pad it with excuses, reasons and false hopes. As soon as something doesn’t feel right for you, simply say “no.” Don’t offer excuses. Quite likely, the moment you start providing reasons, you’ll either begin lying or your partner will begin the dance of trying to negotiate or manipulate you into accepting the demand or request.
If you’ve never run a mile, you surely don’t want to leap into a marathon. Same goes for practicing assertiveness. Doing otherwise is a recipe for failure. If you’re unaccustomed to being assertive, start with small tasks. Ask to be seated elsewhere in a restaurant or request that a telemarketer remove you from his phone list. Once you gain the skills to do these relatively minor tasks, you’ll be able to move into significantly more difficult situations, such as asking your boss for a raise or discussing concerns about infidelity with your spouse.
Being assertive can definitely feel unnerving, particularly if you’ve spent your life trying to please others. Keep in mind that it is best for your self-care, however, and try to let go of guilt. One way to do this is to replace negative self-talk (“I’m a bad person for not lending her money”) with positive thoughts (“I deserve financial security”).
Becoming assertive is about setting boundaries, both with yourself and with others. Practice these techniques to live more authentically, and find a happier you.