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Assertiveness: The Art of Getting Your Way Nicely

Assertiveness At Home: Teach People How To Treat You!

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“When I’m trusting and being myself as full as possible, everything in my life reflects this by falling into place easily, often miraculously.” - Shakti Gawain

Assertiveness has its place at home, as well as, in any other place. Wherever humans gather, there will always be a need for well-placed assertiveness. Just as there is a need for boundaries in the workplace, so there is also a need for boundaries at home.

A boundary is a line that you draw between yourself and others; this includes even loved ones. It is a line that represents physical and emotional limits. You draw the line to indicate that going beyond that means a violation of your standards and rights. It may sound strange to think of boundaries between family members, but it is essential for a healthy and happy family.

All members need to know their limits when dealing with you and that same boundary protects them too. Setting boundaries can make you feel safe and make others feel safe, too. Everyone would know what to expect and have information about wants and needs of everyone.

Stop and think about the times you felt uncomfortable, hurt, angry, or betrayed. Those dark emotions indicate that your boundaries were somehow crossed. This clearly shows the need for everyone to have those boundaries.

Boundaries ensure that your rights are protected. You have the right to enjoy positive and satisfying relationships. This type of relationship allows you to express yourself honestly and tell others how you wish to be treated.

I think you would be surprised to know that many couples simply do not know how to treat each other because they do not know what they want. If you want your spouse to treat you with consideration and respect, you have to tell him/her. It seems so obvious and simple. Your spouse would not know if you do not tell them. You must teach them how to treat you.

There are times when being assertive towards your spouse may seem like an uphill battle. It just feels like he/she is not listening to what you are saying; it seems like he/she is not attentive to your needs. Approaching them in the same old manner may be your problem. It is time to find a new way to say what you need to say.

Many men and women approach their spouse with the old guilt trip starting with negative feelings, feelings of superiority, and blame. Remember how your grandmother used to tell you how you could catch more flies with honey than with vinegar? Same thing applies here. If you start with the blame game, your spouse is going to shut down within thirty seconds. He/she has heard all this before and will tune out as soon as you open your mouth. It is time to try a new tack.

Put aside those negative feelings and do not start with a criticism. Try to see things from your spouse’s point of view and find again good things that you love about that person. Appreciate his/her good points and put aside the issues you two fight about.

Approach the encounter carefully, keep calm, and most importantly, watch your language. Always remember that ill-chosen words can hurt deeply. Avoid blaming the other person. Try to be supportive of your spouse and for heaven’s sake, admit when you are wrong!

Asserting yourself and negotiating does not mean tearing the other person down all for the purpose of proving that you are right and the other party is wrong. Making your spouse feel miserable and unworthy is no way to negotiate your wants and needs. That is not a win-win situation. Instead, look at your spouse’s positive points and boost his/her morale. Abraham Lincoln said, “It is difficult to make a man miserable while he feels he’s worthy of himself.”

Sometimes, the problem is not your spouse but another member of your family or your spouse’s family. Keep in mind that you are living your own life now with your partner and children as a family. Do not let relatives or in-laws push you around. You will encounter some family members that practically insist on a fight. It is better to politely avoid an argument and simply refuse to be pulled into any form of discussion or confrontation. Keep it simple and try these deflections:

  • I’m going to bow out of this one, thanks.

  • Sorry, I don’t have an opinion on that.

  • I truly wish I had something to contribute to this, but I don’t.

  • Maybe you could rephrase that, please.

  • Leave me out of this.

Goethe told us that, “Behavior is a mirror in which everyone shows his image.” It is good to keep in mind that we are all created equal and should treat each other accordingly. Do not be recklessly assertive and go overboard when dealing with a loved one. When dealing with those you are closest to, learn to be more assertive and less aggressive. Be more confident and less fearful. Learn to be more effective so you will not come off as wishy-washy.

Stop being a fence sitter; say what you feel and mean what you say. Demanding to have everything your way will not earn you the respect you desire from your family. Being calmly assertive and fair with everyone will command that respect. It will even encourage them to emulate you.

Boundaries must be set and adhered to at all times in order for families to be happy, healthy, and respectful of each other. Asserting your rights within the family is not asking too much and makes for a better relationship. Boundaries would include making sure each member of the family has needed privacy and space. It also has to do with how each member speaks to the others in the family. Negative, insulting, or rude talk is not acceptable.

It is unfortunate that some people allow others to decide for them and then become bitter in the end. This is especially true within the framework of a family. One spouse begins making the decisions for the entire family, without necessarily consulting the other. If you find this to be true in your own household, keep in mind that your partner began making those decisions because you allowed that to happen.

Many spouses let their partners have it their own way to maintain the peace in the family. This can absolutely work to your disadvantage. The longer you allow it to continue, the more difficult it becomes to assert yourself, take back your own life, and exercise your decision-making capabilities.

This whole dynamics can lead to low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority since you allow others to decide matters for yourself. Their actions are inferring that you are not capable of making your own decisions.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” If your spouse has begun taking the initiative and is making decisions that you do not agree with, guess whose fault was it?

By your inaction, you have taught your partner that it is okay to go over your head and decide what you should have and not have. You have given away your power but you can still get it back. You will find in the last chapter of this book a short assertiveness training manual to help you regain your power of decision.

If people in your life are treating you badly, you must figure out things that you are doing which allow them to continue behaving such ways. What is it that makes them feel free to verbally or physically abuse you?

Women may find themselves feeling uncomfortable around men who curse, have potty mouths, or tend to talk about women in unacceptable terms. Men who behave this way have no respect for women. By remaining silent, these women are allowing this behavior to perpetuate.

Sometimes men act this way with the intention of putting the woman in her place and make her feel subjugated. Some guys truly do not have a clue that they are creating an uncomfortable atmosphere for women to live with.

Women will have to be assertive and teach these men to treat women with respect. They must insist on putting an end to this kind of talk. Sometimes, a simple reminder such as: “Excuse me, Lady in the room,” is enough to get their attention.

One of the biggest roadblocks to asserting yourself could be the unarticulated desire. Many people want something from someone but are unclear, even in their own minds, on exactly what that “something” is. They make no verbal assertions about their wants and needs, but rather expect others to instinctively know what that mysterious “something” could be.

While we are all about improving ourselves by learning new skills and developing new talents, most of us are simply not capable of reading the minds of others (outside of the amazing Kreskin, that is!). People cannot possibly grant that mysterious “something” to you if they do not have a clue on what it is.

Stop waiting for your spouse, kids, boss, co-workers, or friends to magically figure out what you want or need. Assert yourself and tell them clearly what you need. Remember that assertiveness is about getting what you need and protecting your rights, while not stomping on the feelings and rights of others. So, open your mouth and say what you need. If you want to reap the benefits, you must first give it a name. You must articulate whatever it is that you want, need, or desire.

Maybe the simple act of making a decision is what is holding you back. Indecision keeps you from articulating what you need. Indecision causes homeostasis, inaction, and resistance to change. If you do not make a decision, someone will eventually decide for you and you probably would not like the result.

Knowing what you really want is essential. In this world, the only thing you will get is exactly what you ask for. What are you asking for?

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