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In many cases, being assertive can improve the quality of your life. However, some people believe that being rude is synonymous with being assertive. So what is assertiveness? According to the dictionary online, ‘…it is being able to stand up for your own or other people’s rights in a calm and positive way, without being either aggressive or passively accepting ‘wrong.’ It is basically being brave, but not disrespectful, in expressing your needs and boundaries.
There are times when you know you should speak our minds against injustice to yourself and/or others, but for one reason or another you do not. You accept being taken advantage of or being painfully stepped on the toes. Anyone looking in from the outside is usually not able to tell that you are being a pushover; that you are not being assertive. This is because it is generally done in a subtle manner, such as, not speaking up when a particular coworker is not performing as he or she should; keeping quiet when a neighbour or colleague oversteps your personal boundaries; shrugging off the urge to speak up when you receive unsatisfactory services; or staying passive in a relationship where you are not appreciated.
Nothing good will ever come of refusing to speak up for yourself and allow injustices to have their way in your personal life or in society. One of two things can happen: you will either mentally isolate yourself from your various relationships and associations or your emotions will build up until you ‘explode.’ On the other hand, speaking up can enhance your life because you will stop beating up on the one person you can really depend on (yourself) and gain a mindset that is healthier to deal with the many issues that you are sure to face in life.
There may be someone reading this who finds it difficult to be assertive, without being disrespectful. Here are some things to think about to start you on that journey.
- Know what your personal needs and boundaries are. Some people are not aware of what these are, so they do not communicate them to others who they come in contact with. It is only when they start feeling uncomfortable with a particular treatment that they complain that they are not being treated fairly. Do not assume that others will know your boundaries and needs if you do not tell them. Do not wait until you feel cheated or taken for granted before trying to figure them out and putting them out there. Be aware of your triggers; know what will elevate your blood pressure or change your mood; know your strong preferences and what will make you feel disrespected. This can either be something simple or more serious. For instance, what is that thing that will annoy you or will cause you to completely shut down? A ‘simple’ thing for me is that I prefer text messages to receiving phone calls, especially when I am doing something time-consuming and/or that requires concentration; which is often the case. I get annoyed especially if the person is a long-winded caller. My serious boundaries are too great to hold in this article.
- Effectively and respectfully communicate your needs and boundaries to others. Some people hesitate to let others know what they require because they do not believe their needs have value. Another thing is that sometimes they feel obligated to others because they have been granted favours by them before. If for instance someone asks you for help with something that will cut into your plans, you can respond by saying ‘I would be happy to help you but you caught me at a very bad time.’ Or if the request was made at a short notice, you could say ‘I will help you, but next time, please give me at least 2-3 days notice.’ Even if it is your boss, you should be able to politely communicate your boundaries without negative repercussions. If not, you may want to reconsider your career or place of work. In cases where friends and family members require more of you than you are able to give, let them know that you will help this time, but that there is a limit to giving of your time and/or money.
- Viewing others’ needs and boundaries. When you recognize the needs and boundaries of others, this gives you the motivation to communicate yours to them. You may see from their perspective what you can offer them; how you can respect their requirements. When you see the situation from the eyes of others, you may see that your needs, boundaries and preferences are in fact reasonable. Let’s say you have a boss who needs workers who are fast-paced and who will make particular sacrifices to make the business grow. If this was communicated from the start, you will be able to make an informed decision about whether you can live up to the expectations and either stay or find another job. Some people’s boundary is that they are not willing to neglect their family’s social and recreation needs for work engagements.
Taking all these points into consideration, being assertive can be described as making up your mind about what you will and will not accept from others or do in your life, and accepting the responsibilities and consequences for your actions or non-actions. Be firm and respect your own boundaries and others will more likely respect them. Communicate your ‘policy’ to others as best as possible and do not be afraid to speak up if you believe it is being disregarded. Be assertive, speak up for yourself and others, and do not be a jerk about it.