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"Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending." - Carl Bard

"We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something that we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have. " - Frederick Keonig

"Stress is the trash of modern life- we all generate it but if you don't dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life." -Terri Guillemets

Monday, January 24, 2011

Are You Going to Eat the Fly or Speak Up?

Scenario: You go out to eat with friends and find a fly in your soup.

Passive response:  You don't say anything and eat a flyful soup. Yuck!
Aggressive response: You throw the bowl of soup at the server when she walks by and yell at her.
Assertive response:  You flag down the server and say something like, " Excuse me. It looks like there is a fly in my soup. I would really appreciate it if you could please get me a new bowl of soup. Thank you!"
Sounds easy enough, right? Well many people will not take it upon themselves to meet their own needs by being assertive about it. Sound familiar?

Learning to use assertive communication can help you to not only feel empowered, confident, and important, but it can also help you to get what you want, improve relationships, and reduce frustration. When you are having trouble expressing yourself, you may resort to being passive and letting others do and say whatever they want, or you may utilize aggressive tactics to bully others into getting what you want, or becoming angry and blowing up at others out of frustration.

There are many reasons why you may not feel comfortable being assertive, including:
  • You may have been brought up in a home where it was not okay to express yourself, including thoughts and feelings.
  • You may lack the confidence to express your own point of view and you may think that no one cares about your opinion.
  • You may be afraid of taking risks or possibly being wrong.
  • You may be in an unhealthy relationship where you are threatened for sticking up for yourself or expressing your own opinions.
While being passive may be the path of least resistance, it rarely gets people the result they are looking for. How can anyone really know what they want or need if they are keeping this information to themselves?  Although it might be easier if our family and friends were mind readers, they are most likely not. Therefore, it is really important to be able to express yourself in a way that lets the people around you know what you are thinking and need.  By screaming your thoughts and feelings to others, you are most likely going to cause them to either get angry as well, ignore you, or simply leave. Obviously being aggressive in the way you communicate is not the most effective, although people often express themselves aggressively because they may feel helpless in being able to get their needs met in any other way.  If you learn how to express yourself assertively, it can become a win-win situation!

Being assertive is a skill that can become easier and easier as you practice it, and the good news is that the more you do it, the better you will feel about yourself. This, in  turn, will help to reduce your need to feel that you must be passive because you will feel better about yourself and your rights to speak up.
Being assertive looks like this:
  • Use "I" statements to express your needs. In the fly in the soup scenario, you may just need to ask for what you need since feelings aren't involved in the situation. If you are dealing with a situation involving your feelings, you may want to say something like this: "When you said those things about me in front of my family, I felt really embarrassed. I would really like you to wait until we are in private to talk about personal things like that." Don't forget to let them know how you feel and what you need to change.
  • Remind yourself that your opinion is as valid and important as everyone else's. You deserve a voice just as they do.
  • You may have learned certain things when you were growing up, such as that you should not speak about your feelings, or been seen but not heard, but now that you are grown up you have the right to communicate in any way that works for you.
  • You will not get what you want unless you make the effort to calmly express your wants and needs.
  • Others will respect you more when they see that you believe your opinion matters and that you're not afraid to express it.
If you would like to work on your assertiveness skills, try it out first in a non-threatening environment such as a restaurant or store, and then move on to more personal and serious issues. Learn how to ask for that raise at work or say "No" to extra projects when you do not have the time to take them on. Cheers to the assertive new you!
Please feel free to share your experiences with us regarding assertiveness in the comments section of this blog post.

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