While I have come a very long way in my use of Assertiveness over the past thirty years, one of the things I've learned is that being assertive is not a perfect science. There are some situations and
people that I still struggle with. Also, my ability to be assertive is tightly linked with my self-esteem. Self-esteem is something that ebbs and flows with constant ups and downs, so there are times when being assertive is a
snap. There are other times when I have to consciously and intentionally use all the tools I've learned over the years.
That being said, how I handle certain situations today would have seemed miraculous to me thirty years ago. Here are a few things I've learned:
1. Be ok with not being liked.
One of the most significant reasons people don't stand up for themselves is fear of abandonment. They are afraid their loved ones will leave them. When you are first learning to be assertive, you have to retrain your loved ones.
They don't typically like it at first but the truth is: The kind of people I want to have in my life wouldn't leave as a consequence of me setting a boundary, in fact, they would respect me for it.
2. "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." -The Dalai Lama
No matter what, be assertive in a kind way. In fact, if you are being mean and unkind, by definition you are being aggressive, not assertive. If you are so angry, upset, outraged, frustrated or whatever, that you can't control how
you express yourself, spend time calming and processing yourself so that you can communicate what you need to in a kind way. That means without yelling, swearing, and name calling. I don't know who said this but it says it all,
"Say what you mean, mean what you say, don't say it mean."
3. It's really NEVER about you
When other people do or say things that adversely effect your life and well-being, it's really never about you. It's about them. 100% of people, 100% of the time, act out of their own needs. Again, I don't know who said
this, but it is true. And knowing this doesn't stop people from taking things personally and making it all about them. The truth is: It's a buttons game. Because we carry our unresolved and unfinished issues around with
us like luggage, we are constantly pushing each others buttons. How do you know if your button has been pushed? Because you have a reaction that it is out of proportion to the situation. To handle this in an assertive way is to own your
button; to process a situation to understand what you are experiencing and why and then, when calm, to express yourself, ask for what you need/want if appropriate. Otherwise, to let it go!
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