Do you find yourself constantly feeling as though everyone else is swindling you? Are you often worried that your friends are taking advantage of your kindness? Do you ever worry that everyone will hate you if you say no to an obligation? How to be more assertive?
If you do, then you might not be assertive in your communication. Feeling as though you are a victim, unable to say no, unable to take a compliment, and unwilling to disagree are all signs that you are not being as assertive as you could. If you find yourself with these problems, it is best to study the symptoms in order to find a cure.
1. Playing the Victim
The problem with lacking assertiveness is its effect on your emotional wellbeing.
Often when people lack the ability to assert themselves, a stronger willed person will dominate them. The movie “Office Space” presented a great example of the effects of assertiveness on a life. The main character, Peter, began the movie lacking assertiveness. He felt as though his boss victimized him by making him work through the weekend.
Peter’s problem was not his boss, it was himself. His lack of assertiveness allowed others to put their will onto him. When others have forced their will onto you, it will make you feel like a victim. People think that a victim is someone who has been hurt by another; however, a more apt definition is someone who has given away their control. If you do not assert yourself and tell people what it is that you want for your life, you will always end up feeling as though you are a victim.
Assertive people do not allow others to place their will onto them. You will never find an assertive person complaining about how “others” are always “making” them do something they do not want to do. A person who asserts their will listen to the requests of others and then decide what action to take based upon their goals for their own lives. This is what gives them control over themselves, and when you are in control, you cannot play the victim anymore.
2. Inability to Say No
The inability to say no is a symptom of an unassertive person that feeds into the other symptoms.
An inability to assert oneself will cause a person to say yes to things they do not want to do and eventually cause that person to feel victimized by the stronger willed people around them.
Almost everyone can remember a time that they were roped into something they did not want to be involved with doing. For example, a sister may ask her talented sister to bake a cake for her wedding. The talented sister might have wanted to say no because of a large workload, but because she feels worried about perceptions, she says yes. Ultimately, something will suffer because she has taken on too much and the talented sister ends up miserable, as does everyone else.
It may seem difficult to understand why the talented sister would say yes to something she knew she did not have time for, but a lack of assertiveness stems from the persons good nature. The fears of a good-natured person fuel their inability to assert themselves.
The talented sister may fear that people will think she is selfish for not wanting to help. This is because people think that giving their own needs equal importance with another is selfishness. However, this is not true. You are just as important as anyone else is and not caring for yourself does not help the other people you love.
If the talented sister, had said that she was too busy to make the cake, her sister would have surely understood and been able to make other arrangements. In fact, the talented sisters inability to say no, created more problems than simply saying no.
3. Inability to Accept Responsibility
Another symptom that comes from a lack of assertiveness is an inability to accept responsibility. This may manifest itself in either an inability to accept criticism or an inability to accept compliments.
Often people think that people that cannot accept criticism and people that cannot accept compliments are two different people, but they are just different sides of the same coin.
Self-confidence is what gives a person their ability to accept criticism and compliments. According to MindTools, “Assertiveness is built upon self-confidence.” People who lack self-confidence will not want to hear anything bad about themselves because they lack the maturity and self-assuredness to handle it. However, some people who lack self-confidence and assertiveness will refuse to hear anything good about themselves for fear that they cannot live up to those expectations.
Sometimes the inability to accept responsibility manifests itself with a lack of leadership. An unassertive employee will not take the necessary initiative to make sales or effectively communicate how important they are to the organization. This can be detrimental to the employee’s employment trajectory. We have all seen a person who is an exemplary employee stuck in their job unable to move higher in the organization. Their lack of assertiveness has hamstrung them in a dead end job.
However, if the employee works on a few things they can easily gain the skill of assertiveness. In fact, the most effective way to gain assertiveness is never to expect anyone to understand what you need or want. If you want a raise or a promotion, tell your bosses and tell them why. They will not consider you if they do not think you want it.
4. Resistance to Conflict
Another sign that you are not assertive in your communication is that you constantly resist conflict.
Conflict is not something that human beings can avoid and that is why this becomes a problem. When people of differing goals and experiences interact there is naturally going to be conflict. Anyone who has worked on a team project knows this. Even if it was something as simple as drawing a picture together, the will of each team member will need to be resolved in relation to the others and this is conflict at its essence.
This resistance to conflict doesn’t even guarantee that the person will avoid disagreement or arguments. Often an unassertive person will practice something called gunny sacking. Gunny sacking is when a person silently accumulates grievances and waits until their grievance sack bursts in a stream of anger and pain. This is because they were not assertive enough to deal with the conflicts as they happened.
What the conflict averse needs to do is recognize that dealing with conflict doesn’t have to be a knockdown drag-out fight. You can approach conflict with a calm demeanor. If you take steps and carefully think about how you word your grievances and will, you can be assertive without being aggressive. Conflict does not have to look like immature verbal fights; it can look like two adults discussing their wants and needs.
How to be more assertive
If you suffer from these symptoms of being unassertive, you may wonder what you can do to change.
It is not easy to change from a passive person to an assertive person, but there are steps you can take. Three most common steps are setting clear boundaries, using “I” statments, and rehearsing.
Setting clear boundaries is the step that requires the most persistence and work. After being the type of person that allows others to run over them for years, it will be hard to initially say what you feel is acceptable. This may require you to do things that disappoint others and people will question your motives. However, it is important to maintain your determination.
While often, unassertive people feel as though others are the cause of their problems, it is important to use the “I” in conversations where you assert yourself. Instead of saying, “You always make me do this” say, “I would prefer not to do this.” By taking the ownership, you switch the statement from an accusation to a personal preference. The best way to get someone to argue is to accuse him or her of something, but no one can argue with your feelings.
In order to turn these new ways of communicating into a habit you’ll need to rehearse. Practicing with a spouse or friend can help you to try out different scenarios where you can be assertive. You’ll be able to see how to react should the person become angry or irrational. The great thing is that those worst case scenarios rarely happen, so when they react calmer than you expect, you will be relieved and all nervousness should melt away.