If your boss always calls you first because they know that you will simply say yes to working a long weekend (even though you weren’t scheduled), or you fear sending back that over-cooked steak (which you’re paying $50 for), because you don’t want to “be a burden,” these are all issues which stem from lack of self-confidence. So what can you do to improve your assertiveness? How can you say “NO” to your boss, and not fear the backlash that comes with that no?
Whether it is a work related task, ordering a meal/drink at a restaurant, or simply “going with the flow,” for weekend plans, even though you hate what the group is doing, you have to stop being a pushover and letting people walk all over you. So if you are seeking out solutions on how to be more assertive, and let people know what you are feeling/thinking, there are some things you can start to change. These are some areas where you can improve yourself, and level of self-confidence, so you can let others know exactly what/how you are feeling for good.
Believe it or not, assertiveness is a skill which requires you to practice and hone in on developing that skill. So practice saying “No” to others when you don’t want to do things. Learn how to talk back (not in a disrespectful manner) but to have a discussion if you don’t agree with something. If people don’t know what you are feeling, or that you don’t agree with something, they are going to keep pushing it on you. And, if they know you will never say no, they are always going to turn to you, even if you have other plans. So, as is the case with any other skill you wish to develop, practice, practice, practice, will make it better.
2. Practice small
When you want to learn how to be more assertive, it is just like learning any other skill or trying something new. You wouldn’t attempt to climb/hike a 20 mile track your first go-around, would you? Even the fittest of us probably wouldn’t. So you have to make sure you take those small steps when increasing your level of assertiveness as well. Start with smaller situations you find yourself getting stressed/tense in (that example where your boss asks you to work last minute for example). Tell them no, or discuss with them reasons you can’t do it. Gently work your way through instances where you have let others walk all over you in the past. You’ll be surprised how liberating it feels, and how much more people will begin to respect you when you start saying no when you can’t/don’t want to do things.
3. Let yourself eliminate that guilt
You might feel guilty telling your boss you can’t work because things won’t get done. Guess what, your boss doesn’t feel guilty asking you last minute; as a matter of fact, they are planning a long, fun weekend, while sticking you in the office. So, why should you feel guilty for saying no, when something shouldn’t be your burden or a job you should be doing in the first place?
Being assertive is vital to your well-being, and to your peace of mind. Replace the negative thoughts you might have with positive ones. So let’s stick to the work example. Instead of feeling guilty something won’t be done, instead think of the situation being you have had plans for the long-weekend for months, and have work late a few days each week in order to take that time off. So you shouldn’t feel guilty, you’ve already done more than you’ve had to, in order to earn that time off. Keep these positive thoughts in mind, rather than beating yourself up about things, especially when they shouldn’t be worries of yours to begin with.
4. Express your feelings
Sometimes it is not simply saying no; remember, people don’t know how you feel about certain things. Especially if you always say yes, or simply go with the flow. So if something upsets you, or if there is a reason as to why you do not want to do something, let it be known. Don’t focus on minutia, instead let people know how you are feeling. (The work example again). If you tell your boss you can’t work over the weekend, let them know why this upsets you. Let them know you’ve put in countless overtime hours over the past few weeks, while others have been taking time off, and are asking for yet another weekend of. Let them know why you think things aren’t fair, or why you are saying no.
People will respect you, your space, your time, and ultimately they are going to stop taking advantage of you as they have been doing for so long. But, if you aren’t willing to speak out, and truly let your feelings and emotions be known, you can’t simply expect people to know what you are feeling or why you are not happy with a particular situation.
Remember, when you want to learn how to be more assertive, it is not only a skill or special trade you are trying to learn. You have to keep in mind that it is your sanity, peace of mind, and overall health that you have to account for as well. If you are always doing things for others, instead of for yourself, it is eventually going to catch up with you. So take the time to stop, breathe, and think out loud, while letting others now how you are feeling about a particular situation or issue which continually occurs.
Assertiveness is something you have to learn, practice, and improve upon. It is not going to simply fall into your lap one day, and you are not all of a sudden going to feel comfortable turning people down/away. But, over time, you will get a hang of it. And, people are going to learn to respect you, stop taking advantage of you, and treating you in the manner you deserve to be treated, in any situation.