How to Be Assertive Without Alienating Everyone

“Whatever you are willing to put up with, is exactly what you will have.” ~Unknown

You may not give much thought to the existence of boundaries in your daily life, but they are everywhere. For example, when you are driving on a two-lane road, you stay to the right of the center line, especially if there is a car coming from the opposite direction. That’s a boundary you can clearly see but what about how you are in relationships.

Boundary issues are common to most of us; in fact, our personal boundaries are often blurred leading to conflict or feelings of resentment in relationships. Most of us come from a family where boundaries were unclear or barely recognized and maybe we don’t know what a boundary really is. The simplest way for me to explain what a boundary is, is where I end and you begin. They enable use to make choices about how we feel, think or behave.

Healthy Personal Boundaries = Taking responsibility for your own actions and emotions, while NOT taking responsibility for the actions or emotions of others

Establishing healthy boundaries is not selfish. They allow you to have a clear sense of how you experience things. They also allow you to have empathy for others, without taking responsibility for them. Healthy boundaries create a good balance between taking care of yourself and being there for others without being manipulated or exploited.

Asking for what you want – and setting boundaries around what you don’t want – is a key life skill. But sometimes in our enthusiasm to practice this skill, we over-do our own assertiveness and end up with partners/family/friends who shut down, get angry or feel resentful. Here are four tips for developing your assertiveness in a way that will actually strengthen, deepen and enrich your relationships – thus avoiding the “alienation trap”:

  1. Get Clear.

Being assertive starts with knowing what you are – and aren’t – willing to be, do, or have. For many of us, we don’t know as we have not been taught or have not taken the time to really ask ourselves. Here, it may be useful to ask: “In an ideal world, what would I like to happen?” Focusing on an ideal outcome opens your mind, prevents you from falling into passivity or “victim-thinking,” and helps you get really clear on what you want and don’t want.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Make a list of your personal relationships and how you want to be treated
  • Identify an area of your life that is neglected and in need of attention. For example your physical, emotional, spiritual life. What needs attention? What small step could you take towards bringing balance into one of these areas?
  • Identify your “overdraft account ” for your personal boundary system. It’s a security system warning that your personal energy field has been breached, and you’re letting in stuff that isn’t yours. This is really important. When our boundaries are weak, unguarded, or unclear, we let in all sorts of stuff that isn’t actually our stuff, and we give away our own personal energy unconsciously. You might feel drained, resentful or overwhelmed.

That means you’re dealing with a breach of your energetic security system and a leak of your own personal energy. You’re looking at warning signs indicating that some work needs to be done, some boundaries need to be shored up.

  1. Set Boundaries.

Once you know what outcome you need (or want), share it. Pay attention to the way stating your boundary feels in your body. With practice, you can actually sense when you’re hitting the “sweet spot.” It can feel really pleasurable, even exhilarating, to express your needs or desires out loud. Phrases like “such and such doesn’t work for me” are simple ways of being assertive while maintaining a connection in your relationships.

  1. Make a Regular Habit of Stating Your Needs and Desires.

You can build your assertiveness the same way you build any muscle: exercise. Practice speaking up about your needs, big or small, on a daily basis. When you speak up about things that are less controversial – such as where to go to dinner, requesting help unloading the dishwasher or what TV program to watch – both you and those around you get used to your assertiveness. It becomes easier for you to practice and for those around you to hear.

  1. Give as Much as You Get.

Assertiveness is a two-way street. If you want your boundaries to be respected, you must return the courtesy to those around you. If someone doesn’t want you to give advice, don’t. If someone asks you to give them a half an hour after work before you talk and connect, respect that. When it comes to following through on another’s reasonable request, actions really do speak louder than words.

Bear in mind that those close to you may not be fully supportive of your attempts to change. They have been used to the old ways of doing things. As with any life change, setting new healthier boundaries for you has a price, and this may be losing acquaintances along the way. Of course, those relationships that are worth having will survive, and grow stronger.

Tactics To Deal with Objections

Be consistent with your new boundaries

Keep them simple

Stay calm at all times

Be responsible for your own emotional reactions rather than blaming other people

If it appears you need to compromise, be flexible, but take it slowly and don’t agree to anything that doesn’t feel right

Once you have established strong, clear boundaries, people will give you more respect. Emotional manipulators will back off and in their place sustainable, loving relationships will thrive.

 

If you find that you are struggling with setting up boundaries or defining what those may be for you, please feel free to book a session with me HERE

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