Some of us are much better at standing up for ourselves than others. While some people can get worked up a little too easily and make a mountain out of a molehill, others are just the opposite. They’re so afraid of conflict that they always let everyone else have their own way.
This approach can be very damaging. Always giving in to others negatively affects your self-esteem and it sends the message to others that you are a push-over. When this happens, it encourages others to continue treating you in a disrespectful manner.
While there are many ways to express yourself, the healthiest option is to be assertive. The assertive approach is all about expressing your needs, concerns, and opinions. This needs to be done openly, honestly, and directly while still being respectful of the other person.
A great first step is to practice your assertiveness in lower-stress situations like these:
- If you order some food in a restaurant and it’s not what it should be send it back. Nearly every meal has something less than spectacular about it. Maybe the steak is too salty or the drink doesn’t have enough ice. Ask to have the problem rectified.
- Walk into a fast food restaurant and request a glass of water without ordering anything. You might get turned down, but that’s fine. You’re successful if you make the request. The result is irrelevant.
- Always give your opinion. If someone asks you what movie you want to see or what you feel like eating, tell them. No matter what you’re asked, give a direct answer. Avoid saying things like, “I don’t care,” or “It doesn’t matter to me,” or “Whatever you want.”
- Compliment a stranger. Give a sincere compliment to a complete stranger. If you notice something that appeals to you, mention it to them. That’s it. You might even make a friend or get a date out of the deal. Certainly you can say, “Wow, those are really great shoes.”
Once you feel more comfortable with being assertive in low-stress situations, you’re ready for the big leagues.
Use those new found assertiveness skills the next time you need to speak up for yourself:
- Plan ahead, if possible. Give yourself every opportunity for success. Pick a time and place that makes it easier for you to speak up. Control the details to allow yourself to be as comfortable as possible. If your need to speak up is regarding a more spontaneous issue, this step won’t apply as much.
- Remind yourself that you’re important. If you struggle to stand up for yourself, you’re most likely very good at accommodating everyone else. Give yourself the same treatment! Accommodate your own needs for a change.
- Before the conversation, imagine your success at being assertive. See yourself being confident, comfortable, and assertive – and then getting what you want in the situation!
When you have the conversation, use “I” statements:
- Give the other person a report of your feelings. For example: “I feel disrespected whenever you’re late meeting me. It leads me to feel that you don’t respect me or my time.” If you’re dealing with a stranger while you’re out on the town, you might say “I don’t appreciate being spoken to in that tone.”
- Request a new behavior from the other person. Let them know what you need to feel better about the situation. “From now on, I would like for us to agree on times that you will be able to accommodate.”
Evaluate your effort. When you have the time, examine how you performed and see if you could be more effective in getting what you want or need. Be sure to congratulate yourself for speaking up!
Standing up for yourself can be challenging, but it’s worth the time to get into the habit. You’ll strengthen your self-esteem and bring more joy into your life. We all train others how to treat us, whether we realize it or not. Be sure you’re training them to treat you the way you deserve!