Assertiveness Counselling & Learning to define your Boundaries with Anna
Being More Assertive in Your Personal & Work Life
“Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive” (Wikipedia).
It is not something that ‘you are’ or ‘you are not’.
Assertiveness is a set of skills that can be learned.
These skills consist of:
- understanding your own needs and building boundaries accordingly
- noticing when they are being trampled on and learning to defend them by saying ‘No’
- making requests which help to make sure your needs are being met
- having the ability to accept that others are striving for the same
Ask yourself the following questions:
Do you …
- become upset when others challenge your point of view?
- avoid situations where there is the possibility of confrontation; even if it means your needs will be overlooked?
- feel that by stating what you want you are being selfish?
- bend to others wishes only to regret it soon after?
- say things in haste and regret them later?
- feel that your self-confidence is affected by how others treat you?
- feel your opinions and values are overlooked by those around you?
Having answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions indicates that your assertiveness skills need building up.
Counselling for building your assertiveness skills & setting boundaries
Some of them can be learned quickly by practice, here are some straightforward assertiveness techniques below.
How to say no without feeling guilty and how to make requests without insulting peoples’ feelings
Art of staying between
When we lack assertiveness skills our behaviour tends to oscillate between the two extremes, people pleasing and aggressive outbursts. We either supress our needs out of fear or rejection and feel sorry for ourselves and resentful of others, or – when we can’t take it any more we explode, possibly unskilfully expressing our hurt and being perceived as ‘irrational’ at best, or ‘aggressive’ and ‘hurtful’ at worst. Simple steps below will help you to feel comfortable, staying in the middle -being quietly confident and so exhibiting assertive behaviour.
How to say ‘No’ without feeling guilty
1. Take a moment to understand why you want to say ‘No’. What needs are you protecting?
In order to sound credible and feel courageous you must be convinced about the reason for doing so:
- by saying ‘No’ to a party invitation I am protecting my need for rest, for family connection, for respect of my priorities;
- by saying ‘No’ to a request of taking a new assignment I am protecting my need to do things thoroughly and finishing them to a high quality or I am protecting my need for the respect of my professional expertise;
You may picture your need as a ‘living vulnerable creature’ that needs protecting. We are always so much better when advocating on others’ behalf!
2. Validate Intention
It is important to offer attention and appreciation to another person:
- Thank you for thinking about me, it’s really nice of you to invite me!
- Thank you for considering me for this project, I appreciate that you think I am the right person to take it on
3. Say ‘No’. Do not apologise or explain.
Sounds crazy! I know. But it is possible. This is what it looks like (please note that ‘I’m sorry’ is a figure of speech, English language embellishment, not an expression of real feeling):
- I am sorry I won’t be able to come.
- I am sorry I am not able to commit to this project.
4. Offer an alternative
You know how it feels when someone says ‘No’ and it feels like a personal rejection. You avoid saying ‘No’ in order not to hurt anybody.
Offering an alternative option will help another person not to take your rejection personally, and you will not have to feel guilty of hurting them. BINGO!
- I would still love to catch up with you, shall we book lunch next week?
- I am very interested in this project or similar – shall we book a meeting next Monday when I have finished the one I am working on now?
How to make requests without insulting people’s feelings
1. Assume people can’t read your mind
- If she cared about me she should know how much it means that she came to my concert
- If he was a competent boss he would understand that I need time off after this deadline
You may subconsciously run those statements I you head and believe that they are true. They are NOT
2. Make a clear request using ‘I’ statements.
- I would like to invite you to my concert on Friday evening
- I would like three days of annual leave next week
3. Describe your need
- I feel like your presence at the concert would really help me fight nerves, and I would like you to see how awesome I am.
- I am really tired. I need to recharge before any next challenge.
What we tend to do is describe people’s obligation or our entitlement e.g. I deserve this … ‘because you promised to come’, ‘because I didn’t have any annual leave for a year’. We don’t feel our need is a good enough reason, in itself, for them to agree to it, and we don’t want to show our vulnerability.
4. Be prepared to hear ‘No’ – be assertive not aggressive.
Being assertive isn’t about being aggressive. It’s about expecting others to respect us and our rights and respecting theirs – including their right to say ‘No’ !!!!!
The art of saying ‘No’ is about protecting one’s need. When someone says ‘No’ remember they are doing just that. Don’t take it personally and don’t retaliate. Negotiate. Help them by doing the steps for saying no with them.
Try to help them guess their need and show that you are not taking it personally, even though you may feel it a bit
- Oh, OK you probably already have plans.
- I understand, I guess my absence would make things difficult for the team
Help them by offering an alternative
- Do you think you will be able to come another time? Or come to the band practice?
- When do you think is a good time? Week after?
Following those steps assures that your requests are not perceived as aggressive and that you are able to protect your needs and your sense of self-respect when somebody say NO.
You may find however that implementing those skills isn’t coming easily because you are lacking confidence about yourself or find it difficult to decide what your boundaries are, and therefore are never sure whether somebody has crossed them or not. If this is the case a few meetings with a professional may set you on the right track and you will be able to practice by yourself.