Yes, I went for a provocative title. I know people are not doormats, but let’s face it, sometimes we all have occasions where we act like it. But if you find that you’re habitually getting walked on, it might be time to make some changes.
This is actually a companion piece to my last blog, “Do You Hold Grudges?” An astute reader commented that sometimes he tries to be so open-minded and tolerant (as in, not holding grudges) that he ends up being taken advantage of. So how do you know when it’s time to be self-protective and assertive in your relationships?
Here are five signs that you’re engaging in doormat-like behavior and some suggestions of what to do about it.
1) You find that others are dictating the relationship–i.e. they get what they want far more of the time than you do.
This could just be happening in one relationship (for example, with your spouse) or you might notice a pattern across your relationships. The imbalance needs to be addressed, lest you find yourself…
2) …beginning to resent others.
It’s common that you’ll resent others if you feel that they’re taking advantage of you. The thing is, if you’re not speaking up, they might assume that you’re perfectly content with the status quo. They might not actually notice it. They might just think, “Hey, isn’t it great that we both tend to want what I want?”
Pointing out that you feel overlooked is a good first step. Make sure it’s not accusatory or aggressive, as this will prompt defensiveness in the other person rather than self-reflection and empathy on their part.
3) Or you might find yourself feeling anxious.
Anxiety is a typical response to a world that feels out of control. And if you’re feeling powerless in your relationship, anxiety may very well follow.
Recognizing that your anxiety connects to your relationships–rather than just assuming it’s an inherent trait of yours–is key to making meaningful changes in your life.
4) You’re starting to devalue yourself.
The more we allow others to invalidate our preferences, the more we start to agree with them that our feelings don’t matter.
This isn’t simply for abusive relationships (though you’ll see it more in those cases); it can occur in relationships where we’ve simply lost our voice, even if the other person is generally well-meaning.
That’s why practicing assertiveness is so important. Because the act of speaking up reinforces the sense that we deserve to speak up, that we deserve to be heard.
5) You’re avoiding saying small things as well as large. For example, you’re losing confidence in your judgment, desires, and beliefs, so you’ll avoid saying where you want to go to dinner, as well as avoiding saying, “Hey, it hurt me when you did x, y, or z.”
Remember, assertiveness is a skill.
That means you can get better at it the more you do it. Here’s a post I wrote a while back, Assertiveness for Beginners. While many of the tips are about assertiveness in the workplace, they are also largely applicable to other kinds of relationships.
And if you’re in a relationship where you are speaking up and the other person is degrading or demeaning and trying to enforce their own feelings and desires at your expense, it might be time to find a qualified therapist (someone who has experience with domestic violence and with trauma.)
Sarcasm image available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 31 May 2014