Some people have always had trouble speaking up; others have lost their voice along the way, perhaps because of the dynamics of their relationship.
Here’s a crash course (or a refresher course) in assertiveness skills.1) Think of all the ways your life would be better if you expressed yourself.
You might be able to name all the disastrous scenarios if you did speak up, but how about the reverse? Not speaking up is often anxiety and fear-based. We assume others don’t want to hear us, or wouldn’t respect our opinions if they did. We psyche ourselves out.
Often, people in our lives are actually frustrated that we’re not speaking up and that they have to make all the decisions. They don’t know how to make you happy.
Maybe you would also feel better if you spoke up because it would validate that you are important. Even if others don’t hear you initially (because they might not be used to listening), there’s empowerment to be found.
2) Consider the wording in advance.
You don’t need to write an actual script, but it might help if you did. The script could include lines like “I’d prefer if…”, “I’d really like it…”, “I’m not really comfortable with that…”, “How about ____ instead?”
Assertiveness is about getting your feelings and ideas across, and it doesn’t have to be in any way confrontational. There’s room for disagreement in relationships.
A problem with not expressing yourself is that you might forget what you actually feel and think; you might get lost in other people’s opinions. Instead of knowing what you want, you’ll just feel a vague discontent with what’s happening, a sense that you’re never getting your way even though you don’t know your way.
So speaking up is about knowing yourself better, as well as letting other people truly know (and appreciate) you.
3) Recognize that assertiveness is a skill, and therefore, you’ll improve over time.
Sometimes it helps to tell the people in your life that you’re working on your assertiveness and that it might not come out right at first but you’ll get better. This will increase their empathy for you. Also, it makes it a project for your relationship, and involves teamwork.
Assertive woman photo available from Shutterstock