Tips for people pleaser on being assertive

(27 Posts)
ReySkywalker Wed 23-Mar-16 12:15:21

...particularly with MIL

My default is to be polite, accomodating, feel guilty about saying no.

PILs started massively taking the piss, for example - telling us a few days in advance they were coming to stay for a few weeks, changing things around in the spare bathroom, buying brushes, rollers etc to leave there as it was their bathroom now really. Telling us what to buy, what mortgage to get etc. Pushing for info from me about DH and I'd end up lying or dodging as I was too afraid of seeming rude by saying 'I'd rather not say'. When we refused help, it was why, why why until we backed down.

Anyway, I realised things had to change. Detached and breezy is my aim now, "thanks but that doesn't work for us" or "thanks for suggesting that, we'll discuss it ourselves another time"

But I keep slipping back, they live far away and when they come I find it so hard to be strong.

They are v disapproving and if they don't like something just go "hmmmm" cat bum face and a silence - I have to really fight myself not to fill the silence so it's not awkward.

DH is fine, tells me not to be over accomodating and leave them stew in the silence, they've been kind of mean and disapproving to him the last few years but he still loves them and never really says no to them visiting

They're coming in a few weeks for a week, any tips? Especially with the awkward silence thing...I'm quite chatty and feels it's my responsibility to jolly everyone along but end up talking shit and saying too much blush

vladthedisorganised Wed 23-Mar-16 12:36:02

I feel your pain as I'm exactly the same!
My ILs are fortunately lovely, but I've found a few things helpful in similar situations:

- Staying for a few weeks - remember it's your house, not theirs, and they're asking for a favour - they can always stay in a hotel if they want to relocate for a while. I found an 'Of course we'd love to see you and can put you up for Tuesday to Thursday (say) when we're available. We'll be happy to take you to the station on Friday if that helps?" If 'oh, we were hoping to stay for longer' surfaces, the phrase 'it's a real shame, but we just can't. Would love to see you on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday- can you make it for then?' works.

- Unwanted suggestions - 'I'm really touched that you thought of us and we'll certainly think about it' can be beautifully PA if you want it to. I used it a lot when dealing with batshit strangers insisting DD wear a woolly hat in July, for instance.

Throwingshadeagain Wed 23-Mar-16 12:37:10

I think a huge majority of people would empathise with you. Even forthright and feisty people (like me!) suffer from social anxiety, guilt and people pleasing tendancies. Espcially women.

Your strategy is spot on - bright and breezy thanks for suggesting that we'll have a think' - perfect.

Re awks silences, this will come with practice. Don't fill them and see what happens and who says what. It will be ok.

Oh and if and when they something rude or out of order it really IS ok to retaliate - just choose your battles.

Maturecheddarcheese Wed 23-Mar-16 12:43:43

I'm the opposite of a people pleaser and often get myself into hot water, it's hard getting the balance right. Hmmm. Maybe downsize so you don't have room for them to stay (joke)? In your place, I would probably just avoid being around them as much as possible, let your DH deal with them.

Sorry that's probably not v helpful but good luck

DoesAnyoneReadTheseThings Wed 23-Mar-16 12:45:55

And pack their stuff into a bag and give it to them saying oh you left this stuff last time or something. Don't let them leave their stuff like it's their second home. Better yet, box it up and send it to them with a very pleasant note! You're doing really well to have turned it around like you have, keep it up!

positivity123 Wed 23-Mar-16 12:51:37

I have become the master of awkward silence since doing a course.
The secret is to continue to make eye contact and make your face neutral or maybe with a little smile so it isn't confrontational. Then time yourself. See every 10 seconds as a win and keep reminding yourself as to why you are not backing down. If you manage a minute give yourself a treat. Silence is unbelievably powerful so use it to your advantage. Try and enjoy it, I have a little giggle privately when I use it and get my own way

NotAnotherNameChangeAgain Wed 23-Mar-16 12:54:55

positivity123 what course did you go on?

ReySkywalker Wed 23-Mar-16 12:57:15

With the bathroom stuff I bagged it and next time they came said "you left some stuff here last time, it's in a bag in the room you're in to take home." Total triumph for me!

I've taken to going out with friends at least one night they're here, going for walks even just going to my room for a while but they make their silent disapproval quite evident then.
I want to learn not to care or at least give the impression I do.

I know DH struggles too and before this I was def the buffer for them so if I don't go for dinner with them one night out of 3 or 4 times every visit, DS1 comes home and says nobody really talked at the restaurant tonight 😂

ReySkywalker Wed 23-Mar-16 13:00:09

Positivity123 I've become a lot better but there's no way I'd think of maintaining eye contact, the thought of it gives me the fear.

I'm going to try it for at least ten seconds.....gulp!

ReySkywalker Wed 23-Mar-16 13:00:41

Please tell us the course?

Lottapianos Wed 23-Mar-16 13:05:44

I feel your pain OP. I'm a people pleaser who is in recovery grin

Remind yourself of the following, frequently:

- You are not a child. You do not have to do what you are told, by them or by anyone else
- You are an adult, and you are entitled to have your feelings and your home respected
- You have needs of your own, and do not exist solely to make life more pleasant for other people
- It is not your responsibility to 'keep the peace' or make people happy. You do not work for the UN
- They may disapprove - so what? Really - so what? As your DH says, let them stew

Excellent plan to see friends, and be out of the house for some of the time while they are there. You are not anybody's maid or social secretary - you do not have to be at anybody's beck and call. I know what its like to be the social buffer in this kind of situation (mealtimes especially) and its bloody exhausting. Good luck. You have started drawing clear boundaries for yourself, keep going. All of this gets so much easier with practice - I promise!

hiddenhome2 Wed 23-Mar-16 13:10:20

Buy some ear buds, stick them into your ears and connect to some music and just walk off humming to yourself.

positivity123 Wed 23-Mar-16 13:14:26

It was a negotiation course that work put me on and it has changed my life. I learned that 'fair' is a social construct that people misuse. I learned to hold my nerve in tough situations as well. My personal life has improved as well because I'm now much clearer about what I want. I used to think that people would be offended if I was too assertive but actually people like knowing your boundaries.
Be prepared to get called stubborn but the alternative is being a drip and there is nothing wrong with sticking to your guns

NotAnotherNameChangeAgain Wed 23-Mar-16 13:24:53

Do you remember who ran it positivity123?
Sorry to be so nosy but it sounds like something I desperately need!

ReySkywalker Wed 23-Mar-16 13:34:01

That's so interesting about the concept of fair.

My family live overseas and when they come stay for weeks at a time so I don't feel it's fair to say no to ILs. But DH lives my family and is never put under any pressure by them, they love him unconditionally.

Lottapianos that list will be really helpful to read and re-read, thanks!

It's exhausting being the one the visit succeeds or fails on, if I'm cheery and accomodating, everyone else iss happy and they can pretend they're a happy family.
When I disengage or am absent the fact that they're awkward and dysfunctional is evident - easier to blame me or cast me as bad mannered than face up to the fact that they can't talk to each other

positivity123 Wed 23-Mar-16 13:38:55

The GAP partnership. It was a 3.5 day residential course and they filmed you negotiating then you watched yourself back. Really hard to watch. I smile and nod continuously even when I'm disagreeing with someone.
Another trick I've learned is calling out behaviour and how it makes you feel eg ' when your tell me what mortgage I have to get it makes me feel as though you don't trust our judgement'. It's pretty hard to reply to that.
Also ask questions back eg 'why is it important to you what mortgage I have?' I use this on my dad who I've always had a problem standing up to and it works a treat!
Good luck and it sounds like you are doing well already!

Lottapianos Wed 23-Mar-16 13:41:42

My DP says the same - that he finds it much easier to be around his parents when I'm around. And I feel the same about my parents and him. Its fine to support each other but not to feel that you're responsible for everyone having a good time, that's way too much of a burden. A lot of women grow being expected to be a 'good girl' - that means putting other people first at all times and doing what is expected of you. Its far from easy to just shake off that conditioning when you reach adulthood. It's something you need to practice - its very scary at first but you soon find that life goes on and the world doesn't actually come to an end.

girlywhirly Wed 23-Mar-16 13:43:50

OP, you've done very well coping with awkward PIL. It makes me wonder why they come if everything you and DH say and do is not to their liking. As for the not really talking, I'm not surprised you have started to take yourself to another room or out altogether. It must be grim for your DC as well.

Everyone is right, it's your home, your way. They don't dictate and they certainly don't take possession of the guest room and bathroom.

Spandexpants007 Wed 23-Mar-16 13:50:42

'Thats really interesting, we like to do it differently though'

Or just change the subject with a question 'oh I meant to ask you, what's your plans for your birthday'

Or jokingly 'oh gosh thats a scary cats bum face. If the wind changes direction, it will stay like that' followed by lots of laughter while you go off and make a coffee

But actually the best technique with my MIL who tended to be like that, was just to withdraw and make less effort during visits. You can be totally polite but just engaged with other things/kids/friends/DH. I found that the less I tried, the harder MIL tried. We seem a lot better these days and I think that's partly that they have a bit more respect for us.

Spandexpants007 Wed 23-Mar-16 13:54:51

Aim for cheery, polite but distant. Create a healthy space between yourselves and IL's.

If they start pushing you on stuff, say 'right I'm off to bed/to make coffee/to lean the bathrooms/to look at the view from the hill over there'. End the conversation and keep doing this each time you are hassled.

Angelika321 Wed 23-Mar-16 14:00:48

positivity123 That course sounds amazing as do the responses you've given as examples.

I have a relative who I just can't argue with.

Take for example the mortgage scenario. If I said 'it seems as though you don't trust my judgement' I would be told. 'That's because I've been round longer than you and am passing on the benefit of my knowledge'

If I asked 'why does it matter to you' I would be told ' I'm looking out for you to make sure you get a good deal'.

If I was to say thanks and do my own thing without telling them what I decided, I would get hounded until I gave in. It's impossible to be evasive with this person.

Ultimately they would say, they have a vested interest as a family member to guide me on the right path. To waste money is a sin and therefore they're looking out for me and to prevent them doing that would make me the bad guy.

positivity123 Wed 23-Mar-16 15:07:10

Bloody hell Angelika that is some serious stuff they put on you. I'd also find that very hard to deal with. In that case I'd agree with other posters that you have to shut down this conversations. On this course we were taught never to justify or 'sell' our ideas. It is also good to thank people ie 'thank you for your advice on the mortgage but after weighing up the pros and cons this one allows us security over a 5 year period which is important to us' then use silence to your advantage.
I have to say this is a lot easier in work situations than family as there us less emotion.

Lottapianos Wed 23-Mar-16 15:13:05

Angelika, it seems you may be related to my dad grin He's pretty shit with boundaries in general but when he's determined to 'give advice' i.e. make sure you do what you are told, there's no stopping him. I manage it by being very low contact with him (tons of other stuff going on too) and telling him pretty much nothing about my life. Very sad but you have to protect yourself from people who are so intrusive and controlling

justmyview Wed 23-Mar-16 15:47:22

Agree with positivity about not engaging

Any explanation you give "We chose this mortgage because it's a 2 year fix" will be met with "Oh but 3 years is better because ....."

If you say "We chose 2 years because it works for us" "Why?" "Because that's what we wanted" "Why?" "because it suits us" ie don't give the other person anything to latch on to

ReySkywalker Thu 24-Mar-16 00:20:48

Thank you all, I'm going to save & re-read all your replies again & again.

I really struggle to fight against my instinct to be seen as 'nice' in everything. Up until meeting them it wasn't that much of a problem as others in the life were 'nice' too and didn't take the piss.

To be honest it's kind of a passive agressive thing, if anyone had a prob with me or something I'd done I could say to myself 'but I'm so niiiice to everyone'

To those who've become assertive, is it now innate after practice or is your instinct still to people please?

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now