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To ask, how can I be more assertive?

(22 Posts)
Nonononon Tue 23-Jun-20 09:36:21

This is something i have always struggled with. Even just down to the basics like when (I feel) someone has said something out of order, I almost clam up and I'm too scared to say anything.. I find it hard to speak my mind in case I upset anyone or 'rock the boat' (people pleasing?), but then, why should i be scared to stand up for myself if the other person is out of line!? And then it means that I'm left resentful and second guessing myself over another persons wrong doing. I'm so sick of internalizing everything.
Nothing has happened recently, but its something I'm trying to get better at and I know there's lots of strong women on here so I thought I'd ask if you could help me or give me some tips?
I'm in the process of having CBT to try and unravel things in my head, I had a very difficult childhood (emotional, physical and sexual abuse along with neglect) life is ok now, on the surface, but I also live in my head far too much (constant worrying, self doubt, intrusive thoughts, hyper vigilance etc) which I'm trying to break.
How do you be sure of yourself and speak your mind without fear? Any thing you tell yourself or remind yourself of when you get into tricky situations?

Thank you.

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JustC Tue 23-Jun-20 11:04:07

I don't know if I have proper advice. I'm naturally assertive in personal life, not so much in work life( always had to work on that). I guess I just reply what I'm feeling when needed. For me it's a struggle not to reply too harshly, if anything. So I guess tell yourself your feelings matter, your opinions matter, and if you do not state what you feel, the other person will continue to keep pushing the boundaries. That's what I kept in mind when trying to be more assertive in the work life. Like I said, in the personal life, it just comes naturally and I actually have to temper my replies. I'm weird 😁. Hope this helps a bit.

BlueBirdGreenFence Tue 23-Jun-20 11:08:34

If I was to give one tip it would be to learn the phrase, "I'd like to have a think about that for a bit and will come back to you." Stops you being rail roaded into things and allows you time to think of a response.

user1494055864 Tue 23-Jun-20 11:13:26

flowers I'm the same OP. Just last week at work, somebody made a ridiculous suggestion that I had to do, and I knew it was the wrong thing, as I've many years more experience than her, but I couldn't bring myself to correct her, and ended up being upset and getting reassurance from someone higher up, who confirmed I shouldn't do it. Its pathetic. If you stand up for yourself, you always feel like the one being unreasonable!

user1494055864 Tue 23-Jun-20 11:15:29

Just to add, I have downloaded some book samples onto my kindle to look through on assertiveness

Nonononon Tue 23-Jun-20 11:18:53

Thank you both!

This: "I'd like to have a think about that for a bit and will come back to you" will be really helpful.
I hate it when I clamp shut and then hours later figure out what I'd like to say, only to worry too much time has passed and I'd look 'weird' if I brought the situation/comment back up again hmm so I never say anything but it plays on my mind for ages afterwards. So if I can say that, at least it'll give me time to think and I'll know that door is still open for me to give my opinion.

just I'm a little like that; if I'm very close to someone then I find it easier to speak my mind. Not always but at least sometimes if something is really bothering me. Trouble is, I don't have many people I'm close to these days! But good to know i have it in me, deep, deep down grin

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AufderAutobahn Tue 23-Jun-20 11:20:47

I'm the same OP. Some people make assertiveness and being strong sound so easy, and it should be. I can often say how I'm feeling but it comes out wrong and nobody takes any notice, and I often come out of any kind of conflict thinking "Was I right? Or have I been ridiculous?" It is down to low self esteem. I know that's not helpful but I suppose it shows you're not alone?

Nonononon Tue 23-Jun-20 11:24:09

user1494055864 thats it like you don't want to put THEM on the spot and feel awkward or like you're being a pain. I think these things but they just won't come out of my mouth when I think them.

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Calyx72 Tue 23-Jun-20 11:28:02

I had counselling when I knew I had to leave my alcoholic husband some years ago. The counsellor said I needed to become assertive. I asked him to tell me how but he said 'oh there's loads of stuff online'. I thought he was fobbing me off but actually there's a lot of excellent training online!

Look up 'assertiveness training' and similar and really go through them as if you're on a course smile

For instance:
https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/Assertiveness.htm

I have to say it's absolutely changed my life and I don't feel that anyone uses me or that I am a doormat now.

Surprisingly (for me anyway!) I am hugely more liked and included by workmates and I think it's because they trust me to say what I feel now. Before I just agreed with everything or ended up doing everything like a martyr - not likeable.

Best of luck thanks

hamstersarse Tue 23-Jun-20 11:28:30

The first thing to do is a personality test to see where this is coming from. You need a Big 5 personality test - the most globally valid measure of personality.

It is very likely that you are VERY HIGH in agreeableness. A lot of women are.

Understanding what this does to you is a really important step in understanding why you are not assertive. In a nutshell, agreeable people just do not like conflict. They will do anything to avoid conflict and so find it hard to be assertive (because that creates conflict!)

Once you explore this, and a good way to do this is to take some learning from very disagreeable people (e.g. Katie Hopkins, Priti Patel) then you can see how your agreeableness holds you back. I know everyone pretty much hates Katie Hopkins and Priti Patel, but they are examples of women who literally don't care about what people think, what conflicts they create because they are disagreeable naturally in their personality and it is very very useful for a highly agreeable person to look to highly disagreeable people and 'check out their world'.

Once you get a handle of agreeableness, and explore your aversion to conflict, it is much easier to implement some of the techniques that pp have mentioned.

I'm rushing, but here is a starter to understand agreeableness - and you are either born this way or you aren't!

lifehacker.com/the-problem-with-being-too-agreeable-1791893359#:~:text=Another%20study%20found%20that%20people,more%20judgmental%20than%20disagreeable%20people.&text=Across%20studies%2C%20agreeable%20participants%20judged,unfavorably%2C%20than%20did%20disagreeable%20participants.

Nonononon Tue 23-Jun-20 11:29:06

It's good to know it could be down to low self esteem Aufder at least I can work on that. My therapist mentioned low self esteem and it's odd because I don't think I do! But maybe I do and I'm just unaware of it? I always think low self esteem shows in people who are shy or hung up on there looks/appearance. Maybe there's more to it and I never knew.. I'll check that out, thanks smile

Sorry for those who are going through this too. flowers

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NotEverythingIsBlackandWhite Tue 23-Jun-20 11:32:04

I think you should take advice on this from your therapist/ psychologists after you have unravelled and come to terms with your background rather than general posters on MN.

You have a particularly tragic background. I don't think you should take advice from others who haven't experienced and successfully overcome similar experiences to yourself.

I knew someone from a similar background. They were a people pleaser and didn't feel able to stand up for themselves because they weren't allowed to answer back when they were young. If ever they did stand up for themselves, later in life, it came out as anger/aggression rather than assertiveness because they never dealt with their awful background.

One thing at a time is probably the best way forward for you.

I'm so sorry that you have been subjected to all those forms of abuse. No-one deserves to be treated that way. I hope you manage to deal with your past and have a happy life. flowers

Nonononon Tue 23-Jun-20 11:32:19

Oh sorry (thread is moving quick now) thanks so much to the pp! That's really helpful! I'll check those out.

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Nonononon Tue 23-Jun-20 11:33:34

Noted blackandwhite thank you smileflowers

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Prayerwheel Tue 23-Jun-20 11:36:02

Once you explore this, and a good way to do this is to take some learning from very disagreeable people (e.g. Katie Hopkins, Priti Patel) then you can see how your agreeableness holds you back. I know everyone pretty much hates Katie Hopkins and Priti Patel, but they are examples of women who literally don't care about what people think, what conflicts they create because they are disagreeable naturally in their personality and it is very very useful for a highly agreeable person to look to highly disagreeable people and 'check out their world'.

I think these are poor examples to give to someone who struggles with assertiveness, in that they both have spectacularly unpleasant politics and are widely disliked -- people-pleasers like the OP often confuse assertiveness with 'being unpleasant/riding roughshod over other people and fear they will be disliked if they do not do everything asked of them, however unreasonable.

It is, however, perfectly possible to be assertive, have excellent personal boundaries and have a healthy sense of your personal needs while also being kind and pleasant.

JustC Tue 23-Jun-20 11:36:10

Not necessarily low self esteem. My husband has a decent self esteem, but not very assertive as he hates confrontations and dramas.
I for one, would rather put someone on the spot than end up being trampled over, or in an abussive relationship of any kind ( be it with a friend, parent or OH).
I guess in the work enviroment, I am more like my husband, hate confrontation and drama. But even there, there's a limit to my 'let it go to keep the peace'.

022828MAN Tue 23-Jun-20 11:37:37

I honestly think it just comes with practice. The first time will feel uncomfortable but once you see the results your confidence will grow. I REALLY love watching debates and partaking in debates myself. You'll see how people manage to assert their side and how they word things. Maybe have a look at some debate shows (The Big Questions for example).

Nonononon Tue 23-Jun-20 11:42:29

What someone said about coming across as aggressive rather than assertive is sooo me. I do speak my mind on occasion, but usually its after lots of little things that have built up and then I lose my 'temper' and it comes across as aggressive (nuts?)
If I could be strong in the first instance and say what I feel, nothing (much) would have the chance to build up and I wouldn't get to that stage.
Urgh..

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Mamette Tue 23-Jun-20 12:43:24

I agree with @NotEverythingIsBlackandWhite and while some of the links and ideas posted by pps are really useful, it’s not true that you are born this way. It’s down to your upbringing.

I have similar issues (not SA though, I’m so sorry that happened to you OP), and I recently read this book www.amazon.co.uk/Complex-PTSD-Surviving-RECOVERING-CHILDHOOD/dp/1492871842?tag=mumsnetforu03-21 - I have found it very helpful and you might too.

hamstersarse Tue 23-Jun-20 12:45:25

I think these are poor examples to give to someone who struggles with assertiveness, in that they both have spectacularly unpleasant politics and are widely disliked -- people-pleasers like the OP often confuse assertiveness with 'being unpleasant/riding roughshod over other people and fear they will be disliked if they do not do everything asked of them, however unreasonable

I know where you are coming from and agree it’s about having good boundaries, however at the early stages of understanding this, you can look at people like Priti Patel and Katie Hopkins and just recognise that it’s not the end of the world if people don’t like you. A highly agreeable person like op is never ever going to turn into Katie Hopkins, ever, but there is still something you can learn from these people. They speak out, they say what they want, and they deal with conflict matter of factly. Disagreeableness is definitely something that gets people on in the world and understanding how high agreeableness impacts your own life negatively is very powerful. It makes you explore conflict, become resilient to conflict and ultimately not be scared of conflict.

hamstersarse Tue 23-Jun-20 12:47:09

I agree with *@NotEverythingIsBlackandWhite and while some of the links and ideas posted by pps are really useful, it’s not true that you are born this way. It’s down to your upbringing.*

As any psychologist will tell you, it’s a bit of both. But it’s definitely not all upbringing

It’s really important to understand your natural preferences and how you likely will be responding to the environment you find yourself in

Mamette Tue 23-Jun-20 17:00:22

@hamstersarse I was referring specifically to the OP’s upbringing not one’s upbringing in general.

I don’t agree in any case. A child might have a tendency towards passivity yes. But that doesn’t necessarily result in a lack of assertiveness in adulthood. Upbringing will determine the outcome.

If a survivor of abuse says that they
live in my head far too much (constant worrying, self doubt, intrusive thoughts, hyper vigilance etc)

there’s more going on here than an innate tendency to agreeableness.

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