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How to be assertive(18 Posts)
Inspired by the thread about the DH offending the cousin and aunt who visited when newborn was 3 days old.
I am terrible at appropriately responding to poor behaviour. To give some background (I'll try keep it brief) DH has lost his parents and only has his siblings (in terms of family). A few years ago I was hit with a terrible illness but thankfully I am much better now. It's left health issues (major surgery removing organs) but thankfully I am able to manage mostly ok on a day to day level with peaks and troughs. (For the first couple of years I wasn't able to lead a normal day, was off work etc). I need to be quite vigilant with not over doing it and getting plenty of rest. Recently we have been blessed with a child. Over the moon and I am very thankful given my health. As expected , my health has taken a bit of a dive with all the demands of looking after a newborn. I have not recovered from
the birth (EMCS) as quickly as someone who is in good health but the medics are more than pleased with my progress given the history.
Dh's family have been really quite unsupportive. This is mostly related but not limited to my health.
-Being negative about my appearance when I had the surgery a few years ago
-Not really understanding why the recovery was the way it was
- not appreciating the severity of it and implying that I should be back in full health when I clearly wasn't going to be given the nature of the illness/ surgery/ removal of organs
- making negative comments in general towards me
- keeping their 'nice' comments for DH only eg saying thanks for presents
- more recently the same sort of comments as above in regards to me getting a lot of help from my family with the baby (putting an expectation on me that I should be able to manage without them)
Given how rubbish things have been, and the way they have responded I have almost got into a rut where I swing from feeling that they live on another planet to feeling shit within myself for not being better health wise and for not being good enough for them (I know that sounds crazy)
I've always been the sort of person that just goes with the flow and gives people the benefit of the doubt. I really don't think all of it is malicious but more that they don't know how to behave. There is lots I could comment on to make them feel rubbish but it's just not in my nature (don't mean to sound like a goody two shoes and I'm in no way perfect but how sad is it that I almost want to start putting them down so they can see how horrid it is). Even something as simple as them showing me something they've bought, even if it's horrid I would never display that. I would just say it's nice and find something positive to say about it. I'm at the stage now where I don't say anything at the time of their ridiculous comments but afterwards kick myself silly for not reacting. And then I go overboard on the things I think I would like to say to them. I know that one day I'm Just going to flip and be very aggressive. Because of my passiveness I think they think that I don't mind and / or they can carry on the way they are so partly it's my fault for letting them get away with it for so long. They don't know it bothers me.
I've started reading 'feel the fear and do it anyway' and wondered if there was any advice/ any other books I could read which would help me build the confidence in myself to respond in a manner which shows them I can't be walked over, but by also keeping my credibility (if that's the right word). I just struggle with appropriate responses.
Apologies for the length.
Your DH should not be allowing his family to treat you this way.
I agree - should've said in the OP. He is very soft and hates conflict. He just thinks I shouldn't give what they say any importance, I should shrug them off and keep my distance. To be fair he has changed towards them himself and is quite distant now. He is quite happy to just see them on formal occasions only. But that's not good enough. I can't keep arguing with him though - it's damaging us. I can only change the way I respond.
Who says that you have to be assertive? I would concentrate on the resentment, hatred and anger building up in you that is making you emotionally unstable and ill. isn't it better to see the insanity of their actions and turn the other cheek. Only have contact when absolutely necessary and take all the comments and actions with a pinch of salt. Aren't you better than that? True confidence is not giving a shit what other people think of you.
Next time they start in with you say, "If you don't have anything nice to say, please don't say it. Your words are hurtful and I don't want to hear it." If they are in your home, show them the door. If you're somewhere else, leave. Repeat as necessary.
Noego- interesting. That's exactly what I want to do but how? Should I deal with it by silence? (at the moment I end up getting into a pickle by trying to justify it)
Thanks for the suggestion aquamarine
Practice, watching yourself in mirror, until it feels normal to you, saying with a half smile something like:
'Yes, well, whatever. Thankfully we're all different. Think it's time for us to be off now/oh, it's time for us to be going to - doctor, hospital, school, work, friends (somewhere they can't offer to join you!). Lovely to see you, bye.'
No discussion - that gives them a 'hook' to get at you. 'Yes, whatever' is really effective and beautifully annoying to them as it appears you're not bothered.
I'm quite assertive naturally,
I would give the advice of, start small. You don't have to say exactly what you think or think of some clever comeback immediately.
If they are at your house and say something mean or something that makes you upset. Don't respond, don't say anything, just look at them slightly quizzically, little frown, then remove yourself from the situation (clearing plates, taking baby to another room, whatever)
It's hard when a lot of the snideness is implied or by omission (eg thanking DH but not you for presents).
I've found the phrase "Mmm, I'm not quite sure what you're getting at there?" said in a pleasant tone, tends to send people scrambling backwards. If they start blustering around what they're really saying, you can let them go on for a bit until you get a chance to say, "Oh, that's not been my experience/understanding/how I see it/what my doctors have advised." Again, nice, warm tone.
The important thing is to make them aware that you see what they're doing and you're not going to let them run those sort of comments under the radar, but not to get caught up in a discussion. Just stick to the key points and keep repeating variations of them (a tactic politicians use all the time.)
"I'm following the advice of my doctors."
"I've had a different experience."
"This is the approach that works for me."
Again very useful. I'm going to note all these down! It's so draining having to essentially have my guard up all the time with them.
"That's exactly what I want to do but how?"
By being detached from it all.
I am crap at this with my family as was badly physically and mentally abused by my dad as a kid.
I still have this need to please everyone and be complicit it really fucking annoys me, I avoid confrontation and conflict at any cost (I okay with controlled stuff at work, my kids and stuff I feel in control of).
I wish I was different but it brings that anxiety out in me of being 3/4/5 and feeling like I am about to be beaten.
Hopeful bump - can anyone suggest any books to help me feel strong enough to not give a toss about them? To feel my own worth
Don't put up with their crap. Health problems don't make you lesser than them.
They are minimising and shaming you. Simply use assertive body language which means look them right in the eye and state that their comments are unwelcome and they are not in your situation so you would appreciate them not pretending to have the slightest idea of your struggles.
Everyone even with perfect health needs help time to time with a baby.
Your partner needs to step up and back you or they will get worse and it could finish the relationship. I know.
Read toxic parents by Susan forward and go to the out of the fog website and learn the medium chill technique.
Get some books about boundaries. Silence as a response with people like them is far too passive. You need to defend yourself reality otherwise they will be shaming you in years to come in front of your child and partner.
Have some pre prepared responses... Casually comment that you do wonder why some people are so judgemental of a serious health matter that they couldn't possibly comprehend and that it shows a lack of empathy.
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