“Excuse me, my soup is cold. I would like it heated up.” For many, saying this statement to a server in a calm, respectful manner is difficult. Why so?
Many people were raised in a home in which their thoughts and emotions were not valued. We learned that our inner world of feelings and desires was not worthy of voicing. As a result, we became detached from our true wants resulting in living a life which only partial fulfills us and slowly erodes our soul.
Expressing what you feel and asking for what you want is called assertiveness. Being assertive equalizes relationships, decreases feelings of being taken advantage of, and lessens any resentment in not saying or doing what you truly wanted to do or say. It not only increases our ability to communicate, it promotes respect from your self and from others.
Believing you have a right to voice interests, feelings and ideas the same as everyone else does is key to being assertive. However, many people feel guilty in stating what they want. Stating your ideas does not mean you are selfish, rude or unreasonable. Although what you say may not please or may differ from others, realize that sometimes what you want for yourself is not what others want for you or for them.
Assertively saying ‘no’ can also be challenging for people. It is helpful to remember that when someone asks us something, there are two possible answers, ‘yes’ or ‘no,” and perhaps a third, “I’ll let you know tomorrow.” As we become more confident in knowing and asking for what we want, we become comfortable in others saying no to us. Similarly, disagreements we receive will no longer be felt as personal criticism because we understand that other people are merely stating opinions and wants, just as we can and do.
As much as assertiveness appears easy for some, decades of being passive makes attempting change awkward. Begin to develop awareness of body sensations, feelings and intuition. Listen for inner beliefs which counter your assertiveness such as, “You don’t have the right to say no,” or “How dare you say that.” Reflect upon the source of these thoughts and any accompanying feelings such as guilt, fear or shame.
Become comfortable using phrases such as, “I would like …,” “I prefer …,” or “No thanks.” Practice in situations that are emotionally safe, say with a close friend. If stating your wants and feelings is uncomfortable for others, it may be an opportunity for them to self-reflect or for an honest discussion about what they were expecting from you.
As the pendulum shifts away from passiveness, we experience a more fulfilling and soulful way of being. As the author Shatki Gawain stated, “Assertiveness is not what you do, it’s who you are.”