Unless someone is type-A, the prospect of being assertive tends to be daunting because we think of it as being aggressive. These tips will show you how to inspire respect and communicate your boundaries without being harsh, passive, or being perceived as unlikeable. It's easier than you think!
Psychology Today states that assertive people "clearly and respectfully communicate their wants, needs, positions, and boundaries to others." It's a beautiful thing to be a thoughtful and respectable woman who clearly defines her wants and needs. And while it's not easy, maintaining your virtue without compromising is one of the sexiest things you can do.
Maintaining your virtue without compromising is one of the sexiest things you can do.
You'll simultaneously extract respect without demanding it at all. In fact, men and women around you will feel almost obligated to respect your boundaries, and even happy to do so. So why do most women balk at the thought of being assertive, or at least shy away from it? And why is it so difficult?
Why women struggle
Unfortunately, the line between assertive and aggressive is lost on many millennials. It's hard to be assertive when you don't want to impose yourself, hurt anybody, or blame anybody. It's hard to be assertive when all you've experienced when dealing with those people was aggression and unlikability. It's especially hard when you're shy and avoid conflict when you can. And of course, there's the social stigma of being perceived as "bitchy." Don't worry, you're not alone.
Maybe it's a boss who wields their position over you followed by a threat of demands that aren't even in your job description. Perhaps it's a friend so anxious to speak, they impatiently wait for you to finish your sentence so they could put in their two cents (if they haven't already interrupted you). Or maybe it's a date that makes you feel like there's a ticking clock hovering over your head and if you don't act now, you may lose him forever. Any of those sound familiar?
Why avoiding confrontation harms us
Passiveness may help you avoid confrontation, but it wrecks our social confidence. We lose respect for ourselves when we compromise our values, and everyone around us can smell that bruised connection right away.
Passiveness may help you avoid confrontation, but it wrecks our social confidence.
The other option is to harden yourself by thinking the only way to get respect is to demand it; to wither the storm with pride, and establish intimidation so that daring loudmouths second guess their next word.
Both lead to bitterness. Both are unsuited for you. Remember - genuine respect can never be demanded, only commanded. So let's leave all that behind. Here is how to be assertive the right way, and how it can increase your confidence and happiness:
Don't think of it as "Asserting Yourself"
Perhaps it's better to think of yourself as inspiring those around you. It's a lot less self-impose-y and a whole lot more radiant! To inspire gives you a chance to create a connection and desire to get to know. That simple word change can shift your mindset from defensive to openness.
Your intention isn't to intimidate. It's to inspire.
Let's talk about "The Bliss Point" coined by Matthew Huessy. To summarize, it's a mode of communication that "combines the optimal level of salty and sweet." If your date asks you to spend the night after your first dinner together, you think about your values.
You could freak out. You would be completely justified in doing so! But perhaps there's a better approach. First, try to think about it from his perspective: we live in such a fast-paced society, and your date has probably only dealt with fast-paced women. If that's all he's known, can you blame him for asking? Take blame out of the equation.
Now you implement The Bliss Point: "I had lots of fun with you tonight, but it's not my style to move that fast. However, I'd love to go out with you sometime next week."
It's communicating your boundaries clearly and playfully while leaving all that aggressive assertiveness behind. It's a balance of expressing your emotions, appreciating him, and giving hope. You've inspired admiration instead of repellency.
Inspire your friends to respect your values
How does this look in situations outside of dating? Like, say, peer pressure?
- Listen intently. Nod, rephrase and try to emphasize.
- Assume the best intentions out of the receiver, reassure they are not to blame for how they feel.
- Express your feelings, or what you want for them.
- Assure them afterward again, and perhaps offer a solution.
Let's say your two friends get into a fight, and one of them tries to suck you into the mess: she tries to convince you to post something slanderous about the ex-friend on social media. (If that example was oddly specific, that's because I went through that not too long ago, and it was definitely an awkward situation!)
Trying to reason with my friend, I said, "Yeah, I get it. What she said about you was messed up. I just don't see how blasting her publicly would solve anything. She'll only have an excuse to talk more crap. I don't want you to get into more trouble."
- Yes, you could say, "Don't drag me into this!" But you've already asserted your stance so much better this way by making it about her—you care what happens to her if she goes ahead and manages to convince you to blast an ex-friend. When she sees the damage it could cause her, she'll be less inclined to do it.
- In a world where most of us are selfish, show your friend that you are one of the few that actually cares about her wellbeing, and she can't do anything to make you endanger that.
Now let's say your girlfriends all want to get together for a girls night out at the bar, and you just… don't do bars. You could say, "hanging out with you guys sounds great! But I don't do bars, I don't drink, and I can't dance - I'll only be a liability, lol. But, if you wanna make plans like last week's, I'm down!"
- It's totally fine to poke fun at yourself. Trust me, I'm such a bore! Such a level of relaxed honesty will make your friends admire you all the more.
- In fact, whenever possible, tease yourself a bit! Being assertive or inspiring shouldn't be taken to seriously, especially if it's amongst your friends!
- People can feel personally attacked when rejected. Make it clear that you're not rejecting them because of THEM, but because of what they are asking you to do.
I think that it's important to mention that if you feel threatened in any way, get out of there. If your safety truly depends on it, don't try to reason. Just remove yourself from the situation.
It's truly empowering when those around you feel more comfortable opening up and taking in your suggestions, when your date feels privileged to be able to date a girl with high morals and no judgment in her, or when you put your friend's wellbeing into perspective. While some use assertiveness as a power trip, the real purpose of being assertive is to influence. When you're playful, you're already ahead.