Don’t put your foot in it! 7 ways you can trip yourself up
Do you frequently put yourself last in your relationships?
Do you say “I don’t mind” when you do mind?
Do you lack confidence with your boss, colleagues, friend or partner?
You can greatly enhance your relationships by learning to be more assertive.
This doesn’t mean making demands and telling people what to do, but through assertive ways of behaving and communicating; expressing your feelings, views and opinions – and listening when others express theirs.
Assertiveness helps you respect yourself as well as others, seeking ‘win-win’ outcomes that consider the hopes and concerns of both parties.
Seven steps: what to avoid
Assertiveness can help you deal with difficulties in relationships and even help prevent difficulties arising in the first place. Try these assertive tips:
1. Avoid aggressive commands like You should, ought, must, have to and can’t. Instead use the assertive “I” and express your wishes: I hope you will…or your opinion “I take the view that”, then ask them for their view… and listen.
2. Avoid exaggerations and accusations“you never get things right” – this makes people defensive, paving the way for a row. Pointing the finger can only make matters worse whereas calm and rational discussion is helpful.
3. How often do you say maybe, perhaps or possibly? These words often create confusion. Be confident, clear and polite about what you do and don’t want. Saying “I’m too tired to meet tonight” is honest & the other person knows where they stand. Better than the uncertain “I’ll see how I feel”, leaving others without a clear answer.
4. Avoid putting yourself down. If you do, you and others will start to believe “I’m not good at this” or “I’ll never be able to do that”.
5. Avoid putting others down: it might give you a momentary “high”, but will soon pull you down again since it is not likely to bring you respect. It certainly won’t enrich any relationship; personal or professional.
6. Putting yourself last, not making your needs known & thinking entirely about others’ needs seems generous. Ultimately, though, you feel unappreciated and resentful. State your needs and ask others what they want; taking both into account, while maintaining the generous part of yourself.
7. Finally, supportiveness is vital to friendships, partnerships & working relations so pretending to listen, interrupting or turning the conversation back to yourself won’t bode well. Poor listening is a key cause of misunderstandings. Good listening is a great skill and a quality ingredient of good relationships.
In conclusion don’t lose but remember to keep your identity in any relationship. According to the 17th Century French writer, Francois de La Rochefoucauld: "We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves”. If you try to please others all of the time and go with the flow, you will lose sight of your own goals in life.
Be aware of your views, your feelings and your wishes. Be realistic and recognise you cannot guarantee how people will respond. Using honest, open dialogue enables you to discuss difficulties, explore possible resolutions and hopefully to build more open, enduring relationships.
About the author
As individuals, our personal challenges vary greatly. Issues can affect us at home, at work and in our relationships. My coaching and training skills combine to help you build confidence and design strategies to confront life's challenges. With my friendly, professional expertise and your determination, together we can make positive changes.
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