Avoiding conflict is something that we likely do from time to time. But some may do it most of the time!
Maybe you were taught to keep quiet and not say what you really think or feel. Do you feel like others opinions and feelings are more important than yours?
You may fear speaking up because someone might reject you or embarrass you in some way. Or they might not like you. Or you don't want to "rock the boat."
So avoiding conflict and pleasing others seems the safe way to go.
But I want you to know - your opinions, thoughts, beliefs and emotions are equally important as anyone elses. We are all equal despite what others may portray! There are people out there that will be happy to treat you as an equal. You deserve that!
When others are aggressive, they come from the belief that their thoughts and feelings are the "right" ones and the only ones that matter. Other people's views are seen as unreasonable or even stupid and are quickly dismissed.
They feel that their needs are more important - they have rights and you don't and their contributions are valuable and yours are not.
Their goal is to win at any expense or to gain control over others. They feel powerful at the time but may feel remorseful or even self-hatred afterwards for hurting others. But are unlikely to admit this.
So to speak your truth in a healthy, assertive way is coming from a place of: my thoughts, feelings and needs are important and yours are equally important. We may have different opinions and needs but different doesn't mean "bad" - it just means different. Can you imagine if we all thought and felt the same way all the time - boring! So different can be interesting or challenging, but not bad.
Asserting yourself is a way of respecting yourself and others. It's not about winning - you feel good about yourself and how you treat others. You're open to other views but you don't feel the need to control how others think or feel. It's being open, honest, and direct (in a respectful way).
So here's my quick and easy assertiveness formula that can be used when communicating about tough issues. This does involve stepping out of your comfort zone. It's okay to be nervous. It means you're growing emotionally! Feel the fear and do it anyway!
Make sure that you take a breather before speaking your truth. It's too hard to do this effectively if you're upset. So take a step back, breathe, and then think about what you want to say. Here's the formula:
I feel (name the emotion)
When you (describe the person's behavior or situation that upset you)
Ask for what you want --> I would appreciate it if... or it would be helpful if...
or I would like it if...
Set consequences if needed (this is something that is within your control)
Here's an example:
I feel angry when you yell at me
I would appreciate it if you'd lower your voice
(wait and see what happens - if person continues to yell, set a consequence)
If you keep yelling at me, I'm going to leave the room
So that's speaking your truth! It's like reflecting a mirror back to the other person so they can see how their behavior affects you. Most people will respond well to you when you speak your truth in this way. However, an aggressive person may not and it is best to remove yourself from toxic people as needed.
Remember to have empathy before speaking your truth. This might sound like:
I realize you're under a lot of stress lately and that must be hard for you.
Then you can assert yourself using the formula.
Keep doing this until it becomes second nature. When you speak your truth you are empowering yourself. It's a good thing!
Here's a great clip by Brene Brown on empathy:
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Hi! I'm Beth Matthews. I'm a Registered Psychologist who is driven to helping people feel better about themselves. I help people who are struggling in their lives gain an awareness of how they can cope with anything that comes their way. With my easy-to-use strategies, you can feel better and be your best you!