Like most women of my generation, I was brought up with the idea that women need to be nice, and that nice women don’t say what they really think.
If we do, someone might think of us as ‘mean’, which history taught us was the worst thing a woman could be. Contrary to this though, my menopause taught me that never upsetting the apple cart was the fastest way to ill health and misery.
Sometimes, when we’re nervous about a tricky conversation, we go on the defensive: ‘You did this’. By separating feelings and facts, you take the potential sting out of your words, making it easier for someone to hear what you’re really saying. Start with a fact that describes the problem, without talking about feelings. For example, ‘You just said that I can’t have the day off because there aren’t enough staff in’. Follow this up with how you feel about that: ‘I feel frustrated. I appreciate the staffing issues, but I really need to attend my son’s play that day and I’m sad that he will miss out on having me there’. Next, state what you need and any solutions you think you might have: ‘I wonder, if I can help find a suitable cover for the time, would you possibly reconsider?’ And finish there. There’s no guarantee you’ll get what you want, but you’ve at least opened the door to making it a possibility.
Whilst the above should cover most eventualities, the one place I do think needs further mention, is at the doctors. How many of us have shared our worries with our doctor, only to feel brushed off or silly? They’re medically trained professionals and busy, and it’s hard to challenge what they say if you do not feel understood. Research suggests that 75 percent of doctors think they communicate well, but only 21 percent of us agree. To help myself be heard, I found that writing down all the things I wanted to mention helped me not forget or get side-tracked.
A diary can help a busy physician get to grips with your concerns. Detail exactly when your problem started, how often it happens and anything that makes it worse. Having things down on paper (or in an app) also makes it harder to brush off your story. If you’re not happy with the answer, say so. Ask openended questions, like ‘why do you think that?’ to allow for a dialogue. And remember you have every right to a second opinion if you’re not happy. Your health is the most precious thing you have, and it’s not worth risking it for embarrassment or needing to seem like you’re not a causing trouble.
Feeling fear about being assertive stems from a need to be accepted and a worry you might be rejected. But if you can’t put your needs first, nobody else can be expected to do it for you – you oversee your life and how it looks. So be confident in voicing your thoughts, and let your voice take you to the life you want. It’s the very ‘nicest’ thing you can do for yourself.
Patsy Kensit Her beauty range, Preciously Perfect, is available from Ideal World. Search idealworld.tv to discover the full collection.
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