Learn how to be assertive with these expert tips
At times, it can feel easier to let people walk all over you to avoid conflict, but doing this could damage your self-worth, as well as cause stress and anxiety. “Standing up for yourself will bring you a sense of peace and happiness, no matter what the world throws at you, because you’ll know deep down that you’re your own best advocate and will always have your back,” says motivational speaker Dr Andrea Pennington (andreapennington.com). “Never hesitate to speak up and express your true self – your wellbeing, your rights and your voice are as important as others, and you too are allowed to be considered.” Feeling empowered? Here are some top tips from the experts to help you defend yourself today…
Fake it ‘til you make it
“Changing can be scary,” says Andrea Lindsay, psychotherapist at Click for Therapy (clickfortherapy.com). “Doing something new, such as behaving in a different way, may be challenging and requires motivation, energy and courage. It can help to think of someone you know or admire that has the attribute you want. Use them as a role model, emulating their approach, while you develop your own style. Research reported in the European Journal of Social Psychology states that it takes 66 days to form a new habit. Over time and with practise, you’ll find your own way of standing up for yourself, which will become natural to you.”
Learn self love
“Many of us struggle to like ourselves, meaning that we don’t always stand up for our own opinions and beliefs,” says Andrea. “Once you start practising self-love mindfully, you’ll be aware of the little and big things that can negatively affect you, and build the right defences.” Here are Andrea’s top tips:
• Express yourself authentically and in a holistic way. You won’t have any regrets by being who you are, speaking your mind and showing your true colours as long as you do this respectfully.
• When feeling attacked, take a deep breath, collect yourself and organise your thoughts. Be the lawyer you want for your case – outspoken and calm, with honest, yet sharp arguments.
• Try to see things in a positive, light perspective. The world is not out to get you, but should arguments happen, they can be the occasion to understand each other better and move forward.
• March to the beat of your own drum. Don’t let critics dictate who you should or shouldn’t be. Take their opinions under advisement, but keep in mind that deep down you are the one in your shoes, and you’re ultimately the person who gets to decide how you want to live your life.
“Why is saying no so hard?” asks Andrea. “Perhaps you don’t like to let people down, or maybe you’re worried about missing an opportunity? In fact, the most effective way to increase your focus and productivity on activities that achieve results is to say no to those tasks or requests that consume time, but produce little or no results. Standing up for yourself when you need to ensures that you have the time and energy to focus on the things that are important to you. Sometimes a no can be followed by an ‘instead’ – you might not be able to meet the initial request, but there may be an alternative, less time consuming and more productive way to provide help.”
“Help yourself feel comfortable with stating your opinion by asking questions to give you as much information about a situation before responding,” Andrea tells us. “Standing up for yourself and expressing your opinion can be improved if you’re confident with the topic matter. Frame questions in a beneficial and constructive way, (such as asking how you can help) so that others are less likely to feel threatened or criticised and a positive outcome is more likely.”
Communicate without judgement
“It takes courage to address a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, especially if it has been going on for some time,” says Andrea. “Your emotions may be bubbling away under the surface and when you do finally say something, your feelings get the better of you and you’re unable to express yourself properly. Stand up for yourself by calmly expressing how you feel and following with a request for change – for example ‘I feel neglected when you don’t respond to my messages. It would be really helpful if you could acknowledge receiving them, even if you don’t have time to fully reply’.”
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