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This week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions is about how to be more assertive in those instances where you recognise that you don’t want to do a request or what’s expected. Thanks to the events of the last few months, I haven’t seen my mother very much. When it was her birthday last month, I suggested a plan that took into account the pandemic guidelines at that time. And then… the plan shifted significantly over the course of our conversation to one I wasn’t comfortable with. I employed the same steps I teach for creating healthy boundaries and asserting ourselves. In this episode, I share those four key steps.

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Nuggets from the episode

  • Step one: Work out what you want to do versus what you think the other person expects of you or any generalised obligation.
  • Pay attention to those messages from your body, thoughts and even actions that suggest that you don’t want to do something or that a further conversation or form of action is needed.
  • Give yourself the space and grace to get a sense of what you’re feeling. Stepping back helped me to notice that I wasn’t comfortable with the proposed plan.

We know when we want to do something. If we can’t convert a sense of obligation or an expectation into a desire, we need to say no. Or, we need to communicate to the person that we understand it to be an obligation so that we can get on the same page.

  • The gap between what we want to do and obligations or other people’s expectations is where tension, friction and resentment reside.
  • When we contemplate doing something and the chatter in our head is about trying to control other people’s feelings and behaviour or ego-driven thinking, this is a sign that we are contemplating doing something for the wrong reasons.
  • Step two: Work out what you want to do and what that requires you to communicate. This shifts us from having a passive response where we’re aware of our discomfort or what we really need/want/think but not doing anything to an active response.
  • Sometimes we segue from passive responses to passive-aggressive ones where we drop hints about our frustration and resentment. This will only lead to more problems, including feeling crappy about ourselves.
  • Being assertive by having an active response allows us to evolve our boundaries. We also get to feel in command of ourselves.
  • Step three: Identify your desired assertiveness outcome. What do you need to achieve assertively? e.g. I say ‘I don’t want to do that’. ‘I communicate to my mother that I’m going to {insert plan}’. It could be that you voice an idea in the weekly meeting or that you talk about what’s bothering you or that you ask for help.
  • Desired assertiveness outcomes can’t be about trying to control other people’s feelings and behaviour! If your objective is to make someone say X, think Y or do Z, you’re giving up your power and your boundaries.

Disappointment is OK; it’s the result of discovering what’s actually possible. Not all of our expectations are realistic, but also, people are humans. We’re allowed to feel disappointed!

  • Step four: Communicate what you want or your position. But go easy on the fluff. There’s no need to pad out what you need to say with a load of excuses or story. People miss the point! They just want to know where they stand (and where you do!). Start lean and then add in detail.
  • If you’re not sure what you want, then it’s OK to say that. Don’t railroad or emotionally blackmail you into agreeing to something.
  • Saying ‘Let me get back to you’ gives you the space and grace to consider your body, needs, schedule, wants, etc. It allows you to consider you.
  • If they say that they need an answer right now, then the answer is no. If they can’t handle waiting then they get a no right now. Some people want to catch you on the hop. And some people think they can’t handle waiting and delaying their gratification.

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