One of the most important skills people can have is assertive communication. This is because an ability to assert oneself is what keeps us protected and allows us to be the ones shaping our reality. When we fail to have a voice in relationships or the workplace or in friendships, we can be easily dominated. We might find that others are dictating the terms of our lives or our relationships on our behalf. If we constantly let others speak for us or make our decisions, then whose reality do we end up living in? Not ours! Life can quickly become a myriad of “shoulds” that quickly drain us. Individuals who struggle to assert themselves may experience:
A fear of being rejected
Avoidance of conflict
Being passive aggressive
Going along with others
Challenges with communication
Being assertive is not being rude, though it’s understandable why a lot of people may see it that way. There is a key difference between being assertive vs being aggressive, and that is: respect. When you’re assertive, you don’t let go of your respect for yourself or others, you do not need to raise your voice to an extreme level, or become physical. You can be assertive while being calm and respectful, and still stand up for yourself, getting your point across.
Why Are Some People More Assertive?
Assertiveness skills are acquired naturally in childhood during healthy development. However, there are certain childhood disruptors, which we call non nurturing elements, that can disrupt the process of developing these skills. Some of these non nurturing elements include:
Critical or demanding parents
Emotional or physical abuse
Parents modelling non-assertive behaviour
The problem is, we don’t really tend to add assertiveness back into our toolkit in adulthood, and this can cause some challenges in our relationships, at work and in other parts of our lives. At the same time, it’s important to remember that being assertive takes work! It’s a skill that you need to refine, even if you learned it in childhood. It’s something that needs nurturing and practice.
What Does Being Assertive Really Look Like?
As we discussed, being assertive is a really important skill for everyone to have. It is very different from being aggressive or rude. Key aspects of being assertive are:
Having a strong sense of self
Having effective communication skills
Being calm and respectful of others
Being able to relate to others
Knowing your values and needs
Not fearing potential conflict
Knowing and asserting your boundaries
Having strong emotional regulation skills
Being able to navigate complex work environments
Having open and honest relationships
How Shift Can Help
We talked about non-nurturing elements that can hamper the development of assertiveness skills. These non-nurturing elements also give rise to what we call limiting beliefs, or the negative beliefs we hold about ourselves and the world around us. These limiting beliefs are what underlie an underdeveloped ability to be assertive. Some of these limiting beliefs are:
I’m not good enough/ I’m not capable
I am nothing
I cannot trust self/ others
I’m at risk
I am flawed
I cannot say ‘no’
I have to please everyone
I cannot be myself/ let it out
I don’t matter
Shift’s unique therapy and assertiveness training identifies these limiting beliefs, which typically underlie other presenting concerns as well, and uses bilateral stimulation to remove them. The limiting beliefs lose their power and the individual is able to see things more clearly, grow their own voice again and start creating their ideal reality.
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