Thursday, 28 February 2013

How to Stop Letting People Walk All Over You

Do you ever feel as if the people in your life walk all over you? Do you wish that you could tell your boss that you don't want to work Saturdays, your friend that you'd like her to listen to you for a change, or those telephone salesmen to leave you alone? Do you find your brain saying "Leave me alone!" but your mouth saying "Yes, of course I will!"?

STOP - I don't want another flyer!
(Source: jacksanfernandes.com)
Being clear about what you want and don't want is far harder than it should be. Throughout our lives, we are given confusing messages - don't complain, keep a stiff upper lip, turn the other cheek, but stick up for yourself. While nobody wants to be treated like a doormat, the thought of standing up to others can be terrifying. After all, it might lead to confrontation or cause people to dislike us.

I realised, recently, that I had lived most of my life afraid to speak up for what I wanted. Even the thought of asking somebody to get out of my way on a bus filled me with cold dread.



I suppose it goes back to being a kid - I spent my childhood absorbed in books and my own fantasy worlds, watching the adults in my life take the world's crap - working extra hours, running errands without thanks, muttering under their breath about insults that they'd suffered but doing nothing to stand up for themselves. My father would tell me how angry he was with somebody at work, but when I asked if he had told them, he said that of course he hadn't said a thing. I grew up learning to stay quiet and let the world shovel on as much as it wanted to. I let teacher and friends treat me as they wanted to, because if I didn't, something bad would surely happen. I thought that the only way to get people to like me was to go along with what they wanted.

I sat in the corner at school with no idea of why I was being told off, bit my lip when somebody called me fat, and let bosses pile on the extra hours. On top of that, I would let friends walk all over me - I was the one who always had a car, free food or a shoulder to cry on. I'm not saying I was completely passive; trust me, I had plenty of blazing rows with my closer family, but that was part of the problem. At home, I could get what I wanted by screaming, shouting, manipulating, and it worked. It shouldn't have, but it did. I knew that I couldn't scream at the rest of the world, so I went along with what they wanted, worrying that nobody would like me if I dared to say what I wanted, or didn't want.

It was only years later when I started trying to be a little bolder. It started with a small "No" - No, I don't want to stop and sign up for a charity direct debit. No, I don't want to go home with you. No, I don't want to drive thirty minutes to your house to hear you complain about your life again. Then I experimented with saying what I wanted. I want shorter hours. I want pizza for dinner. I want you to respect me.

Many people think that being assertive means being rude, spoilt, or aggressive. Of course, a lot of us might try to get our own way like that at first, but we soon realise that it doesn't work - people get defensive and angry when they're treated without respect. We are made to believe, somehow, that we will never be able to keep a job if we dare to stand up for ourselves, that our partner will leave us if we tell them how to behave, that our friends will no longer like us if we stop doing everything for them.

The truth is that true friends do not use you for what you can give them - they listen to what you want, too. A good relationship is based on honesty - your partner is not a mind reader. An assertive person who respects themselves and isn't afraid to say what's on their mind is more likely to be respected by most bosses (apart from those on a power trip) - it might even show them that you're manager material. It isn't about being selfish and controlling - it's about respecting yourself enough to know that you deserve the same treatment as everyone else, and respecting others enough to be honest with them.

I ran my free Shine with Confidence call in April 2013 - click here to download it!

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