Understanding Assertiveness: Getting The Respect You Deserve

Have you ever felt as though you were a human doormat? Has your self-esteem and self-confidence ever been so low that you began to believe the negative things people would say to you or about you? Are you a People Pleaser? Does fear of hurting someone’s feelings keep you from communicating in a way that ensures your rights, needs and personal boundaries are respected?

Were you abused as a child in some way? Did fear of physical abuse cause you to grow up without the ability to express your true feelings and needs to those you come in contact with? Have you ever been in an abusive relationship or been married to an abuser?

If you answer Yes to any of the above questions, it’s time we have a chat about learning how to be assertive, how to change your negative self-talk, understanding assertiveness and developing the communication skills needed in order to be shown the respect you rightly deserve.

A Bit of Background First

Anyone who has followed this blog from its inception knows that I was brought up in a controlling and abusive home, where various forms of “punishment” often left me and my brothers battered and bruised, feeling as though no one in the world really cared about me, especially my own family. Ironically, I also grew up in a “religion” that added weight to the controlling and abusive tendencies I suffered as a child, with religious teachings being used as a weapon to keep me and other members of the church organization feeling threatened and afraid of leaving the religion or my marriage. But not anymore.

I got married for the first time at the ripe old age of seventeen, thinking and believing that Mr. Wonderful had come to rescue me into a life of marital bliss free of abuse, only to become a victim of domestic abuse after only six months of marriage. Children that are abused often grow up to marry an abuser no matter how hard they try to avoid it, unable to see the signs of abusive relationships until it is too late. Add to it the religious pressures to conform, and you have yourself a very serious situation on your hands, just as I did. But not anymore.

For me to say that I understand what it means to have low self-esteem, feeling as though your thoughts, feelings, wishes, dreams and desires don’t matter one little bit to anyone, is because I DO understand. I used to that person. But I’m not anymore. I’m here to explain to you how I changed my negative self-talk to become an assertive, self-confident (not aggressive) person, and how you too can and need to learn how to be assertive, and how being assertive greatly improves your personal and professional relationships.

Your Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence Matters

Regardless of how you developed such a low level of self-esteem, that you are often too afraid to speak up for yourself, you have the power within you to change it. I’m not going to suggest that it’s an easy thing to do, because it takes a lot of effort and determination to put aside the negative self-image, but it is doable. I’m living proof. If I can do it, so can you!

One of the most important, and possibly one of the most difficult things to do in changing your negative self-talk and developing assertive communication, is the need to let go of the past. Hanging onto the past, as opposed to letting go of built-up resentments and pain, staying in a victim state of mind, does nothing but keep you spinning in never-ending circles.

Assertive Communication Skills

After many years spent researching different forms of communication styles, it would be pretty easy for me to discuss the three basic forms of communication:

  • Assertive
  • Passive
  • Aggressive

However, I prefer to leave discussions about passive and aggressive communication styles to those with the college degree and experience in mental health to handle. It’s important to understand that assertiveness and aggressiveness are NOT the same thing but are often referred to as being one and the same.

Understanding Assertiveness and You

Assertive communication is the ability to speak and interact in a manner that considers and respects the rights and opinions of others while also standing up for your own rights, needs and personal boundaries.

To be assertive, you must learn to use “I” phrases to express your feelings and beliefs in a straight-forward and respectful manner with those you communicate with, while also respecting the right of others to have a different opinion or viewpoint.

  • “I” feel we need to… x,y,z.
  • “I” need you to… x,y,z.
  • “I” want to… x,y,z.
  • “I” feel hurt when you… x,y,z

Dealing with difficult people professionally or personally (or even with those we meet online), can often be challenging. Many people believe they have the right to be downright blunt and harsh in how they communicate with others, but by using assertive communication techniques when dealing with such people, we can maintain our personal boundaries in how we will or will not be treated by others, and at the same time show respect towards others (even if their behavior may not seem so deserving).

Do you have a personal experience with learning how to be assertive to share? Are you struggling to find your own voice in speaking up for yourself? Do you have suggestions for people still battling with self-esteem issues? Please consider sharing your thoughts by leaving a relevant comment below for our readers. With all due respect that is. Wink

Further Reading-

How To Hide Money From An Abusive Husband

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41 Responses to “Understanding Assertiveness: Getting The Respect You Deserve”

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  1. Phyllis V says:

    This is an excellent post, as I can really relate. I just finished reading an excellent book entitled ‘Controlling People’ by Patricia Evans. It deals with how controlling people come to be, how to cope with them, and affirms that it is not YOU. Great post.

  2. Lin says:

    Hi Phyllis, being assertive (without being aggressive) is really hard for some people, and as has been commented previously, children really need to learn how to be assertive beginning when they are still very young. Otherwise, there’s a high chance of them being manipulated in all types of relationships. I’m glad you enjoyed this article.

  3. Simon Slade says:

    This is a great post! I am glad you have escaped your abusive relationships and that you are now able to help people who have been in your situation. I am sure they feel some comfort in knowing you can relate to the emotions they feel. Keep the great advice coming!

  4. Lin says:

    Hi Simon,

    I really believe it helps people to know others have gone through what they are experiencing, or went through similar problems they dealt with at one time or another.

    Many of the topics I write about are very difficult things for most people to talk about to anyone, even those they are closest to. Having someone like me “put it all out there” and say “This happened to me too and I understand how you feel, you are not alone” hopefully provides people some comfort in what they’re going through.

  5. wilson says:

    To be honest, Lin.

    When I was younger, I’m always a person that lack of confidence and have very low self-esteemed, as I was being teased by people in school as the “Ugly book Nerd”…

    Though, I have learned to build up my confidence, after I have been advised by my school counsellor and she really brighten up my world!

  6. Lin says:

    Wilson, learning how to be assertive is so important, and children need to be taught assertiveness from the time they are very young, otherwise kids grow up without the ability to speak up for themselves.

  7. As a training provider we are seeing more and more parents enrolling thier teenage daughters on assertiveness training courses.

    Much of our behaviour is a result of how we are treated when we are young. Girls are more often taught the importance of compliance from a young age. Many are taught that the displeasure of others should be avoided at all costs. This means in later life that many women find being assertive contrary to their learned set of values.

    It is important, especially for women learn the importance and real value of their own feelings and opinions. The displeasure of others, especially of the dominant or bullying type is not the end of the world. Ignoring ones own needs can be much more damaging in the long term. Remember it is not your responsibility to make everyone else OK. You should treat others with the respect that you would like to be shown yourself, but ultimately if it is reasonable to say no or make a request, then if this leads to the displeasure of others it is their problem not yours.

    Never be afraid to speak up for yourself.

    Breathe deeply when confronted with aggression from others and stand firm

    Don’t let others control your emotions and use them against you.

    Constantly remind yourself of the benefits of being assertive

    Heather Buckley

    • Lin says:

      Hi Heather,

      It’s interesting that parents are enrolling their children in assertiveness training courses. Assertiveness and self esteem have common components, and parents have to work hard throughout a childs life to become assertive and independent, which then builds self confidence and self esteem in themselves. If parents were to focus their time and attention on teaching and training their children from birth on through the teen years, there wouldn’t be a need for assertiveness training when they’re older.

  8. This is true, however requests usually come from mothers of girls that have been trough a distressing situation or have been knocked back and are showing signs of low self esteem. Whilst I agree that upbringing and positive encouragement will help kids deal better with life in general, not everyting is in control of the parent, sometimes things happen and a little time to think about how being assertive can change your outlook and make you feel heard in the outside wolrl not only at home can only help.


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