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Life Matters: “Get out of my space…. Please”

1 November, 2020

Asking for what you want—and setting boundaries around what you don’t want—is a key life skill.

But sometimes in our enthusiasm to practice this skill, we over-do our own assertiveness and end up causing anger or resentment, or even withdrawal in people.  Here are four tips for developing your assertiveness in a way that will actually strengthen, deepen and enrich your relationships—thus avoiding the “alienation trap”:

4 Strategies for Developing Assertiveness Without Alienating Others

  1. Get Clear.

Being assertive starts with knowing what you are—and aren’t—willing to be, do, or have. For many of us, coming to this knowledge is a real task unto itself. Here, it may be useful to ask: “In an ideal world, what would I like to happen?” Focusing on an ideal outcome opens our minds, prevents us from falling into passivity or “victim-thinking”, and helps us get really clear on what we want and don’t want.

  1. Set Boundaries.

Once you know what outcome you need (or want), pay attention to the way stating your boundary feels in your body. With practice, you can actually sense when you’re hitting the “sweet spot.” It can feel really reassuring, even exhilarating, to express your needs out loud. Phrases like “such and such doesn’t work for me” are simple ways of being assertive while maintaining connection with others.

  1. Make a Regular Habit of Stating Your Boundaries, and Needs.

You can build your assertiveness the same way you build any muscle: with exercise. Practise speaking up about your needs, big or small, on a daily basis.  When you speak up about things that are less controversial—such as what to have for dinner, requesting the family to help around the house, or deciding what TV program to watch—both you and others in your life get used to your assertiveness. It becomes easier for you to practice and for others to hear. Thus, when bigger issues come along, you and your colleagues or people in your closer personal circle will have a healthy process in place for dealing with differences in needs, and you’ll have greater confidence in the resilience of your relationships.

  1. Give as Much as You Get.

Assertiveness is a two-way street. If you want your boundaries to be respected, you must return the courtesy. If a colleague doesn’t want you to eat lunch in your shared office while she is working, don’t.  If a team member asks for the first half hour in a working day to be kept free of appointments, do that.  When it comes to following through on anyone’s reasonable request, actions really do speak louder than words.

If someone, isn’t respecting your boundaries even though you’ve set them clearly, it may be time for professional help for you and/or your relationship with that person.

Claire Porima Coaching.