Welcome to my letter V post in the #AtoZChallenge. Okay, I already posted a V post and originally didn’t want to write another one for this challenge or at least not so soon after posting my earlier post. However, I had a topic in mind already. Today, I’m going to write about using assertiveness as self-care.
Assertiveness is nothing more than sticking up for yourself appropriately. It doesn’t mean aggressively dictating how others need to treat you. Like, I am always reminded of a scene in the first Adrian Mole book by Sue Townsend, in which he desccribes that his mother went to an assertiveness training for women only and started to rigidly divide all household chores evenly between his father, herself and Adrian. Well, that’s not how it works.
Assertiveness also doesn’t mean passively agreeing to everything someone else says even if you don’t. I have a tendency to do that and then to complain to other people about the person’s behavior. That’s passive-aggressive.
In order to resolve interpersonal disagreements, I like the DEAR MAN approach from dialectical behavior therapy. DEAR MAN stands for:
D: Describe. Describe the situation as objectively as you can in order to get on the same page with the other person about what you’re actually talking about.
E: Express. Tell the other person how you feel and what you think. Use “I” statements and take responsibility for your stance.
A: Assert. This is where you verbalize what you need or want or don’t want. Be as clear as you can be. Don’t expect the other person to know what you mean if you’re vague.
Remember, we all have different love languages (which apply to friendships and family relationships too). Say your partner’s main way of expressing love is through kind words, but you prefer physical touch. Then you will consistently feel disappointed if they keep saying “I love you” without touching you. State clearly that you want your partner to hug you more often. COVID-19 permitting, they’ll most likely be happy to do so.
R: Reinforce. This means to reward the other person for their behavior. Sounds weird, right? You know you are not dealing with a 5-year-old who gets candy for eating his veggies. Okay, sometimes you are, but in this post I’m mostly talking about relationships between equals. However, what I mean is simply to focus on the positive you want instead of the negative behavior the other is showing you. Often we tend to react negatively in times of conflict, such as by yelling or threatening or withholding our affection. I definitely do. Instead, express how the other person’s changing behavior makes you feel more appreciated, respected or loved.
M: Mindful. Be present and in the moment. Don’t bring up past grievances. I’m often guilty of bringing past stuff into conflicts.
A: Assertive. Stay calm, make eye contact (if possible), keep an even voice. Don’t shout or threaten. It’s okay to express emotions, but let your words express your needs or wants.
N: Negotiate. Once you’ve done all these previous steps, it’s time to let the other person express their reasons for possibly not changing. You need to listen to these mindfully. If you can’t negotiate or you come to an impasse, it may help to ask the other person how they would react if they were in your situation. If nothing else works, you can always agree to disagree.