As our weather begins a cooler trend and the carefree attitude of summer changes to more serious thinking, it’s a great time to look into getting involved with programs that will help us deal more effectively with our personal and interpersonal challenges; parenting, communication skills, anger management, money management, etc.
One particular program that has had an enormous impact in my life is Assertiveness Training.
I took a program being offered by a community agency where I was living at the time and was immediately impressed with the concepts being presented. Being the keener that I am, I did every exercise that was recommended in the program and I soon realized that the skills I was learning were going to take time and effort to become comfortable and be implemented in my relationships. I could clearly see that the approach was much more respectful than the way I had been communicating and it felt intuitively right for me. I felt so much better about myself when I thought and acted assertively!
Before I was introduced to the concept of assertiveness I dealt with different people in my life differently. With some people; my husband and my children for example, I was aggressive. I ordered them around, I yelled and screamed. It was my way or the highway. I was convinced that it was the only way that they would listen and that they would not cooperate unless I raised my voice or bullied them into doing what I wanted them to do.
With my friends and extended family I was passive; never being completely honest. I justified my behaviour because I believed if I were to be assertive and tell my friends and family what I thought and felt about them and asked for what I wanted that I would lose the relationship. I used to think that if I were honest with them, they would not be able to take it.
But in reality, the more I practiced the assertive skills I was learning, the better I felt about myself and the better I got along with others. I was being more authentic and therefore more relaxed. I was so impressed with the positive changes in myself and my life that I wanted to share this kind of program with others. I began taking university courses, reading self-help books, and taking related workshops on a variety of relationship dynamics. Over time, and with influences from a wide variety of perspectives, I developed the program that I now facilitate.
Becoming more assertive involves a number of skills that take time and effort to learn and develop. Assertiveness is particularly understood in terms expression; the ability to tell others our thoughts and feelings and ask for what we want openly and directly. However, an equally important aspect of assertiveness is listening in such a way that the other person feels heard, valued, and understood. What a gift to give our loved ones! Assertive listening is a challenging skill to learn but worth every minute spent practicing.
If you are wondering how come you did not learn to be assertive growing up, I remind you that you learn what you live. If you look back at the influential individuals in your early years, and for many of us those parents and teachers were authoritarian, controlling, manipulative, or aloof and uninvolved; you likely learned to interact with others in very similar ways. As children we don’t question what we live and what we are learning.
The good news is that as an adult you can evaluate your ways of interacting with others and determine whether your communication skills are working for you or not. Whether what you are doing is indeed getting you what you want. And if it’s not, you can learn more effective ways of expressing yourself, asking for what you want, and listening in such a way that others will want to communicate with you.
For more information on how you can become more assertive call 458-8211.