For many people, home is where you spend your most important time. Your most valued relationships are there, with the people you love.
But it's not always easy to make those relationships work how you want them to - especially if you have problems being assertive!
Mums are often the hardest hit. If you're a mum with children to look after, a partner to keep happy, lots of housework to do and perhaps a job to go to as well... it can be very tough to make your own voice heard!
A lack of assertiveness at home can affect anyone though: woman or man, grown-up or child.
So today, we're going to run through five ways you can improve your assertiveness and enjoy a happier, more balanced home life.
What is assertiveness?
Before we get into the advice, let's take a minute to think about what assertiveness really is.
Assertiveness is not aggression: Many people associate assertiveness with being aggressive. This can be off-putting for non-assertive people, because you don't want to dominate or attack others. You just want to make your voice heard.
The good news is that you don't need to be aggressive to be assertive.
Being assertive is really about...
- Speaking up for yourself in a positive, pro-active way
- Allowing others to voice their opinions too
- Being clear, direct and honest about what you want
In other words, it's about having useful and productive conversations. Without resorting to being aggressive or acting like a victim.
Assertiveness is about being equal with others: That idea of "victim mentality" brings us to another important point about assertiveness. People who lack confidence, or have low self-esteem, are often afraid to be assertive for various reasons. They might:
- Be afraid of criticism, rejection, losing a relationship, or conflict in general
- Have been raised by your parents to be agreeable with others, ignoring your own needs
- Feel inadequate, as if your opinion is not worth listening to
With the tips we're about to get into, you can start getting over these damaging attitudes and start showing the world who you really are.
1. Know what you want and ask for itLet's start by dealing with a misconception that many non-assertive people have. Namely, that the people you live with already know what you need from them - they just aren't giving it to you for some reason.
- You could finally get enough sleep, if only your partner got up with the baby a couple of times a week. So, why don't they?
- The house would be so much nicer if your kids would just tidy up now and again. Why aren't they doing it?
- You wish your partner would listen to you more, so you could re-connect and get your worries off your chest. Why won't they make time for you?
If you're not an assertive person, then the answer to all these questions is most probably...
Because you haven't asked them to!
This is what being assertive is all about. Your family or housemates do not know what you need from them until you tell them. It isn't necessarily that they're selfish people. It's that they cannot read your mind.
So, think carefully about what you want - what will improve your home life. And ask for it.
2. Recognise your guilt and let go of itOf course, the above is easier said than done. If you've spent a lifetime of going with the flow, never demanding what you need from others, then it's going to be quite unnerving to suddenly begin speaking up for yourself.
You might feel some guilt for asking your partner or kids or parents to make a special effort for you. After all, why should they? What right do you have to make demands of them?
The answer is that you are just as important and special as everyone else!
You deserve the respect and attention of your family and everyone in your home. You just need to start acting like it.
Remember this whenever you are trying to be assertive.
Recognise the guilt you feel as a simple side-effect of whatever conditioning has stopped you from being the assertive, confident person you deserve to be. And simply let it go!
3. Learn to say noBeing assertive is not just about asking for your own needs to be met. You can also be more assertive in how you deal with other people's demands.
- Your partner and kids might expect you to do all the cooking, laundry and housework
- Your partner might expect you to agree with them or go along with their opinions on important issues
- Your parents might expect you to follow a certain life path that they decided for you
Why should they have this control over you, when you are just as important as they are?
Why should anybody, least of all your family, ask you to do an unfair amount of work or stop you from being who you want to be?
The answer is, they shouldn't - so learn to say NO!
You might, again, feel some guilt when you first try to assert yourself by saying no. Remember, again, that this is just how you've become conditioned to feel. In truth, your needs are just as important as others'.
So, say "no" when someone asks you to do something you disagree with or just don't want to do.
4. Be positive, open and honestAt the top of this article we said assertiveness is different from aggressiveness. And that's true.
You might need to confront someone to be assertive. For example, you might disagree with them, or ask them to do something they don't want to do.
However, if you want the best outcome for yourself and the people you live with, then you don't need to be aggressive in your approach. Instead, try to:
- Speak calmly
- Focus on your own needs - use "I" statements such as "I would like it if you cooked dinner more often", instead of criticising the other person.
- Be positive and aim to find the best possible resolution to problems, instead of dwelling on bad feelings
- Once you have spoken, listen to what others have to say and take it on board
It might take you a while to get good at being positive, open and honest in this way. But you have a whole lifetime to practice. And the better you get at it, the happier your home life will be!
5. Start with a small first stepFinally, let's get our expectations levels right. If you've spent most of your life being afraid to be assertive at home, you can't expect to do a 180-flip overnight. Trying to change too much, too fast will probably end in disappointment.
So, start off by trying to be assertive in mildly difficult situations. Try out the methods we have talked through here. Once you become more confident in your new, more direct way of doing things, you can start to be assertive in every aspect of your home life.
What do you want to change about your home life?
And that's all there is to it. Being assertive is not about bossing others around, and you don't need to change who you are. You just need to let the people you live with see more of who you are, and what you want.
You don't need to be angry or aggressive either. It's about knowing you're just as important as everyone else. And letting go of guilt and other bad feelings that have kept you down.
Now you know it, what are you going to change at home?
Whatever it is, we wish you a happier and more assertive home life!
P.S. In case you're not sure about how assertive you are, we have a free, personalised test that you can take and finish in about 5 minutes, which can be found here.