This week I attended an assertiveness course through work. It all came about after a dip in my confidence following my three months of sick leave due to a relapse at the end of 2012. It took me a while to get back to how I was pre relapse and as a result I was understandably a bit anxious. My manager suggested this course. However there were no spaces available at the time so roll on 15 months and he advised me that I was now able to go on the course. I wasn't sure I needed it to be honest. I felt like I was managing well at work now and could be assertive when I need to be. However I decided that there was nothing to lose and went along.
I thought that the course might have just involved telling us the differences between submissive, aggressive and assertive behaviour and the skills needed to assert yourself. Actually surprisingly there was a lot of self awareness to be done and I learned quite a bit about myself and the reasons why I communicate in a particular way; the influence of my parents, school, peers, work, my relationships. Although this course was specifically for work, in my personal life there are quite a few situations that mean I need to be aware of my communication style. These include my relationships with friends, family and also my son. With assertive behaviour you have a right to have your needs met but equally need to respect the views of others.
We did a few questionnaires during the course and unsurprisingly I came out as being a 'people pleaser' and a 'perfectionist'. I often put others needs before my own. I think that's quite a common trait in ME sufferers. I have a habit of agreeing to do things without thinking about the impact first. So that's the first thing I need to look at. Secondly I tend to hold onto stuff I am unhappy about until it gets too much and then I let it out, ranting for a while - not helpful as the person on the receiving end gets defensive and switches off meaning there is no productive outcome.
Being submissive and aggressive are actually pretty tiring and stressful styles of communication and as a result take a lot out of us. Although initially it can be uncomfortable, getting into the habit of being assertive can only be a good thing. It can make us feel more empowered and our voice gets heard, while the other person/people also feels listened to and respected.
We focused on the drama triangle (karpman) nd transactional analysis (Berne) should you wish to look into what I've talked about further.
Do you find it hard to be assertive?