Want to become more assertive without being a bitch?
You know that feeling of saying yes to a client that you actually really don’t want to work with, or you’re at a party when you’d really, reaaally rather be at home watching Netflix?
That’s not a good feeling to have. You need to ensure you’re always taking care of your health and wellbeing, and that in part comes down to making sure you’re filling your life with fulfilling activities.
So what do you do when an invitation comes along that you really don’t want to accept? Or when a client wants to work with you, but truthfully, that isn’t what you want right now?
It all comes down to becoming more assertive and saying no with confidence. Now, confidence is a topic we like here over at FastForwardAmy. I discuss it on my Instagram, and there’s a whole podcast episode dedicated to how I became regained my confidence (episode 2 of the FastForwardAmy Show).
My friend and coach Joy Coach Sarah joined me on my podcast to discuss this very issue, and we’re going to share our “How to be Assertive Without Being a Bitch method”.
Ready? Then let’s begin.
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“What would it feel like if you could make a decision based on your own best life and wellbeing, and then communicate that in a way that’s acceptable and clear, without folding to other people’s expectations or what society says you should be doing?
It would feel pretty great,” says Coach Sarah.
But here’s the thing we need to make very clear. We're not asking you to be mean, and we're not asking you to be flaky and change your mind a whole lot. It’s all about learning how to make clear decisions in the first place, and then communicating those decisions in a way that is helpful for everyone in the business or personal relationship.
Tune into your body
The first step to making and communicating your decision is literally to figure out what your body is telling you. Your body is very smart, and often it can tell you things through the way you’re feeling.
“We’ve all felt that sinking feeling when we do something that isn’t right for us,” says Sarah. “And we’ve all also felt that wonderful fountain of joy in our hearts when we’re able to do something that’s so right for us.”
Think of it as going on a first date. You might have experienced this before yourself — I know I have! You’re there at the first date, and already 10 minutes in, you get this feeling of “oops, this is not it for me.” But still, you grudgingly go through with it. And then after, if the guy wants to go on another date, you might say yes even though you KNOW you don’t want to. Maybe you feel like you should give it another shot, or your friends set you up and you don’t want to disappoint them. But you know what your gut is telling you, and what your body is telling you. So the first step is to listen to that signal from your body.
If you’re not used to checking in with your body to see how you feel, this idea might feel strange or difficult to you.
Here’s what Sarah advises: “I’ve had clients even set a timer on their phone to go off three times a day. And when that timer goes off, their job is to just be like, Oh, how are my feelings right now? It’s a question of really randomly just practicing to see how you feel. Am I comfortable? Am I uncomfortable? Am I happy? Am I sad? You know, what's going on here? Do I feel engaged? Do I feel bored to death? I mean, there's a bazillion ways we could feel!”
Once you feel able to accurately listen to the signs your body is sending you, it’s time to move onto the next step: making your decision.
Decide what YOU want to do
If you’re a people pleaser like me, you’ll know that this can sometimes feel like a challenge. You know that you don’t want to work with a particular person, but you say yes anyway because you feel bad about turning them down.
But here’s the thing. You are not responsible for other people’s emotions.
One more time for the people in the back: You are not responsible for other people’s emotions.
Sure, it’s natural to think oh, this person’s going to feel rejected, or they’re going to be mad at me. But you know what? That doesn’t really matter. That’s their responsibility.
“Your responsibility is being you, and being kind and clear. But how THEY feel about your decision? Absolutely not your responsibility,” says Sarah.
Saying no and setting boundaries is a challenge even if you’ve been practicing for years. Sarah’s tip? Try repeating a mantra to yourself over and over, along the lines of ‘their emotions aren’t my responsibility’. You have to keep reminding yourself of this over and over again, because you need your boundaries to be the best you possible. We want to care for people we love from a place of strength, and in order to maintain that strength we need to set boundaries for ourselves.
For me, I really like going out for a bottle of wine with girlfriends and just lounging around. But I really don't like going to festivals, or really busy parties. My brothers love going to festivals, and often they'll ask me, and I'll feel torn. And in that moment, I'm like, Hmm, I don't want to miss out and get FOMO. And then I really just need to go back to myself and be like, Okay, what do I want, instead of what does someone else want for me?
Listen to your body, and then make a decision based on what it’s telling you.
And once you’ve made that decision? It’s time to communicate it to everyone around you.
Communicate clearly and unapologetically
Communicating in a way that gets your point across in a way that is still kind is all about the language you choose. And a lot of times in language, especially as women, we apologize. If we go back to the date example, we’d say, “Oh, I'm so sorry. You know, it's me. It's not you. It's just not right for me right now.”
Here’s what Sarah says about how you can deal with this: “You’ve probably experienced a situation in which you think of all these little wishy washy ways to try to get around saying what we really mean. We try to justify our actions because we're feeling emotional pressure. And you don't have to justify your actions. You could just say, “Thank you for that date. But I don't think we're a good fit.” And that's all! You don't have to say anything else at all.”
This is also something I’ve got first hand experience with. I was building my online business and people kept asking me to train with me one on one, but I had a waitlist and it wasn't doing that anymore. And I felt like I had to justify it. But what you can do it there is you can say, “Oh, I'm so sorry, I'm not taking on new clients.” Or you can just say, “I'm not doing that right now. Here's a referral I can make for you. Best of luck.” See — we’re getting the point across, without being a bitch!
It’s what Sarah refers to as taking personal authority — we don’t want to make excuses and say we’re sorry, because the truth is that we’re not sorry, we’re evolving. And that’s nothing to be sorry about. Don’t apologize, just inform. It’s a really powerful thing to do, informing people of your own evolution. You’re not asking for permission, you’re just telling people clearly and calmly. You're allowed to make your own decisions and to then just communicate them.
And so to recap: you live your best life by living in a way that’s authentic to YOU. And in order to make the right decisions for you, you can follow this 3 step plan that we’ve just gone through. First, tune into your body and learn to listen to what it’s trying to tell you. Then, make your decision based on those feelings. It’s not selfish — it’s you living authentically and in a way that’s necessary for you to stay healthy. And finally, communicate your decision without apologizing. Always kindly, always calmly, because we’re not trying to be a bitch here. We’re just making sure to prioritize our health and wellbeing above everything, because that’s what allows you to be the best version of you out there.
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