Ever feel resentful, overwhelmed, or under-appreciated? Whether the source of your angst is a boss, a co-worker or a life partner, chances are you are complicit in how you are treated. While it’s sometimes hard to speak up if we perceive we have less power or less right to be accommodated than another party, for any relationship to last––and for our own mental wellbeing––we need to find our footing and our voice. If you’re the first to run or the first to make a caustic remark when you’re stressed, these five tips may help you overcome a fight or flight response to confrontation so you can stay calm and say what needs to be said.
1. Don’t assume people should “get it” without you needing to say it.
If you don’t say what you want, you can’t blame others for not magically presenting you with what you need. We all bring different life experiences to the table; while you were raised to respect the feelings of others, your co-worker might have been encouraged to be the center of attention in every setting. That’s why it is important to clearly and confidently state what you need or expect. So forget hints; be explicit and direct. We often confuse manners for self-censure, and they are not the same thing. You can say what you need respectfully but firmly – at work and in your personal life as well.
2. Train yourself to be specific in your language.
You must present a report on Friday; ask for anyone else’s input “before Thursday night” rather than “as soon as possible”. If you need a hug when you walk through the door at night, don’t say you want “some affection”, say you’d really appreciate a nightly embrace. The more specific you are, the more likely your request is to be met.
3. If being “assertive” makes you feel uncomfortable, adopt a “confident, optimistic” approach. When you ask for something like a raise, ask for the absolute best outcome you want – the amount you really think you are worth and not a lesser amount. Companies seldom give more than is asked for, so don’t set yourself up to be disappointed. Ask for what you want with confidence and optimism and you’ll be more likely to get the most possible.
4. Don’t make ‘no’ a personal rejection.
Let’s face it, nobody gets everything they ask for. If you can only deal with “yes”, then you will leave anything that is questionable in limbo far too long. Some sales people would rather cling to a “maybe” than ask a client what is standing between them and a yes. Because of that, they fritter away valuable time on a non-productive “lead” to nowhere. Knowing where you honestly stand is a good thing in any relationship. Knowing you’ll have to do something differently or approach someone else to get what you need is valuable information that allows you to move forward, not stay stuck in your own disappointment or resentment loop.
5. Know (and communicate) what you won’t do or allow.
Whenever possible, don’t contribute to “gray areas” when it comes to personal boundaries. Setting realistic boundaries about how you expect to be treated, and communicating when someone breaches a boundary, is a sign of maturation and respect for yourself. If you have no interest in an organization, or it has no benefit for you, don’t join it because someone else wants you to.
It’s your one and only life and you can’t get compromised minutes back. Knowing what you want and don’t want, and asking for what you need clearly and concisely, will go a long way to safeguarding your personal satisfaction at work – and at home.