​Tip Top Tip #3

Tip: Don’t be aggressive or passive; be assertive by training yourself in the life skill of SETTING BOUNDARIES.

LEVEL 1 – The training technique

Assertiveness for this discussion is saying “no” when it is in your own best interest to do so. Of course, there is usually more to think about than just your own best interest, but that is the key issue in the essential life skill of assertiveness. When saying “no” appropriately, remember that as an adult with boundaries, you are not obliged to be defensive, apologize, or to give an explanation, although it may go over better if you do offer a good one. Keep in mind that there are many different ways of saying “no,” which can make a big difference in your relationships. For example, you can be rude and blunt about it, pleasant and sweet, indirect or direct, and you can make how you say no appropriate to the situation.

LEVEL 2 – The training tool template

Make a chart of three vertical columns. Label the left hand column as “the situation,” the middle column as “my best interest (to say yes or no),” and the right hand column as “my choice” (yes or no). Keeping this chart will increase your awareness of the issue of assertiveness in your life and prompt you to think about appropriately pursuing what is in your own best interest.

LEVEL 3 – Try a trial test to see what happens

The most appropriate place to be assertive is in your own personal life. It is hard to say no to a boss who has power over you. Try being assertive with someone in your personal life you feel is taking advantage of you and you feel bitter, resentful, disrespected and unappreciated. Wait for an opportunity when you feel you are on really solid grounds to say no and try it. You may also consider being assertive with someone who is respectful and considerate of you.

LEVEL 4 – The target goal

The target is to become an assertive person living within appropriate boundaries around a metaphorical personal territory that you own and manage, equal in size to everyone else’s “property.” That gives you more control of your life, instead of others invading your territory and controlling the choices you make.

LEVEL 5 – Typical cases in point

The majority of my patients are unassertive which can be a huge source of stress. People can go through life being off balance by being too nice and accommodating. Yes, there is such a thing as being too nice. We will discuss the life skill of balance later (under life skill #4). Unfortunately, instead of being appreciated, they are often taken advantage of. Consequently down the road, people who persist in being unassertive often end up depressed or aggressively blowing up.

LEVEL 6 – The theory

By being assertive, you establish personal boundaries that make you a proper entity or person governing your own life. On the other hand, we should all be respectful of others and careful not to be invasive, especially with unassertive people who have no boundaries.

When at the crossroad of committing to yes or no, ask yourself: “What is in my own best interest?” If it would be in your own best interest to say no, and you do, then you are being assertive. If it would be in your own best interest to say no and instead you say yes, then you are being unassertive.

Sometimes the answer to the question is simple; sometimes it can be complex and convoluted. Before you decide to say yes or no, you need to think about the short and long term consequences of your choice. If you like to always be a helpful person, it may be difficult to say no, but when you do, you may later realize that you have saved yourself a lot of unnecessary trouble by simply saying no.

There is hardly ever any urgency to commit to yes or no.  You can almost always tell people you will get back to them. Take all the time you need to think about it on your own, at your upper level of smart thinking.

Remember too that if you say no and later for some good reason change your mind, you can always reverse your decision and say yes; people will love it as an extra special favor. The reverse of saying yes and later changing your mind to no doesn’t work nearly as well.

Assertiveness is plagued with confusion concerning the issue of whether it is O.K. to be selfish enough to look after your own best interest. Good parents teach children not to be selfish: to share, wait their turn, be helpful, be respectful, and be considerate of others, and so on. However, in the background, the parents can take the responsibility to look after the best interest of their children anyway. When children share, the parents can later reimburse what their children have given away. However, after children grow up, the responsibility to look after their own best interest shifts to them. In adulthood, it is good to have the top priority to look after your own best interest by being appropriately assertive and self-ish as the responsible thing to do. We will discuss priority setting as a life skill later (life skill #6). The confusion around this issue may be clarified by realizing that for adults, it is O.K. and responsible to be self-ish in the sense of looking after your own wellbeing, but not greedy.

If you don’t look after yourself, someone else may, which can lead to endless other problems like becoming dependent and being controlled. For many other adults, if and when they don’t look after their own best interest, no one else does.

Of course, people always prefer you to say “yes” to their requests. However, if you are on solid grounds to be assertive, and if you are dealing with reasonable people, they will not only accept your “no,” but they will respect your decision and you as well. Unfortunately, there are some unreasonable people who won’t take “no” for an answer and this makes it more difficult for nice people to still say no. Realizing such people are not being considerate or respectful of you can be helpful to be determined to be assertive with them.

LEVEL 7 – Try more tests and trials

You can further develop the life skill of boundary setting by thinking about where and how far out you ultimately want to set your boundaries. Try more applications to set them there.

LEVEL 8 – Tracking progress

Your tracking tool here can be like your batting average at saying no appropriately. People pitch their requests at you and you do your best not to strike out by saying yes when you should say no. Don’t let your opportunities to say no go by: take a swing at it and see what happens. It feels great when you hit a home run, especially with the bases loaded and you save yourself a lot of trouble.

You may be able to make rapid progress with this life skill because it is simple (but sometimes hard) to do and hopefully the initial results are encouraging. Many newly assertive people are surprised at how easily their new “no’s” are taken with an O.K. and a smile from others.

LEVEL 9 – Take off

Use this life skill to launch yourself away from the problems it can help you solve or resolve and to go on to a better way of living in which you can feel good and function well. Make an extensive list of the specific problems and issues this life skill empowers you to rise above and leave behind. Visualize yourself doing so.

LEVEL 10 – Texts for this topic

For further reading on assertiveness and stress management, I can recommend .

Please Note:Books are not available at this time.