As a therapist of over twenty years, I’ve had a lot of women come into my office who’ve struggled with setting and keeping boundaries. It seems that we’re not always able to advocate for ourselves because we fear that doing so might come off as rude or hurt our connections with others. This issue came up over and over again and was a major inspiration for my new book, “The Assertiveness Guide For Women: How To Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships” (released yesterday August 1st).
I sat down with Brooke Walker on KSL’s “Studio 5” to talk about how practicing assertiveness can help us get our needs met and also improve our relationships. Here are some highlights from our discussion (and from the book!) about steps to take to set boundaries and also become closer to others:
Self-reflection means understanding your style of communication and assertiveness in the past. It’s usually in our families that we learn how to express (or not express) our feelings, thoughts, needs, and wants. In order to improve your relationships, you need to be mindful of what behaviors and patterns you bring to the current situation.
Not only do we have to look back, but we have to also look inward to understand our emotional state. Look inside yourself to gain awareness of what it is that you feel, think, want, and need. Your body may give you internal cues that something is off; perhaps you’re feeling restless or a tightness in your chest that indicate that something is wrong and needs your attention. Tune in to figure out exactly what is that you’re experiencing.
In intense situations, it’s common to either turn our emotions up full blast or to detach from them out because they’re so overwhelming. A better approach is to try to find that middle ground where we’re informed by our emotions but not controlled by them. Before we can assert ourselves to others in a way that will strengthen our relationships, we have to have the ability to manage our own feelings. This is not always an easy thing to do, but learning and practicing coping skills (like mindfulness and shame resilience) can be a great help.
Once you’ve gained insight into yourself, you’re now ready to communicate to another individual what is it that you need. The heart of assertiveness is differentiation-that is, you’re expressing that you’re different in how you feel, how you think, or what you’d like. Self-expression is more than what you say; it’s also using body language, appropriate timing, and action to back up your words.
True assertiveness is about more than just yourself; it refers to respecting the opinions and thoughts of the other person as valid. The point of relationships is to grow, and through clear communication and setting boundaries, you can be learn to be closer to others as well as be true to yourself.
Click here to learn more about “The Assertiveness Guide For Women.”
If you missed my book launch party on Aug. 1, you can still join in a live Q&A call Tues. April 9, 7PM MST Reserve your seat here