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Motivate Yourself 120: Being Assertive. Just Say No!

Have you ever said “Yes” to something, when in your head you’re screaming “Nooooo!”?
Maybe you fit in with the attitude that “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person”
After all, that’s what people say isn’t it?
But, why is that?
Is that because busy people are good at getting things done? Or is that a majority of busy people are only busy because they find it difficult to say “No” to people?

Because, it’s quite hard to say “No” isn’t it?
We want to be compliant, we want to be liked. But it can go a bit far when we’re constantly being taken advantage of.
It damages our self esteem, our belief about ourself. It’s one thing for others to see us as a bit of a soft touch but eventually we begin to think that way about ourselves, and see ourselves as weak.
So, not only do we resent others but we start to dislike ourselves!

So. what’s it all about?

Looking at some research done at the Max Planck Institute It seems that it can often go back a long way. Their research with toddlers showed that we are born wanting to help others and that we have to learn to be selfish.
When the researcher drops a clothes peg and can’t reach it the child will automatically jump up to help.


If it’s obvious that the researcher drops the peg on purpose, but still can’t reach it. A huge majority of the time the toddler wont help.
So yes, it is in our instincts to be altruistic, to look after each other, but not if they aren’t prepared to look after themselves.
Even an 18 month old will see what’s going on and not help. But what happens after that?

What happens, as we grow, that changes us, that allows others to take advantage?

In most people I think its a way of preventing emotional pain. We compare the pain in having to comply with the pain of being thought of as unhelpful and compliance wins!
But in order for compliance to win we have to exaggerate the negative possibilities in saying “No”. Making assumptions that the other person will think of you as unfriendly or unreliable.

As with many issues that clients present to me they usually have an initial sensitising event or even a group of them. The brain learns that if you’re ever in the same situation again you have to make sure you stay safe, and it creates anxiety about it.

So, why have anxiety about saying “No”?
Who’s the anxiety really about?
Is it really that person who stands over your desk with extra work for you?
Or is it just the same brain circuitry that connected up when you were confronted by a bully at school?
Or even a bully at home?
Or earlier in your career?

There may be those initial sensitising events, but the reason the brain is still firing off the anxiety response all these years later isn’t because it started. It’s because it didn’t stop.
The anxiety belongs in the past and the person who’s putting pressure on you now to do something that you don’t feel you should do, is different.

So let’s learn to say “No”.
Whether it’s to door to door sales people or sales calls on the phone. There are plenty of opportunities to practise.
Recognise that saying “No” will not collapse your universe, it doesn’t make someone hate you.
But remember, there’s a difference between being assertive and being aggressive.
When learning to be more assertive people can sometimes forget that, and so it feels unrealistic to become that sort of character. But you don’t need to be.
Assertiveness is right in the middle between being passive and being aggressive. It enables you to be able to put your point across in such a way that it shouldn’t anger the other person.
That way if they do become angry then you know that it’s more of a reflection on them then on you.

As always if you want any extra help with this then let me know.

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