The Assertiveness Guide for Women: How to Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships by Julie de Azevedo Hanks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Lots of really good insights and ideas in this book. It's specifically for women but I felt like there was a lot of great information for all genders. It paired really well with so many of the things my therapist is having me work on too and really made me look at myself and others in new ways.
Being assertive in our communication means being able to take care of ourselves and others in our problem solving. Other ways of communicating are aggressive, passive aggressive and just passive. When we deviate from assertive and become aggressive we might get what we want temporarily but we don't foster good relationships or end up getting we need long term. When we communicate passively we might temporarily keep the peace but we don't get we want and we might end up with a lot of resentment or a blow up later.
To discover what type of communicator we are Julie Hanks also has look at what kind of attachment we are most comfortable with. She starts by taking you back to your family or origin and discussing the attachment styles we pick up very early on in life and how those styles can effect our communication as adults. The three attachment styles she discusses are secure, anxious and avoidant.
An anxious style can lead us to be overly connected or clingy, distraught about separation, dependant on others for validation, and give us an unhealthy view of where we end and another person begins. It can also lead to depression or anxiety when we don't live up to expectations of those we are close to. This obviously can be a barrier to healthy assertive communication.
An avoidant style can hinder our ability to have close relationships, cause us to feel unattached, makes us unaware of our own emotions, or cause us to cover things up or not confront problems. This can make for bigger problems later on by leading to depression or the realization that we haven't really "let things go" and is a barrier to assertive communication also.
It was interesting to discuss this with my husband and see that we are in fact totally opposite in our attachment styles and communication. I have a very anxious attachment style while his was avoidant. Maybe that means our kids will be secure? :)
The author says that chances are we won't be able to totally change our attachment style but knowing what we do and why we do it helps us to work within our attachment style to find a place of assertiveness. If we know what our negative tendencies are (not to speak up, lashing out, etc.) we can replace them with positive actions. The way she sets out for us to do this is by learning about our emotions.
As we begin to identify our emotions we can seperate our thoughts and feelings. The way she has us do this is by using this sentence: I feel _______ when________ because I thought ___________. Example would be I felt mad when you didn't take out the trash because I thought you were ignoring me and didn't love me.
I've been working with my therapist about this and she has the same sentence seperated out into I felt _____ when ____ because I have a need for ______. And the author of this book discusses seperating our needs and wants from our thoughts and feelings also. It's hard for others to give you what you want or need if you don't even know what you want or need. That is why it's so important to figure it out.
She also discusses what barriers we set up for ourselves in the way of assertive communication. Some of these might be not wanting to make things worse, not wanting to make anyone mad, feeling guilty about putting our needs at the forefront, not wanting to be misunderstood, etc. One that I keep coming back to in my own life is that I feel like it's selfish to have wants or needs. Like I can't be a good enough mom, wife, pto member, etc. if I have needs that also have to be met. I also have a fear of being a burden or dissapointment to others. If I could just have no opinions or desires it would be totally perfect for everyone I'm sure ;)
Since the author is writing this specifically for women she also talks about the cultural and societal factors that impact our gender. In our society there is a huge emphasis put on women's ability to care for others and sometimes we take that to the next step of not caring for ourselves at all. Being assertive helps us take care of others and ourselves. Part of this is the art of saying no! She gives a lot of good advice on finding balance in our lives and being able to say no to things we cannot do. She talks about being able to know when we are feeling resentful, or overly burdened, or when we are stretching ourself too thin. Being in touch with our emotions helps us take better care of ourselves. And when we take better care of ourselves we have more and better things to give to others.
She then takes us through the practices of self relection, self awareness, self soothing, self expression and self expansion. One of my favorite parts was the act of self soothing. She sets out an exercise for us to do. When we feel upset about something she suggests doing for ourselves what we might do for someone else. Rubbing our arm or giving ourself a hug and saying things like "of course your upset. This and this and this happened. You've been working so hard. That must be so dissapointing". By soothing ourself before we confront someone else we can get to the root of our problems and address those with others instead of just reacting out of anger. When we can stay in control of our emotions then we have a better chance of communicating them to others.
She also goes through some really amazing steps that we need to take before we communicate. Great ideas about starting conversations softly and paying attention to body language before we jump into hard topics. She also has some good advice on setting up boundaries and dealing with toxic personalities who aren't receptive even to the most assertive communications.
I felt really empowered by this book and have also been able to use it and see it's benefits in my life already. I've been able to more effectively apologize when I'm wrong, and I've stopped myself from apologizing for things I don't really need too. I'm been able to smooth out a hard situation and been able to set up boundaries for myself. Reading this in partnership with some of Brene Brown's work has helped me to let go of some of that gender shame I pull around with me. Internal dialogues like I'm not good enough, I'm being selfish, etc. And it's really helped me to better see people and respond to them in appropriate ways. As I gain confidence in speaking up for myself in assertive ways I don't have to worry or feel guilty for how they choose to treat me because I know that I've tried to do my best. It's helped me realize that sometimes others are just unreasonable and that it's okay if I can't please everyone. I still fail at all these things A LOT but I'm at least more concious of my pitfalls and how to avoid them. I highly recommend this book!
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