While some people have no trouble being assertive in relationships and daily interactions, others have a tendency to shrink away from conflict. As a result, they miss out on opportunities to have their opinions heard and possibly spark change in their relationships. There are various reasons a person might act timid. For example, stress can lead to an unassertive stance, as can belief systems and fear of rejection or criticism, suggests Margarita Tartakovsky, associate editor at Psych Central, in her article titled, "Five Tips to Increase Your Assertiveness." Nevertheless, several strategies can help you find poor communication skills and stand your ground in your relationship.
Before you stand your ground against your boyfriend, do some prep work to shake off your feelings of anxiety or guilt, suggests Tartakovsky. This is especially necessary if you aren't accustomed to speaking your mind. Practice deep breathing exercises to reduce your heart rate and ease your nerves, suggests Tartakovsky. While doing so, reflect on your need to speak up. Consider the benefits your words can have, not just for you, but for your boyfriend and your relationship, as well.
Rehearse Your Words
Rehearse assertive comments to yourself, suggests Clay Tucker-Ladd, Ph.D. and self-help author, in his PsychCentral article, "Building Assertiveness in Four Steps." While rehearsing, you can imagine your boyfriend’s responses or have a friend to role-play his reactions. If you take the latter option, make sure your friend is familiar with your boyfriend and his typical behavior. Begin with small imaginary conflicts, suggests Tucker-Ladd, before moving on to larger issues. Practice your wording, so you come across as direct yet respectful.
Rehearse Non-Verbal Messages
Communication involves more than just the verbal aspects, reminds MayoClinic.com in the article, "Being Assertive: Reduce Stress, Communicate Better." A well-rehearsed assertive statement will come off as weak, if you mumble through it and can't seem to maintain eye contact. Rehearse confident body language. For example, ensure that you have erect posture and solid eye contact, suggests MayoClinic.com. Avoid gestures that relay a lack of self-confidence, such as fidgeting or slouching. Remember to speak up, and believe that what you have to say is important. Practice this in front of a friend who can provide you with feedback.
Apply what you practiced in real-life scenarios with your boyfriend. Just as with your practice sessions, start with small issues, suggests Tucker-Ladd. For example, if your boyfriend wants to eat fast food for the fifth time in a week, say that you'd rather stay home and cook something together. Be prepared to defend your stance by listing the benefits of eating at home. In the worst-case scenario, expect a disagreement that ends with him eating out and you cooking for yourself. Remember, just because you’re a couple, you don’t have to do everything together, especially if you both have different opinions on a matter. Once you are comfortable with being assertive over small matters, move on to bigger issues.
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