Speak up! How to be an assertive woman

Despite feminism being around for quite a while, some girls and women are still suffering from ‘nice girl’ syndrome. When someone cuts in front of us at the supermarket, we bite our lip and fume in our heads. When the new hairdresser makes a complete mess of our hair the day before a friend’s wedding, we smile and say they did a nice job.

But women who become mums discover they’re more than ready to stand up for their kids. If our kids are treated without respect, if they’re pushed aside, we’ll step in to sort it out.

So why don’t we do it for ourselves?

Are we still waiting for someone to rescue us?

We’re trapped in our minds, following those fairy tale rules: be serene and calm, one day your prince will come.

What if there’s no prince?

Maybe it’s time to rescue yourself.

I think the idea of nice girl versus mean girl is where the problem starts.

Whilst Hollywood fuels our fantasies of punching the soccer coach who puts our son on the bench… or telling the spiteful teacher that her make-up is trashy, neither of these acts will help us, or our kids.

I’ve discovered that I can be firm without being nasty.

We can be kind, compassionate, loving people, and still stand up for ourselves.

“It is a mistake to look at someone who is self-assertive and say, ‘It’s easy for her, she has good self-esteem.’ One of the ways you build self-esteem is by being self-assertive when it isn’t easy to do so. There are always times when self-assertiveness requires courage, no matter how high your self-esteem.”Nathaniel Branden

Hairdresser curling a client's hair in a busy salon

Find your voice

We can express our frustration or disappointment without throwing our handbag at the crossing lady who mutters “your daughter has such messy hair”.

Three tips for speaking up:

    1. Take a minute or two to calm down. When you’re angry or upset your brain is in overload. The words you need to say will be pushed aside for more aggressive ones. The person you’re speaking to goes into defensive mode. You probably know how taking deep breathes helps to relax but really pay attention to your body, unclench your fists, ease the tension in your shoulders. No-one is expecting you to smile, in fact a calm but firm approach is best done with a straight face. Let them know you mean business and treat it like that, business, not an emotion fuelled cat-fight.
    1. Ask questions. Before you jump in with all the things you want to say, ask them open ended questions. “Is there a way you can make this side blend in?” Perhaps the hairdresser just broke up with her boyfriend and isn’t concentrating because she’s heartbroken. Or the soccer coach is so stressed out about winning because when he was a kid, his coach told him losing was worse than not showing up for a game. Every person has their own dramas in life and maybe their actions can be understood if you can see where they’re coming from. Maybe the crossing lady worries about your daughter being teased if her hair isn’t perfect.
    1. Be in the moment. Forget every other day when you’ve been annoyed with your friend for turning up an hour late… focus on this day, this moment, as it is. Tell them how hard you work to be on time for them and how it feels like they don’t care about your time being wasted. Of course, you can mention that this isn’t the first time it has happened. But don’t let all those moments from the past build up in your head or you’ll explode in anger. Then your friend will react back and both of you will walk away hurt. And don’t fantasise about the possible futures where you know they’ll do it again. They might do it again, there’s probably a 90% chance they will, but you do not know for sure that it will happen until it does. Give them the benefit of the doubt and don’t get yourself tangled up in your anger over something that hasn’t happened yet.

“Once you have a major success with assertiveness, you learn that it’s a much healthier path than being a doormat to the insensitive folks. You gain respect for yourself, have more time for your priorities, and develop authentic and healthier relationships.”Doreen Virtue

Next time the girls at your favourite clothes store snigger about your dirty sneakers remember that you are an assertive woman now. Walk over to them and say “Yes, my shoes are grubby but they’re so comfortable and I love them. You’re being rude and you’ll lose me as a customer if you keep it up. Have a great afternoon.” Smile and exit.

As you walk away, allow yourself to utter the words you really would like to say. Then take a deep breath and look around you. That moment is past, move on to the next and enjoy it.

Hi, I’m Kara, your friendly fitness copywriter.

I help health, fitness and wellness professionals make their words sell. From writing epic sales pages to making their content SEO friendly, I’ll get your words working for you. A healthy living nerd, you’ll often find me doing a yoga or weights session finished off by a swim at my local beach on the stunning Mornington Peninsula.

If you like my style and you need blog posts written, let’s chat.

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