How Assertiveness Improves Relationships: Beyond The Couch Podcast
I recently was interviewed by Dr. Sally Nazari for the “Beyond the Couch” podcast. We talked about assertiveness (of course) and ideas from my book, “The Assertiveness Guide For Women: How to Set Healthy Boundaries, Communicate Your Needs, and Transform Your Relationships.” Over the past year, I’ve spoken and written a lot about this topic, but for this interview, we really focused on the main reason why it all matters. The final part of the subtitle of the book says it all: assertiveness has the power to transform your relationship. Sure, assertiveness can be beneficial for your own mental health and can help you express your feelings, thoughts, needs, and wants, but all of these reasons are means to help you achieve the primary goal of becoming closer in your connections with others. Here are some takeaways from my conversation with Dr. Sally:
What Assertiveness Is (and What It’s Not)
In order to understand what assertiveness is, I find that it’s helpful to first identify what it isn’t, as there are many misconceptions about it: it’s not being pushy, aggressive, or demanding. It also doesn’t just mean speaking your mind or telling people what you think. Instead, assertiveness refers to reflecting on your emotional history, understanding and managing your feeling, then expressing yourself in a way that will strengthen your relationships. It’s a way of articulating what you believe while also allowing room for differences. Overall, assertiveness is a way of being your true self while also becoming closer to others.
The Gift of Resentment
Part of being assertive is getting in touch with your inner experiences to help guide you. One thing that I’ve found can really give me clues to what I need to do in my emotional life is what I call the gift of resentment. This may initially seem counterintuitive: how can feeling resentful toward someone help me get closer to him/ her? The truth is that feeling frustrated, bitter, or indignation against another person can help us know when we need to set a boundary or take a stand. When I feel resentful toward someone that I care about, I can use these feelings to help me express that I feel differently and that something needs to be addressed or changed. Sure, this can be uncomfortable, particularly since women are socialized to be non-confrontational, but I’ve found that the most intimate relationships are ones that have weathered some storms, where concerns have been resolved, and where there’s a newfound closeness. For this reason, resentment can be a great cue into determining what you need, feel, want, and think; it’s a big red flag that it may be time to practice assertiveness.
Resolving Assertiveness Concerns
In my years as a therapist, I’ve found that the biggest obstacle for women concerning assertiveness is the fear that it will hurt their relationships. Many are scared that speaking up and expressing difference will cause harm or disruption in how they connect with others. That is always a risk we take, but the people in our lives that are worth being close to won’t abandon us in the face of conflict or disagreement. Yes, it can be uncomfortable, and there’s likely emotional work that needs to be done, but assertiveness is the key to showing up, being heard, and presenting your most authentic self, which will ultimately result in healthier and stronger relationships.
Click here to download the first chapter of “The Assertiveness Guide For Women.”
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.