Recently, I was interviewed by “Good Things Utah” as to what is the secret to a happier, healthier marriage. And really, who doesn’t want this kind of marriage? One in which both partners feel connected, valued, and loved. From my 20+ years of experience as a clinical counselor, I’ve found that fostering the skill of empathy can really make all the difference for couples.
As a therapist, one of my favorite things to observe and write about is the intersection of religious beliefs and mental/emotional health. That’s why I was so excited to sit down with Gina Colvin of “A Thoughtful Faith” podcast and discuss Mormon culture in terms of assertiveness, specifically challenges LDS women may experience when it comes to being assertive. Here are some of the main themes from our conversation:
We all want to raise emotionally strong daughters, but sometimes we have to pause and do a little work on ourselves. If you are raising or mentoring a young woman, it’s important for you yourself to identify and own your insecurities, any past issues, and acknowledge any relationship hang-ups you might have. For example, maybe you don’t feel good about your body because of comments your mother made to you when you were a teenager.
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.
Have you ever noticed how much we label each other? Particularly as women, we tend to put each other in boxes: there’s the Pinterest mom, the Amazon-Prime mom, the athlete mom, the working mom, the stay-at-home mom, and the list goes on. In life, we need to organize things to make sense of them in our brains, but it can be problematic when we try to categorize people as well. Human beings are multi-dimensional, and labels, even positive ones (“the pretty one,” or “the smart one”), can be limiting. Here are some strategies to move beyond this and see each other as really people:
There are three stances we can take when communicating in difficult circumstances. The lantern is the goal for all communication. A lantern values her own feelings and thoughts but is also mindful of and sensitive toward those of others. Individuals with a doormat stance often allow their own needs and feelings to be trampled on. Those with a sword stance are perhaps too vocal, even pushy, about their views, as they express them in ways that are harsh and alienating to others.
Thank you for the invitation to share my work on your podcast Lauri’s Lemonade Stand Positivity Podcast with host Lauri Mackey. We break down a real-life situation from Lauri’s life and apply assertiveness skills.
- How to hold up the lantern in difficult conversation
- How to get past intense reactions
- Ask them what they think, feel, want, and need?
I was pleased to have the recent opportunity to speak with Emma Bell of “The Inside Shift” podcast about my latest book, “The Assertiveness Guide For Women: How To Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships.” Although we talked about many different facets of and ideas found within the book, I was especially excited to share my personal experience with developing and practicing assertiveness, which has largely guided my career, my relationships, and of course, my journey in crafting this creative work. Here are some highlights from my discussion with Emma:
How is differentiation of self related to assertiveness? When a woman asserts herself, she is differentiating her needs, thoughts, feelings, or wants from another person. She is essentially saying, “I’m think something different than you. I have other feelings than you do. I’m not you.” True assertiveness, as I define it, means that this is done in a way that’s not alienating or rude but still clearly makes those differences known.
Whether or not we admit it, everyone has problems in their marriages. Everyone. So many times, it seems that we think we’re the only ones struggling in our relationship with our spouse, and this can cause intense feelings of shame and inadequacy.