You know it. You finally put the children down and your feet up when your phone rings. It is likely your parents or a friend. You know that most likely they do not want anything major, they just want to chat. However, after a long day of physical and psychological struggle, chatting on the phone is the last thing you want to do. All you need is to sit down, switch off the brain and do not think about anything. After a while, the ringing stops and a text appears on your display. “Can you talk?” You think of what you should do. You want to say ‘no’ but at the same time this idea makes you feel guilty.
Another situation. You have a visit at home and it is slowly getting to the time to put the children into bed. Your family routine when you all spend some time together as a family. Tactfully, you announce to your guest (or guests) that you will soon have to start the evening routine in a hope that they will slowly start to rise. But your guest just nods and stays seated. ‘What now?’ you think. You wonder if you can ask your guest directly to leave, but something within tells you that to do such thing would be mean of you. So you don’t say anything and rather rid yourself of a family evening that you had rightfully looked forward to all day long.
We experience a lot of similar situations. From the simple ones to the ones that are difficult to deal with. It is true that since we became mothers our lives and our needs have significantly changed and we expect others to automatically adjust to these changes. Yes, some people are able to empathise with us. But some do not. Not that they don’t want to, they just don’t think the same way we do (which is only natural, of course). Sometimes we try and help these people to see things from our perspective, while trying not to cross the line of a healthy politeness. Looking for this balance can be challenging and may come across as a problem. In most cases, we ultimately decide to move towards one side or the other. We either please ourselves and risk that we hurt the other party, or we please the other party and hurt ourselves.
By expressing yourself clearly you can provide the satisfaction of both parties, but of course, there are also cases where you cannot influence the reaction of the other party. However, what you can influence is your perception of the situation and therefore your inner wellbeing.
Below, I offer you a few tips that have personally proven to be very effective by expressing my own will.
Remember that you have the same rights as others
This is an alpha omega that personally works as a core pillar on the path to a healthy assertiveness. Whenever I tend to submit my needs to the needs of other people, I keep repeating this sentence in my mind until I believe it. Did you cancel on someone? That is ok, other people cancel meetings too, so why couldn’t you?
Watch the way you interpret the information
In many situations the trick is only in the right interpretation of the information. It’s a big difference to say “I’m not in the mood” or to say,” I’m sorry, I would really love to see you, but I’m totally done. Can we agree on another day please?”
Remember that you will not hurt anyone by expressing your needs
For example – you want to cancel an agreed meeting with a friend as you need some time for yourself. Most of us in such a situation think they cannot be honest because their friend might get offended. But honestly – have you ever been offended when someone cancelled on you? Especially when they reasonably excused their action. You most likely did your best to reassure the other party that it is fine and that you understand them. Why do you think that other people would not perceive the same situation the same way if it was you who cancelled a meeting, didn’t answer the phone etc.?
Bear in mind that if the other party get offended, it is their own issue that does not involve you
Some situations are more complicated and there is a risk that the other party will really get angry or offended. Let’s say you decide to ask your friend after her long-overstayed visit to leave. You say, “I’m sorry, but we soon have to put the kids to bed and I really need to get some rest afterwards. Can we meet again some other time please?” Your friend leaves, but you will yet torture yourself for another few days thinking if your action hadn’t hurt them. Here you need to honestly ask yourself: “Did I hurt them in any way?” No. However bad it sounds – even if your friend gets angry or offended in such a situation, there may be another issue, their own personal problem that they have to deal with. However, this does not involve you.
Know your boundaries
Everyone has to know their boundaries and so should the people in their environment. If you need to switch off and talk to no one while your baby’s asleep in the morning, your surroundings should simply have to learn and respect it. Yes, initially they will get frustrated and may be also trying to (often indirectly) emotionally blackmail you. But if you put your feet down, they will get used to the situation and respect your needs after a while. Although they may not agree with them, they will respect them.
The other day my son cried aloud because he wanted me to hand him something. However, I did not know what it was, because he could only communicate through the sounds, so I tried handing him one toy after another. My son was screaming throwing away everything I had given him until I had given him exactly the toy he wanted. At that moment, I realised how perfect children are in demonstrating their needs. Try to watch your children sometimes how directly they express their will. Little children are not afraid to make themselves clear what they want and what they need at the moment. They do not hesitate and do not think about what others may they think of them.
Of course, I am not condoning rudeness or tactless behaviour as we have learned as our children will with time some level of restraint, but you need to be confident in voicing how you really feel. For your benefit and for the people around you.