When you’re feeling hopeless, helpless, powerless, and don’t know consciously how to access your power and leave these feelings behind, it’s often easy to act in controlling ways toward yourself and toward others. In the following example, Jenny discovers that she has a choice in how she responds.
Once during a business meeting, a co-worker asked Jenny to pick up a client at the airport. Inwardly Jenny felt this was a hassle, beneath her job description, and she just didn’t want to do it. Jenny was furious at her friend for asking but found she couldn’t say no, so she agreed to meet the plane. Then Jenny felt hurt, trapped, and hostile. She began to pout by looking down at her notebook and stopped interacting at the meeting.
Situations such as this had happened many times in the past. Usually Jenny would go home and eat, stuffing her anger. However this time, Jenny’s boss confronted her.
“You’re controlling everyone in this room,” she said. “You haven’t said a word, but you’ve had everyone’s attention for the last fifteen minutes. You know it too—you’re smiling.”
Shocked and ashamed, Jenny knew it was true, for she felt like laughing even as she was being confronted about her angry, controlling behavior.
Her boss continued, “If you make the choice to use that energy in a positive, purposeful way, you’d be a powerful being who could accomplish anything.”
Jenny was hit with the truth. Powerful? Angry and controlling? Accomplish anything? She knew she felt like an ashamed little girl and began to wonder about the dynamics of the dichotomy that triggered her urge to laugh.
This was a turning point for Jenny. She gradually became more aware of her behavior and its effect on others, even when she felt powerless and didn’t fully know what she was doing. Deep inside, Jenny knew she was a powerful spiritual being. But she also knew she had bought too heavily into the societal belief that it was more acceptable to be helpless.
That day Jenny learned what it felt like to be on the dark side of control, allowing herself to be controlled, and the flip side of manipulating and controlling others. When Jenny negated her feelings by agreeing to do what she did not want to do, she denied her own truth and undermined her true self, thus lowering her self esteem.
Jenny might have handled the situation differently. She could have asked for support and help from others at the meetingbut she didn’t. It was easier for Jenny to act out of past habits and patterns. Well after the event, Jenny realized she had a choice in how she could respond. The simple truth is this: Jenny could have responded by just saying, “No.”
Saying No and Feeling Good about It
Learn ways to say “No” to what you don’t want in your life so that there’s more room for you to say “Yes” to what you do want.
Some non-assertive verbal samples are apologetic words, veiled meanings, hedging or failing to make a point, rambling, or failing to say what you really want. Some examples of assertive statements are honest statement of feelings, objective words, and using the” I messages.”
(1) Disagree with a straightforward statement (“I don’t agree with your understanding of . . .”)
(2) Confront by denying the statement is relevant to the conversation (“That’s not the point.”)
(3) Reword negative labels by framing it in positive words (“I am not being childish; I’m stating my view.”)
(4) Repeat your main point until it is heard without anger
(5) Ask Questions if you’re not comfortable with a point, or ask for clarification (“How do you see me as childish or selfish?”)
(6) State Feelings by using “I” statements that reflect your opinion about the situation (“I really feel this is important!”)
(7) Be Short and Quick by just saying “NO” directly
A word of caution when you first start to speak up you may experience aggressive statements such as loaded words, accusations, descriptive, subjective terms, imperious, superior words, and the use of “you messages.” For example rather than saying, “You make me feel __________,” the speaker says, “I feel _____________when the floor is cluttered with your cloths.” No one is to blame for someone’s feelings. You have control over how you feel and with practice you’ll learn others cannot make you feel a certain way. You’ll also learn that by your choices you can feel empowered with better self esteem.