There are many reasons people avoid being assertive. I find the two biggest reasons are:
‘The other person will be upset’ (conflict avoidance)
‘I have no idea how to do it’.
Let’s take ‘The other person will be upset’ first.
A few years ago, I was in a situation where I was expected to do something for my family on a weekly basis. I didn’t mind doing this thing once or twice a month, but once a week was too much for me. If I shared my needs, I knew they would be met with disapproval, and there would likely be some conflict and discomfort. It was better for me to keep doing it and ignore my needs.
Pretty soon, I found myself feeling grumpy and resentful before and after. I could tell that by not being assertive and standing up for myself, I was letting myself down and making the people around me confused because I was not being clear and open about my needs.
It was clear I needed to be assertive with the people concerned. When I spoke my truth clearly and lovingly, explaining how it was from my perspective to my surprise, they agreed! We soon got into a new rhythm, and all was well.
When the block is ‘I have no idea how to do it.’
This is because we have not had it role modeled for us. It is difficult to do anything differently when we are mostly exposed to aggressive, passive, or passive-aggressive communication styles.
The good news is that assertive communication can be learnt.
I’ll be posting more about this over the next few days, so stay tuned.