Quit Being a Pushover: How to Be an Assertive Advocate
By: Zlaty Kahan
Please welcome Zlaty as our newest guest blogger! She owns Jewish ConnectED,the world’s foremost website for the empowerment and education of Jewish Mothers. Add her today!
Your daughter’s therapist sips coffee and texts while she is supposed to be working with your daughter. You stew in resentment as you write a hefty check.
Your child’s teacher has failed to take your child’s disability into account when planning the class trip. You grit your teeth as you watch your child staring out the window, longing to join his peers.
Your son’s teacher doesn’t treat him right, and it’s affecting his self-esteem. Instead of talking to the teacher about it, you badmouth him to your friends.
If any of these examples hit close to home, you’re likely suffering from Mr. Too Nice syndrome.
Nice Guys take a passive approach to life and relationships. Instead of standing up for themselves, they let others trample all over them. They’re considerate to a fault. When they want or need something, they’re afraid to ask for it because they don’t want to bother others. Nice Guys also avoid conflict like the plague.
They’d rather get along than get ahead.
At first blush, Nice Guys seem like angels. They appear easygoing, polite and generous. However, because “go with the flow” is their default approach to life, Nice Guys have little control over their and their children’s lives. They consequently feel inadequate, helpless and stuck. They’re also likely to feel resentful because their unspoken needs aren’t being met and they feel that others are always taking advantage of them – even though they’re the ones who allow it to happen.
As a single person, it is okay for you to be a Nice Guy and be fine with it. Once you are married, though, and have a spouse and kids to take care of, you have a responsibility to others. You have a responsibility to ensure that you are being assertive enough to protect the needs of your nearest and dearest.
Some Nice Guys feel that everyone is stepping all over them and their children and think that the solution is to turn from passive into aggressive. Instead of passively submitting, they feel like they have to stick up for themselves by acting aggressively. They fight to have it their way in every situation, no matter what.
Aggressiveness can be appropriate in some instances, particularly those involving out-and-out competition. However, in most cases, it isn’t a productive style of communication. In fact, persistently using an aggressive communication style often backfires by creating resentment and passive-aggressive behavior in the very people you’re seeking to control.
While passivity and aggressiveness both have their downsides, there is an approach that is the beautiful middle between the two and breeds great results. The beautiful spot for communication is called assertiveness.
Assertiveness: The Beautiful Mean Between Passive and Aggressive
Assertiveness is an interpersonal skill in which you demonstrate healthy confidence and are able to stand up for your child’s rights while respecting the rights of others. When advocating for your child, assertiveness is the golden key.
Assertive Advocacy requires you to be direct and honest with other people. You can’t expect people to fulfill your or your child’s needs by reading your mind. Wishing that something will happen won’t make it happen. If something is bothering you, you need to speak up politely in a calm and decent manner.
Assertive Advocacy also requires an understanding that while you can request something, others are well within their right to say no. When a disagreement arises and you remain cool and in control, you can then accomplish a mighty lot. If you react with decency and honesty, you are greatly upping your chances of reaching a compromise. In the face of adversity, listen closely to what the other party has to say, acknowledge it, respect their opinion and then move on to state your own.
Assertive Advocacy means giving others the message that, “Of course you are going to care about what I want once you understand what it is.” What I have to say is imperative to me, and I believe that you are a generous person such that this will matter to you, too.”
Assertive Advocacy Behavior:
• Use body language that is calm, aware and confident.
• Make eye contact. When wanting people to pay attention to you, looking into their eyes respectfully is an effective communication tool.
• Have your facial expression match your message. This means maintaining a neutral face if you are disagreeing with someone or a friendly face if you are seeking help.
• Use polite language that is both definite and respectful, such as, “This is my daughter’s right,” “This is what the law has to say” and “According to the law, please provide my son with an aid.”
• Use an assertive voice. Speak in a positive, clear voice instead of speaking in a hesitant, meek whisper.
• Speak in an upbeat, positive tone of voice.
Start small, learn how to state your wishes and make assertiveness a part of who you are.
We can all think of people around us who are assertive. With a little bit of practice and training, you can be that person affecting change for the people that matter most to you. Practice assertiveness; your children will be grateful forever.