For a NEW you, say NO! The world’s best teaching word: Standing up for yourself | Sunday Observer

For a NEW you, say NO! The world’s best teaching word: Standing up for yourself

How are you treated by people? Do you find others taking advantage of you, or not respecting you as a person? Do your colleagues or family members make plans without asking you and just assume you will go along? Do you find yourself in roles you dislike because everyone else in your life expects you to behave as you do?

Sonali, a young, outgoing manager of a small, but busy showroom was meek for many years. She let people walk all over her, ending up being really unhappy a lot of the time. But, one day everything changed.

She’d made a small on-the-job error, and the HR Manageress known for her bullying, sent a reprimand to Sonali’s email address, copying it to the Marketing Manager and the Sales Manager. Sonali acknowledged the error and apologized. Without stopping with that, she showed up at the showroom and reprimanded Sonali in person, in the presence of her staff.

“I snapped,” Sonali said. “I stood up and said firmly, ‘As far as I’m concerned, this conversation is done. You’ve made yourself perfectly clear, and I have apologized. It’s over. If you want to proceed further, complain to the CEO.”

HR Manageress stepped back, and calmly walked out. That was three years ago, and Sonali has never been the same. She had discovered the power of asserting herself and freed herself forever from being bullied, or walked over.

Pulling your own strings

Shiranee came to me because she felt mercilessly controlled by her dominant husband. She complained of being a doormat for his abusive language. None of her three children showed her much respect either, and she was left with no more strength or patience.

As she told me about her past, I heard a classic case of someone who had permitted herself to be victimized since childhood. Her dominant father had monitored her behaviour throughout her formative years right up until her marriage. Her husband turned out to be exactly like her father, so marriage had just put her in the same victim pigeonhole again.

I told Shiranee that she had taught people to treat her that way, that it was not “their” fault at all. She soon realized she had been victimizing herself by taking abuse for all those years and that it was her responsibility to look inward rather than outward for answers to her problems. I advised her to see a Counsellor and gave a name. Later, she told me that he had helped her learn how to stand up for herself.

Shiranee’s new behaviour was geared toward showing husband and children that she wouldn’t be taken for granted. Her first assignment was to stand up to her husband in a firm, but controlled voice, and then leave the room. When the children showed disrespect, she reacted with a firm demand for courtesy.

After several months of practising effective behaviour, Shiranee was happy to report that her family was treating her quite differently. She learnt firsthand that you get treated the way you teach people to treat you. Now, three years later, she rarely receives disrespect or abuse.


Here arc some strategies you can use to teach others how you want to be treated:

Say NO! This is one of the world’s best teaching words. Forget the hemming-and-hawing that gives others room to misunderstand you. People respect a firm NO, more than the fence-walking that conceals your real feelings. You’ll respect yourself more, too.

Refuse to do things that are not necessarily your responsibility. Stop mowing the lawn or doing the laundry for two weeks and see what happens. Hire someone to do the work if you can afford it, or teach others-in the family to begin to take care of themselves. Generally, you are the doer of menial tasks only because you’ve made others understand that you’ll do them.

Use assertive sentences, even where it may seem silly. Speak up to waiters, salespeople, strangers, désk clerks, cab drivers. Talk back to overbearing people. You must be willing to take that first step by overcoming your fear and inertia.

Remember: Every march of a thousand miles begins with one step.

Stop using words that invite people to victimize you. Such put- downs as “I’m not very important.” “I’m not reallv that smart” or “never understand legal matters” are licences for others to take advantage of you.

Learn how to handle whiners, interrupters, arguers, braggarts, bores or similar victimizes. Label their behaviour calmly with statements such as, “You just interrupted me” or “You are complaining about things that will never change.” Such tactics are terrific teaching devices to inform people of their alienating behaviour. The calmer you are, and the more candid you are with your observations, the less time you’ll spend in the victim seat.

Teach others that you have a right to reserve time to do the things you enjoy. Be adamant about taking breaks from a busy office or a hot stove.

Count your relaxation and enjoying time as of paramount importance, which it is, and be firm in not allowing others to encroach on it.

Don’t let others make you feel guilty about your new assertive behaviour. Resist temptation to feel bad when someone gives you a hurt look, a plea, a gift or an angry response. Generally, the people who you’ve allowed to victimize you, wouldn’t know how to react to the new you.

Remember: You get treated the way you teach people to treat you. If you adopt these as a guiding principle of your life, you’ll be on your way to pulling your own strings.

Being assertive doesn’t guarantee that others will always do what you want, but it does give you the confidence of knowing you can stake out your space in the world. When you’re able to assert yourself successfully, you will really feel empowered.