So many of us are automatically programmed to do the 'right thing' when something is asked of us. If we've been 'well brought up' we may find it hard to resist the temptation to be useful, help others, not disappointment or cause offense. Yet agreeing, not saying how we feel or sometimes saying 'yes' when we do not want to, can lead us to feeling unused, unappreciated and resentful.
– When we learn to be assertive and express ourselves well , in an appropriate way, it means that when we do say 'yes' to something we're happy to undertake that extra task, meet up socially, do a favor, take things further . We're not feeling cajoled, bullied or guilty-tripped. On occasion we may agree to do things we're not too keen on or stay quiet and bite our tongue. We'll view it as a trade-off; it may be important to gain brownie points or simply be good manners.
However, if we sense that our acquiescence has become a regular pattern, that others now expect us to always agree, we may need to consider the signals we're giving. When we express ourselves well it becomes an integral part of establishing balanced relationships. So it's important to notice if others have begun to view us as a pushover and 'yes' is now becoming the most negative word in our vocabulary.
– Saying how we feel means that we're committed to establishing equal relationships , are keen to be open, honest and comfortable together. When we're at ease and prepared to give, share and be real about our feelings it helps us build trust and mutual respect, where communication occurs naturally. No one's keeping a tally of who does good deeds and favors or is having to think before they speak.
If, over time, we notice that we're the one who's always helping out, is obliging, saying 'yes' when we'd prefer to say 'no' and getting nothing in return we may start to feel frustrated and let down. Rarely receiving consideration or a simple 'thank you' can signal time to start expressing yourself better and saying how you feel rather more often.
– Remember though that others may not fully appreciate how you're thinking or feeling. If you're quiet you may appear sullen, indifferent or in agreement with what's been decided. Watch for this becoming a pattern in a relationship, especially if one person is dominant or strongly opinionated. The fact that you may have given a massive concession, or made a major investment of yourself may have escaped their notice. They may have asked a question where they expected you to say then you feel then simply taken at your word.
I remember a client, a top female manger in a male-controlled national company. She was seriously stressed, working long hours with virtually no free time or personal life. She always said 'yes' to her manager because she was worried that if she did not he would assume she was not coping and was not up to the job. One evening she was driving home from work late at night. Her boss called and asked her to do an urgent report for him.
She'd worked on her confidence and so felt able to readily explain what she was already working on, that she was happy to do the report but needed his input on rescheduling her workload to incorporate the new request. It turned out that he was unaware of her other commitments, was inquiring if she had any spare capacity and was happy to get someone else to do it. She deal with his request calmly and effectively, expressed herself well and so avoided automatically saying 'yes' and ending up working through the night.
– Good communications are important. Being open and honest, expressing clearly that you're happy to do something, want to be supportive, spend time together, but need others to reciprocate, understand and appreciate your point of view is a positive way of investing in your relationships. It's important to indicate what you want from your partner in return.
– When we feel obligated, pressured or second-guessed we can start to feel resentful . Always being the 'good guy' can wear thin, especially if it becomes similar that others automatically assume we will go along with their wishes. We can feel unappreciated, disregarded, inconsequential. But if we do not speak up and say how we feel we have to accept some responsibility for other people's prayers. It's important to deal with a situation before it impacts too much on our relationships.
If this is you, take time to reflect on why you have this mindset, why this pattern has evolved in your relationships. Were your role models people-peasants, always compliant; was disagreement considered as argumentative, unattractive, unacceptable; Were your views and wishes criticized and dismissed?
– Looking at other people's relationships and comparing them to our own can be an interesting exercise . Watch how others enjoy adult conversations, discuss their wishes, compromise and negotiate. We can then learn how to modify the way we express ourselves.
Becoming more confident in a positive, assertive way can add significantly to the quality of our relationships, and the spin-off can be that we also improve our relationship with ourselves.