Assertiveness and Boundaries
Happy and effective people have developed an awareness of their needs, feelings, and values. They are able to see the inherent worth of their own perspective, while also valuing the perspectives of others.
Effective assertiveness is a product of this awareness.
Here’s an example: If you are feeling angry or hurt about something in the moment, it’s unlikely that you’ll make a very good self advocate. Your attempts to communicate will often push others away. However, if you take the time to acknowledge your anger and talk about your hurt with someone you trust, at least three things begin to happen:
- You begin to release your feelings by expressing them.
- You begin to build validity for your position and feel less vulnerable about it. (“Something happened that I didn’t like and my response is valid.”)
- You stop wasting your energy trying to contain “negative” feelings. Many people fall into the trap of thinking “I don’t want to be the kind of person who is angry or sad.” They spend tremendous resources trying to repress these feelings. This process results in a deadening of the self–a process sometimes called “emotional leveling.” The person is no longer acutely aware of their vulnerable feelings, but this repression takes so much energy that they effectively cut off the top end of the scale as well: joy, creativity, and passion.
When a person feels grounded in their position, when they feel entitled to their response and have some clarity about their needs, values, and feelings, they can afford to be more giving in their communication. Most of us know someone who is able to maintain compassion during a conversation or negotiation, yet who still advocates well for their own needs. This is because they feel less pulled to defend where they are coming from during the debate; they are operating from a secure internal foundation and can therefore afford to be more open to outside perspectives.
The concept of “good boundaries” is highly related. When people talk about good boundaries, they often mean a person who can stand firm in the face of outside influence. But good boundaries are more than that. A person with healthy boundaries is able to remain open to outside information as well.
Many people report that when things get emotionally tough (at work, in their relationships or friendships, etc.) they start seeing situations and other people in black and white terms. People become all good or all bad. This process is called “splitting”. It happens when people have exhausted their resources to remain open to the world and begin to oversimplify in order to protect themselves. This is incredibly common!
As a therapist, I help individuals and couples explore their met and unmet needs, feelings, and values. This kind of work leads to lasting change. It also results in an expanded sense of self, increased happiness, better assertiveness, and better boundaries.
My clients have found it helpful to work on their assertiveness and boundaries for many reasons:
- More effective self-advocacy at work.
- Better communication in friendships and relationships.
- Less likely to repeat unhealthy relationship patterns.
- Increased self-worth that comes with self-expression.
If you think working toward increased assertiveness and better boundaries might be a part of your personal growth, send me an email or give me a call.
Phone: (503) 757-6259
3050 SE Division, Suite 260, Portland, OR (In the ‘D Street’ building.)