This month’s question is asked by reader
Peta Hendrick:Unfortunately we can’t control what others say to us, only our reaction to it. I have often been approached by people asking me how to deal with people who are difficult, either through their actions, words or their attitude. Most of us have someone in our lives whose behaviours we don’t appreciate. People who perhaps act or speak in a way that doesn’t make us feel valued or appreciated. So how best to handle these situations? Unfortunately to manage this kind of scenario we have to turn the mirror back on to ourselves and ask ourselves an important question: What is it that I am doing, that is allowing this to happen?
“Hi. I have a problem. I get picked on about being overweight. I was just wondering how I can stop this? It makes me feel really bad about myself and the way I look.”Hi Peta. I am saddened to hear you are picked on about your weight. People often underestimate the impact of their words and the cruelty of their message can be long lasting.
Because the truth is, that we teach people how to treat us. If someone is continually doing something to us and we let them, don’t be surprised when the behaviour continues. So, if someone feels they have free reign and can make comments about the way you look I would be interested to know how you are responding in that situation. I know that it is challenging, but being assertive in this situation is the best way to communicate your needs and minimise the likelihood of repeat occurrences. To be assertive you are exercising your rights, without impacting on the rights of others.
Being assertive is very different to being submissive and aggressive, which are both manipulative forms of communication. Such phrases as, “It hurts my feelings when you speak about me like that. Please don’t do it anymore”, take courage to say, but their impact can be substantial. When you communicate assertively, try to 1. Use ‘I’ statements: this is about you and how you’re feeling and how you communicate that message – “I feel hurt …” 2. Describe the behaviour: “…when you say I am lazy …” 3. Specify the change you wish for: “I would like you to stop commenting on my weight and behaviour.” Be mindful of your body language when being assertive. Use open gestures and warmth that is appropriate.
Being assertive doesn’t guarantee that the person’s behaviour will stop. However, it will put you in to a position of knowing that you have done all you can. Assertiveness takes courage and practise, however you will feel better within yourself the more you use it.