In the first assertiveness post, I explained the importance of having boundaries between us and other people. In the second post, I explained the difference between sharing and justifying and the connection between confidence and assertiveness. I hope you have had a chance to assess your own communication and find the phrases that trigger your pressure in conversation. Today, I will share with you some things that we should keep to ourselves if we want to strengthen our confidence about them.
Keeping things to yourself does not mean keeping them a secret. Assertiveness comes from confidence, while secrets come from fear. Sharing is expressing yourself confidently without reservation and without any pressure to convince others or justify your own thoughts and beliefs.
Here is a list of things you can keep to yourself or share selectively. If you are confident about them, you do not need validation, approval or to have the majority with you to hold them. If you want someone’s opinion, ask. If someone asks for your opinion, respect their choice not to accept it or to do whatever they want with it. If they disagree, do not like it or do not want to use it, it should not create any doubt in you. Some things are yours to keep and you can share them, but never with pressure. Pressure is not assertiveness.
Things that assertive people keep to themselves
- Your judgment. There is a simple rule that will put you in a better position in life: “If you do not have anything good to say, shut up!” If you are judgmental (have an opinion about others in areas that do not concern you), that is not assertiveness. In fact, it will drag the communication into conflict. Verbal judgment is an expression of pressure that comes from within. Keep it to yourself. Judgment is something we need to keep to ourselves the most. Expressing it will hurt others for sure and it is not assertiveness.
- Your parenting style. This is something you have to agree with your partner and that is it. If people ask about your parenting style, you can share. However, whatever they do at home is none of your business and whatever you do at home is none of theirs!
- Your political views. We have the right to our own opinion by law. I have been with Gal for 36 years so far and we have different political views. I do not try to change his, he does not try to change mine and we only express them (respectfully) at election time.
- Your religious views. Religion is a set of beliefs you follow to make you navigate the world. You do not need anyone else to follow the same rules to believe in them yourself. I have my own religion, called “Ronitism”, and it is mine (much of it is written on this blog). I do not have to justify it to anyone or explain it, only live by it. Religion is also one of those things you do not have to agree with your partner. In this area, Gal and I have been together for 36 years and we do not share the same faith. We have agreed to respect each other’s faith and we both understand it is ours to live by.
- Your food preferences or eating habits. Enjoy your food without justification. If I love mangoes, do I need others to like them in order to enjoy eating them? No! Food is yours to nourish your own body, so the size of your plate, the quality, the flavor and the sugar content are yours to choose. If people tell you what they think about your eating, tell them assertively that you appreciate their concern, that this is a personal choice and that you prefer they did not get into your plate.
- Your sexual preferences. Do not flash them around and do not try to convince others to be like you. You only need to share them with the people who participate in your sexual activities. Sexual preferences are nobody else’s business. When I was in college, I had a friend who shared every bit of her sexual adventures, while I chose to keep mine private. One day, she told me I was secretive about my sexual life. I told her in an assertive way that I thought this was a private matter and she accepted it.
- How you manage your money. People will expect you to do what they think is right with money, but at the end of the day, you will have to live with the consequences of your actions, so do not try to convince others about your money management philosophy. If you want others’ opinion, ask those who are good models of financial success. Never justify what you buy, how you invest or where you eat. The money is yours and you have the right to do whatever you want with it. Again, the only person you have to coordinate it with is your partner, if you have one.
- How you spend your time. If your time management only affects you, no problems at all. Keep your choices to yourself. If it affects others, it is better to have a sharing session about it. When you share, let the others know what you have decided to do, but not why you have decided to do it. Sharing your schedule is assertive, because it gives the other people a chance to make their own decisions. Sharing your reasons is not assertive, because it invites them to participate in making your decisions.
- Beliefs that others disagree with. Learn to agree to disagree. The expectation that others will agree with you on everything is unrealistic. If people do not agree with you, say, “I understand that this is how you think/feel” and that is it! Do not apologize for your views and do not defend them. Watch your “buts”.
- Your living arrangement. Your living arrangement is between you and the people living with you. It is nobody else’s business, so never justify it. If it works for you to live in a small place, in the country, in a studio apartment, in separate rooms, in the same room with the kids, in the same bed with the kids or on the floor, that is your choice. If you choose to eat in the living room, in bed, on the kitchen counter or on the balcony, enjoy it! Do not justify it! Remember that justifying indicates you are not confident about it.
- Your relationships. The only people you can negotiate your relationships with are the people in a relationship with you. Others’ opinion on it is not your business. It is their opinion, which you do not have to accept. Do not get into explaining, justifying why you are upset, happy, sad, frustrated, full of hope regarding a relationship you have with someone who is not part of that relationship. You can share it and once you feel the other person question it, disagree with you, blame you or judge you, it is a sign there is no respect for your feeling, let it go. It might be the wrong person to share your feelings with. Again, it is better to keep the personal relationship with your partner between the two of you and not to get a third person involved. If you have someone you trust, go for it, but if not, and you need to talk to someone, get help from a professional.
- Your fashion style and appearance. I learned as a kid not to argue over personal taste in fashion. Do not justify what you wear, your hairstyle, why you dye or do not dye your hair, why you like or do not like makeup, the color of your lipstick, the style of your beard or why you pluck you eyebrows. It is OK if you get a tattoo or pierce your tongue, because it is your body! If you are not a minor, you do not need anyone’s approval, so do not ask for it and do not try to convince others to do it as well.
- Secrets. When someone shares information with you in secret, you know you should not share it with anyone else. That person trusts you, so do not break this trust. It is not your decision whether to share the secret. I reached a point in my life when I asked others not to share secrets with me. I had a friend who talked to me about Gal and asked me not to share with Gal. I felt this was a contradiction for me, because he is my partner for life and we have agreed to be honest and open with each other. I was stuck between them, so I told my friend that if there was anything she wanted to say about Gal she was afraid to share with him, it would be better not to tell me. She accepted. This is a good way to avoid gossip.
- Why you decide to refuse an offer or a request. We have our own reasons to say “no” to offers and requests. It could be a time constraint, money or values (we just do not feel comfortable with it). The best thing is to say, “Sorry, I can’t do that”, and that is it. Do not explain why you are saying no, because this will invite the other person to try to convince you to change your mind and bring disrespect into the relationship. If it is an offer or invitation, say, “Thank you for the offer, but I cannot accept it”, and leave it at that. It is the assertive way of taking care of your own interests without hurting others. If you think you cannot or do not want to do something, that should be enough! It does not matter why. When we learn to say “no” to things that do not suit us, we clear space for more opportunities that are good for us.
Join me next week to find out why living by your own standards is the way to go and how to do it.