Research indicates that more severe cases of Panic Disorder are related with less assertiveness (Levitan et al. 2016). Published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease researchers concluded, "The major finding of our study was that more severe manifestations of panic disorder correlated with less assertiveness in the sample" (Levitan et al. 2016).
Unassertive people tend to be more passive in their communications in relationships and more passive in dealing with stress. By being passive, you allow yourself to be influenced by outside circumstances rather than by your own internal determination.
Unassertive people lack the confidence to determine what they want and to ask for it. They feel powerless to make healthy changes in their lives. They give up personal power to other people and circumstances and then feel out of control of their own lives. This causes tension and anxiety.
Do you allow yourself to be bullied by outside forces or are you self-determined to assert how you want to think and feel? Being unassertive and passive is just another way of avoiding uncertainty and things that you fear. You may avoid asserting your needs and determining the outcomes you want because you don’t think you are capable or because you don’t think you deserve it.
Take back power and control over your feelings, actions, and desires! Being assertive doesn’t mean being aggressive or narcissistic. Those who are passive, put the needs of other people first. Those who are aggressive, force their needs onto other people. Those who are assertive, balance their needs with the needs of others.
8 steps to being more assertive
1. Know your rights
I have the right to be happy.
I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
I have the right to be healthier than those around me.
I have the right to be playful and frivolous.
I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior.
I have the right to expect honesty from others.
I have the right to determine my own priorities.
I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.
I have the right to have and express all of my feelings, positive or negative.
I have the right to say no to requests or demands.
I have the right to ask for what I want.
2. Identify your own needs and wants separate from others
3. Learn to say “NO”
Do not allow other people to take advantage of you and violate your boundaries. By saying “No” you are establishing healthy boundaries and making sure that you are not depleting yourself for the benefit of others.
Don’t apologize or make excuses for saying no. Apologies and excuses communicate that you are somehow doing something wrong and that you don’t deserve to have your boundaries respected.
Repeat your response of “No” as often as needed. You do not need to rephrase your response if the other person continues to ask and nudge you. Ex. “Can you cover my shift?” “No.” “It’s only a 5 hour shift.” “No.” Again, the word “No” is pretty much self-explanatory.
Accept that others may react unfavorably when you say no. Don’t expect that others are going to be ok with a “No” response. The other person also has the right not to like it. Your goal is not to try and convince the other person to accept your refusal or agree with you. You are not trying to affect another person’s behavior. Your only goal is advocating for yourself by communicating your intentions.
4. Ask for what you want
Identify the What, Who, and Why.
Be clear, direct, and reasonable with What you are requesting.
Understand that the other person Who is receiving your request has the right to say no. Respect their response and please don’t punish them for saying no.
Focus on the positive outcome you wish to obtain. Why it is important to you and if it could be beneficial for the other person. This could be positive feelings or an improved situation.
5. Stop apologizing for everything
Take responsibility for your own behavior and your own feelings. Only apologize for your own behavior when you recognize that you are in the wrong.
Understand that other people are responsible for their own behavior and feelings. You didn’t make them behave or feel that way. So stop apologizing.
6. Learn how to give criticism
Positive criticism is obviously easier to give and to accept than negative criticism.
When giving negative criticism focus on the behavior, not on the person. Express how you feel. Use “I” statements and avoid using “You” statements.
An assertive criticism would be, “I feel hurt when my opinion is not considered.”
A non-assertive or aggressive criticism would be “You are inconsiderate.”
Also look for any positive areas for feedback and start with those before talking about the negative.
Give corrective feedback. “Please talk to me next time before making a decision so that we can share the responsibility of the decision.
7. Learn how to accept criticism
Just listen and wait. Don't get defensive, make excuses, or go on the attack, and don’t completely shut down and tune them out either. I know how easy it can be to become defensive or become shut down, especially when the criticism is harsh. Pay attention so that you can repeat the criticism back to the other person. This will show that you are listening and heard what they said. Ask for clarification if you do not understand or the communication is not clear.
You do not have to agree with the criticism, just try to understand it. Criticism can be inaccurate, unfair, unreasonable, and loaded with insults. Your goal is to understand how the other person is perceiving things without trying to change their mind or prove them wrong. You can agree with how it makes them feel without agreeing with the actual criticism. Of course if the criticism is accurate, then agreeing with it and committing to improvement will certainly maintain the relationship.
Validate the other person by acknowledging that you can understand how they feel the way they do and why they communicated the criticism to you.
“I can see why you feel this way and I will give more thought to what you said.” Or “I don’t blame you for feeling that way.”
8. The skills
Body language. Allow yourself to have an open, relaxed body stance and posture. Avoid folding your arms or slumping your posture. Stand or sit up straight and keep your head up.
Make eye contact with the other person.
Use a calm tone of voice and speak loud enough to be heard.
Use “I” statements. “You” statements tend to make other people feel that they are being attacked. Example, “I disagree” rather than “You are wrong.”
Whenever possible use “And” instead of “But.” Using the word “But” often comes across as argumentative. Here is an example, “I understand your idea but I don’t see how it’s going to work” vs. “I understand your idea and how is it going to work?”
For more information:
Please purchase my book “Attacking Panic: The Power to Be Calm” for more in depth information on how to stop panic attacks quickly and how to treat the root cause (Amygdala/Sympathetic Nervous System).
The book shows you how to go beyond just giving up control and allowing yourself to experience a panic attack.
The book has more powerful strategies that will short-circuit your fight or flight system, stop a panic attack very quickly, and even prevent a panic attack from occurring.