Tag Archive: assertiveness



My blog is coming out a day late as I was stranded in Jamaica for an extra two days because our flight home from vacation was grounded due to Hurricane Sandy. Thankfully, we were safe and far enough away from the direct impact of the hurricane, and were forced to enjoy two extra days of vacation! Lol! So we got home yesterday and the whole day was consumed by unpacking, grocery shopping, and cleaning, etc.

But I didn’t want to simply leave out the blog I was supposed to publish yesterday on taking initiative. It seems like an important issue to me, as many people out there wrestle with drive, determination, and taking initiative.

Some people seem naturally ‘gifted’ at having incredible drive and determination to make their life successful in all areas of life, while others seem to wrestle with the basic will to live. Most of you are somewhere in between. Those of you somewhere in the middle to low category of having personal or professional initiative may feel as though initiative itself is in fact a ‘gift’ that you don’t have. Let me quickly debunk that theory. While it may be true that initiative and determination may come to others seemingly more natural than it comes to you, it is not unattainable for you. There are those who believe common sense cannot be learned by someone who just doesn’t have it, the same is NOT true for initiative. It is a skill that can be crafted and developed and nurtured throughout the remainder of your life! It is NOT unattainable! It is within your reach!

If you are not naturally a ‘doer’ in life, you can learn the skills of motivation to determine a vision for yourself, life or business that is attainable and realistic, define your goals and communicate your objectives in a way that drives you to accomplish them.

What you may not know, is that drive, determination, willpower and learning to take initiative has a lot to do with learning your personal power. The more autonomy you have learned to develop in your life, and the more purpose you feel you have in life, the more you will master the skills at accomplishing your vision for your life. For more on autonomy, read my blog series on boundaries from several months back. Autonomy has to do with personal power. A sense of oneself and who he or she is apart from other’s and their opinions. I lay claim to the concept that the more a person was treated as someone who could not achieve or was taught to be an underachiever, or was taught that they weren’t pod enough or smart enough in their formative years, will wrestle with self worth and initiative, in part, due to a lack of autonomy that was modeled for them. The good news is… It’s never too late! Learning how to develop a good sense of self worth, and how to develop healthy boundaries will set you up for learning how to feel good enough about yourself and responsible enough for yourself to equip you to develop the skills of assertiveness and initiative – the drive to dream, and reach for the goals you set for yourself! It IS attainable!

Are you aware that accepting and taking responsibility for your actions is not only part of the process of learning how to take initiative, but is part of developing self esteem, and having proper boundaries in your life? Once we know what we are responsible for in life, it empowers us to take responsibility for our life which becomes the driving force to develop true initiative. The better we think, believe and behave in the ways which empower us to achieve our goals, the more self confident we become, we are that much closer to achieving our goals, personal or professional, one action step at a time.

Aristotle once said “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Habits are another key then to learning how to take initiative. Eg. If we repeatedly are lazy, we will continue to be lazy because it has become a habit. Habits can either make us or break us. We can develop good habits or bad habits. All stem from our own personal power of choice. Many of us think of habits as ‘bad’ and can list a number of the habits they have that they don’t like about themselves quite readily… But there are good habits too. You can decide to eat a healthy diet as easily as you choose to eat an unhealthy diet. You can choose to exercise regularly. It is within your personal power to choose. If you feel you are powerless over a situation, you may have an addiction. But even addictions can be broken by the power of habit. All habits (good or bad) are formed in our brains involving cue, routine and reward. We can change our bad habits over time by repeatedly doing something different until that becomes a new habit. We can replace bad habits with healthy, positive ones, giving us the power to take control over the ‘out of control’ areas of our lives.

Changing our habits is another way to take initiative. It helps us determine who or what we want to be – fit, healthy, successful, whatever the goal is, knowing is half the battle. Knowing you have power over your decisions and can take action to reach your goals and dreams, empowers you to take the first steps toward lasting change.

If you struggle with low self worth or feel you need additional help in developing more personal motivation or initiative in your life, you might want to consider my boundaries or personal development coaching program offered at http://www.freedomlifelove.com

Remember: You have the power to choose the life you want. Go out and get it! Most of our blockages are stubborn belief systems in our minds that cause us to believe we can’t, or we are not good enough, talented enough or smart enough. When we change the internal negative messages into positive ones that invoke hope and strength and willpower, we equip ourselves with the strength to break old unhelpful habits and take responsibility for our lives by loving and nurturing and caring for ourselves enough to break out of routines that keep us back from reaching our goals, we have just started the process of taking initiative, and are closer to getting the results we want. Remember to keep your goals realistic and attainable so you don’t shoot yourself in the foot with your very first goal, concluding that it doesn’t work. What is an attainable goal for you right now? What action steps can you take right now toward reaching that goal?

Good luck on your journey to getting the results you want. Where there is no vision, people perish. Find your vision. It’s a good place to start!

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This month, I have been doing a series on taking initiative and developing assertiveness, and I was thinking it might be a great start to today’s article, if I simply start out with some definitions of initiative and assertiveness, so we have a proper working knowledge of what I will be referring to in today’s blog!

First of all, initiative involves taking an introductory act or step, a leading action; for example: he took the initiative in making friends. Initiative also involves a readiness and ability in initiating action. It is one’s personal, responsible decision: to act on own’s own initiative.

Perhaps you feel you have little or no initiative or you have been told this by people in your life. Does reading the above simple definition change your thinking on that definition, even if only slightly? Perhaps you are told you are not assertive enough and wonder if either taking initiative or developing assertiveness skills are ever possible for you. Let me first shine the light of truth on that negative distorted belief. EVERYONE can develop the skill of assertiveness and learn to take more initiative in their life. It involves work, and one small baby step forward after another, if that is all you feel you can muster the strength for, but it can be done. Before I get WAY ahead of myself, let me give you a definition of assertiveness:

Assertiveness is a style of communication. It is about being confident and self assured, positive. Assertiveness is NOT a strategy to get your own way, instead it recognizes that you are only in control of your own behavior and actions and realizes that other people are responsible for their behavior. It respects the wishes of others as equally as you respect your own.

Assertiveness is one of many styles in which we communicate with each other. Some others include reacting and responding to other people in an aggressive manner, or a passive style that tends to give in to the unreasonable demands of others. We all have heard of the passive-aggressive style, which is a combination of both passive and aggressive behavior which can include manipulation, or cannot clearly express their anger, but take it out on others in more subtle ways, like being late for work always because you are angry at your co-worker or boss, or addressing your displeasure with a result by speaking to the person you are angry with in the third person format, for example: “some people NEVER take out the trash and clean up after themselves” with a slightly aggressive tone, when they are obviously referring to you as you see the dishes you left in the sink, and know you hadn’t gotten around to taking the garbage out. This is a form of veiled communication. Often, if we are raised with one passive parent and one aggressive parent, we may use a combination of both skill sets we were taught by our families. Another style of communicating, apart from assertiveness, is the alternator…. Someone who sometimes is passive, holding things in, until one day all the bitterness and resentments burst to the surface like a volcanic eruption with a burst of aggression. Once the person has spewed out their building tension inside, they may return to a passive state of taking resentments in until the next eruption occurs.

The reality is we all have probably used one or more, if not all of these methods of communication at varying times in our lives! I know I have!

When it comes to communication, and developing effective skills to communicate well, as with all things it takes time and effort to make the changes in ourselves to do so! And the issues lying beneath the surface are the best place to start. What we believe often dictates how we respond in a situation. If we believe no one likes us, we will begin to act like no one likes us. If we believe we have to take responsibility for other people’s actions, behavior, moods or emotions, guess what? We will take responsibility for those things, despite the fact that we are only responsible for our own choices, actions, behavior, moods and emotions.

If you believe you are a loser, a failure, ugly, stupid, fat etc. you will act in such a way as to diminish your human dignity and incredible value as you continue to tell yourself what a horrible person you must be. I do not have enough time to dig into the root issues that lead to a diminished sense of a lack of confidence in oneself in this blog, or why your initiative may be low as well as your assertiveness skills perhaps under-developed, but I do offer a personal development program on my coaching website at http://www.freedomlifelove.com if you are looking for additional help in this area of your life. You may even want to look back through last months blog series where I discussed self worth and self esteem.

But my focus for today is to define initiative and assertiveness and our communication styles to open our eyes to see where we currently find ourselves in this area of our lives. And I want to give you some hope along with some practical help to develop some assertiveness skills today!

Let’s start here. This is what it means to be assertive:

“Assertive self-expression is direct, firm, positive – and when necessary persistent – action intended to promote equality in person-to-person relationships. Assertiveness enables us to act in our own best interests, to stand up for ourselves without undue anxiety, to exercise personal rights without denying the rights of others, and to express our feelings honestly and comfortably (eg. affection, love, friendship, disappointment, annoyance, anger, regret, sorrow)” – Your Perfect Right by Robert Albert, Ph.D and Michael Emmons, Ph.D.

Joseph Wolfe would define assertiveness in our interpersonal relationships as

“The individual places himself first, but takes others into account.”

While I don’t entirely agree with his perspective, as I take the viewpoint of considering others above myself in a respectful manner, in the form of honoring and preferring others, I do believe that to love others we must first be able to love ourselves. The bible suggests that we:

“Love others as you would love yourself”

I believe we must treat others as we would want to be treated, thereby having a balanced perspective on equality. We do not see others as less or more important than ourselves, but rather cherish our own humanity and others. To see ourselves in a positive light with grace for our weaknesses and compassion and love for ourselves as we see others in that same positive light, showing compassion and love for their mistakes, treating each other fairly, respectfully, and with loving kindness. When we can see other people like this, as well as ourselves, we are on the verge of discovering unconditional love.

On becoming more assertive, there are certainly things that we can do to get there. Setting reasonable goals for ourselves is a good place to start about the things we want to improve, work on, confront or address. It can involve learning effective communication skills. In fact I think I did a blog series on that a while back! It involves learning how to “say what you need to say” as I unintentionally quote lyrics from John Meyer’s song, while learning how to say it effectively in an assertive, yet respectful manner. It involves learning to change what we are choosing to think, to become more aware of our thoughts, and challenging the negative ones, and speaking positive confessions about ourselves, learning to love and care for, rather than sabotaging ourselves! Just simply choosing to believe it is a skill you can learn can make a world of difference. It is a big step in the turn-around! If we believe it is attainable, we have already begun taking initiative to develop assertiveness skills!

Last but not least, take it one step at a time! Find what you feel you are able to start with, even if it feels like a small step to others or yourself, and see what comes of it! Don’t despair! Don’t give up! You can make changes! You are not helpless! I believe you can! One small step at a time!

Taking Initiative


The dictionary defines taking initiative as “to do something; to activate oneself to do something even if one has not been asked to do it.

In the workplace, these following criteria mark a person having high initiative:

-Begin new tasks before you are told
-Look for work to fill spare time
-Making oneself available for extra work or overtime
-Keeping communication with superiors open
-making suggestions
-Trying to correct problems or mistakes
-working without supervision
-Taking on extra tasks
-volunteer for committee work
-demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning.

Some common causes of a lack of initiative and motivation include:

-Lack of faith or confidence in your abilities
-Low self esteem
-Lack of enough interest in what you are directing your attention toward
– fear of what others might say
-procrastination habits
-time constraints
-being too stressed or anxious
-absence of stimulus or incentives

My first piece of advice is, if this is you, try to determine WHAT you are passionate about. Where there is no vision, the people perish! We don’t pursue what we are not passionate about… At least not long term. If we are doing something we have no zeal for, we will eventually be depleted in our energy resources to complete the task at hand. We may even begin to suffer the signs of burnout from putting all our energy into something that depletes not only our energy, but possibly our self-esteem.

I believe in takes motivation to take initiative. I also believe that assertiveness is linked to taking initiative as well. So my second question to you is this: “What motivates you?” and “what are you motivated to do?”‘

So let’s take a look at the fear factor that causes us to second guess our actions and keeps us from taking initiative.

Some of us are wrestling with being people pleasers, obsessed with fear of confrontation, of being reprimanded, or rejected in areas they risk taking the initiative in some area of their life.

Often people with low self worth feel it harder to take initiative than those who grew up very self sufficient & independent . These people have their own set issues as a result too, as we all learn by our environment and it’s surroundings, and by the people we do life with.

I propose a plan of action that just might help! It’s called ‘assertiveness’.

“Assertiveness is not a strategy for getting your own way. Instead it recognizes that you are in charge of your behaviour and that YOU decide what you will or will not do…it recognizes that other people are in charge of their own behaviour and does not attempt to take that control from them. When we behave assertively, we are able to acknowledge our thoughts and wishes honestly, withiut the expectation that others will give to us. We express respect for the feelings and opinions of other’s without necessarily adopting’ their opinions or doing what they expect or demand.”

This does not mean we become inconsiderate of the wishes of other’s either of course.

What we need come away with, thinking about, is: what is at the ore? What is the root reason why I wrestle with taking initiative? Is it lack of self worth? A developmental boundary injury, fear of confrontation, self hatred or self punishment? What keeps us from stepping up to the plate? Is it a learned behaviour or a medical diagnosis of depression, or anemia or low adrenals or insomnia that keep us tired all the time that affects our motivation level? Could it be we are putting our energy into something that is depleting us, rather than something that brings us joy? Who do you surround yourself with? Who are your friends and co-workers? What is the environment like around these people? Are they positive or negative influences? Are you being sucked into people pleasing? What rings most true for you?

Let’s leave it there for this week and we will pick it up next Friday when we talk more about motivation. For now, my challenge to you is this: try and determine where you lack initiative e and why?

Cheers!

Katie Meilleur
http://www.freedomlifelove.com

Assertiveness


  1. “Assertiveness is an attitude and a way of thinking in any situation where you need to
    – Express your feelings
    – Ask for what you want, or
    – Say no to something you don’t want.

Becoming assertive involves self-awareness and knowing what you want. Behind this knowledge is the belief that you have the right to ask for what you want. When you are assertive, you are conscious of your basic rights as a human being.” – The assertiveness workbook- Randy Paterson

Think about the following situations to see what you would do in this situation, to see if assertiveness is something you may need to work on:

1. You’re being kept on the phone by a salesperson who is trying to sell something you don’t want.
2. You would like to break off a relationship that is no longer working for you.
3. You’re sitting in a movie and the people behind you are talking.
4. Your doctor keeps you waiting for more than 20 min.
5. Your teenager has the stereo on too loud.
6. You would like to return something to the store to get a refund.
7. You’re standing in line and someone moves in front of you.
8. Your friend has owed you money for a long time-money you could use.
9. You receive a bill that is unusually high for the service you received.
10. Your home repair person is demanding payment but has done unsatisfactory work.
11. You receive food at a restaurant that is over or under cooked.
12. You would like to ask a major favor of your partner or spouse.
13. You would like to ask a major favor from a friend.
14. Your friend asks you a favor that you don’t feel like doing.
15. Your roommate, spouse, son or daughter is not doing their share of work around the house.
16. You are in a group and would like to speak up, but don’t know how your opinion will be received.
17. You would like to strike up a conversation at a gathering, but don’t know anyone.
18. You find your partner’s behavior unacceptable.
19. Your friend drops by unexpectedly, just before you were about to leave to run some errands.
20. Your partner os spouse talks down to you as if you were a child.

How would you respond in the above situations. By evaluating your responses, do you feel that assertiveness is something you need to work on?

Just going to leave you with a few tools to work on how to develop assertiveness, and the rights we have as individuals, before I sign off and head out to all my Easter weekend plans!

Developing assertiveness involves knowing what your rights are within a particular situation, being able to address the person(s) involved with the problem you are experiencing and/or the consequences you are experiencing as a result. Being able to clearly articulate your feelings about the situation, and ask for the changes you require for the situation to change. Let the other perosn know how it will affect you for both gaining or not gaining their co-operation, in a respective, non-aggressive manner. Sounds simple enough, but often is trickier than you might think. If for instance, you are addressing someone who is very manipulative, controlling or aggressive, this may take incredible courage to develop assertiveness for someone who is usually much more submissive, or non-confrontational. But I will touch on that in a couple of weeks when I begin my series on abuse -how to respond and what you can do in response to people who are unyielding and abusive toward you. Keep in mind, as we unpack both assertiveness and abuse, that we are still digesting the subject of boundaries here. What it is that we are responsible for, and what we are not. We cannot control how another person will respond to our requests. The only thing we have power over is ourselves, and the actions we can take in response to any given situation that arises.

So I will leave you with this… Just so you have a beginning point: The Rights of an Individual.
Feel free also, to go back to the beginning of the series on boundaries, for a refresher on what we have responsibility for and what we don’t, as well as what we can do to firm up our boundaries, so that we in turn, can develop more assertiveness.

Here is the list of our Personal Bill of rights:

1. I have the right to ask for what I want.
2. I have the right to say no to requests or demands I can’t meet.
3. I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.
4. I have the right to change my mind.
5. I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.
6. I have the right to follow my own values and standards.
7. I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my values.
8. I have the right to determine my own priorities.
9. I have the right not to be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings, or problems.
10. I have the right to expect honesty from others.
11. I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
12. I have the right to be uniquely myself.
13. I have the right to feel scared and say “I’m afraid.”
14. I have the right to say “I don’t know.”
15. I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behaviour.
16. I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
17. I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
18. I have the right to be playful and frivolous.
19. I have the right to be healthier than those around me.
20. I have the right to be in a non-abusive environment.
21. I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
22. I have the right to change and grow.
23. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
24. I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
25. I have the right to be happy.

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

Hope this has been a helpful introduction to the subject of assertiveness! 

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What situations do you find to be most difficult to assert yourself?  I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach


If you haven’t been following my Friday blogs, you may want to circle back and read “Grace & Truth -building blocks“, posted on February 3rd, as well as My blog posted on February 10th, entitled “Learning to attach and bond“, as they are the two preceding blogs to the series I am currently writing about on the subject of boundary development – the necessary steps to developing a ‘self’, a personality, with a healthy knowledge of how to interact with others, while keeping your own boundaries and self intact.

What are boundaries? Well, let’s begin with the characteristics of a complete person first, to give you a sense of what boundary development helps to accomplish. If all goes according to plan, a ‘complete’ person should exhibit the following characteristics:

1. The ability to connect emotionally.
2. To be vulnerable and express emotions.
3. Have an appropriate sense of power.
4. The ability to say no to something unwanted.
5. Have initiative and drive
6. Have at least a minimal amount of organization.
7. Be real, but not perfect.
8. Accept imperfections in yourself and others, and have grace and forgiveness.
9. The ability to grieve
10. Learn and grow
11. The ability to take risks.
12. Grasp and use one’s talents.
13. Be responsible and follow through.
14. Be free and not controlled by external or internal factors.
15. Be sexual.
16. Be spiritual.
17. Have a moral sense.
18. Have an intellectual life.

Wow, that’s quite a list! If you have trouble in any one of those areas, you most certainly could use a more thorough understanding on the subject of boundaries.

If I were to simplify boundaries, I would suggest that boundaries are that which we are responsible for, as well as a knowledge of what we are not responsible for, or what we cannot control.

I’m sure you are all aware somewhat of the term, ‘the terrible two’s, the stage in a child’s growth and development when the only word your child seems to know how to use is the word, “NO!”
Although not a ‘piece of cake’ navigating this stage of development for any parent, it is actually a very necessary part of the child’s development. This is the stage where he learns “Mommy and me are not the same, as opposed to the previous stage of development, where he learns to attach and bond, believing “mommy and me are the same”. Both elements are vital to a child’s development, and the need for attachment and bonding must precede the stage of developing his own personality apart from his parents. This stage of developing a self, own’s own separate identity continues on through life. But there can be very many messages that interrupt this growth process, making transitions into adulthood quite difficult. I will not spend much time on this in this blog, but to give a couple quick examples of such interruptions, a couple things come to mind. If one is taught that their accomplishments are what makes their parent proud, one might learn that performance causes feelings of being loved. Or perhaps if a child’s assertions to separate from mommy are met with a lot of resistance, the child will develop believing that she cannot have a ‘self’ and must ‘merge’ with those she is in relationship with, allowing that process of development to remain stunted. I do not have time to mention such things as manipulation and abuse in this blog, but will circle back to some of these concepts at another time.

For now, let us simply look at the responsibilities for our own soul that we are to learn, and develop in order to grow into a ‘complete’ person. Let me just mention that this is ALL we have responsibility for. We cannot control what another person does or how they will respond to us. We only have control and responsibility for our own selves.

What are we responsible for?
1. Our physical appearance, and physical boundaries.
2. Our attitudes
3. Our feelings
4. Our behavior
5. Our thoughts
6. Our abilities & talents
7. Our desires
8. Our choices
9. Our limits
10. Our values
11. Our negative assertions
12. Love

“A mature and complete adult not only takes responsibility for himself, but also requires the same from the people he loves. To be codependent and not require responsibility from others is to not be responsible for oneself.” – Melody Beattie, author of “The New Codependency“.

These are some pretty tall orders when it comes to personal responsibility.
A great exercise to try if you wrestle with your identity or are not quite sure who you are and who you are not is the following:

Exercise: Imagine a circle and everything in it is you. Think about what fills up your circle. What do you care about? What do you hate? What do you love? Who are you? What is attractive to you? What do you value? What do you believe? What repels you? What do you think about? Feel about? What are you really like?

There is a great deal more to be said about boundary development. This is merely a small introduction to get you thinking.

I will leave you today with common symptoms that occur in us when we fail to develop and set boundaries.

1. Depression
2. Panic
3. Resentment
4. Passive-aggressive behavior
5. Codependency
6. Identity confusion
7. Difficulty being alone
8. Masochism
9. Victim mentality
10. Blaming
11. Over responsibility and guilt
12. Under responsibility
13. Feelings of obligation
14. Feelings of being let down.
15. Isolation
16. Extreme dependency
17. Disorganization & lack of direction.
18. Substance abuse, addiction, and/or eating disorders
19. Procrastination
20. Impulsivity
21. Generalized anxiety
22. Obsessive compulsive disorder

Now, while many of these symptoms can have multiple origins, or be as the result of a difficult temporary situational trauma, if you find you identify with many of these symptoms, you may have some unfinished business in the boundary development process.

I also realize I have not mentioned anything about what to do with the boundary crossers in your life, nor touched on the subject of abuse, or further explained what codependency and some of thes other terms mean. That is because they all require in and of themselves a blog or several, to unpack further.

If you would like more information on Boundaries, check out the Boundary Development Program available on my website.  Hope to see you there!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.   

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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