Be Assertive, Be Be Assertive

I have struggled all my life with being assertive. There are a number of reasons for this. I have the belief that I must never be impolite, dominant or assert my rights, because people will only hate me if I do.

The fact that I think they will hate me even if I am nice and kind doesn’t seem to help me change my mind about this way of living.

I remember one time when I was 18 I was in Pizza Hut with my boyfriend. We were going to share a pizza. We ordered a pizza that was all vegetables (I was a vegetarian) but had chicken on half of it. Somehow this confused the waitress and the pizza came out half vegetable and all chicken.

Do I really have to tell you that I didn’t complain and instead just painstakingly picked the chicken off my half of the pizza?

Yes, on that occasion I was a complete and utter twit. But to be honest I haven’t learnt my lesson, and I still can’t confront people.

A couple of things happened this week to highlight my inability to be assertive.

The first is a bit long and has been causing me a lot of stress. I go to an exercise class with a group of girls and we each pay £4 a session to cover venue hire.

Because I tend to pay for a month’s worth of session in advance as it helps me budget better, sometimes I end up in credit if I miss a session, which is what happened before Christmas.

I missed a session at the start of January and then paid for a group of sessions when I next went. The person who normally collects the money wasn’t there so I paid to the person collecting.

When I next went and the girl who normally collects the money was collecting I said I was paid up, which confused her. This set of the panic in me and I asked her to check when she got home as to where I stood.

She did and said I owed £16 after her calculations.

I know this was wrong and told her so, and she said that she must have made a mistake. (She is a very lovely person and I harbour no ill will towards her-she really is great-but I will carry on with my story)

As it is now February when I went this week I paid for all the sessions that I will go to before the next payday, and due to a bit of miscommunication I think she thought I was paying for the amount I was supposedly in debt by. So I have since sent a message to her explaining that it was for this month’s sessions that I paid for this week.

But I know me, and I am thinking two things.

  1. She doesn’t believe me and all the other girls will turn against me and say that I am screwing the sessions and short changing them all.
  2. I know me, and even though I know I have paid for every session I have attended and am not in debt, I know that to ‘keep the peace’ I would pay for the amount I am supposedly in debt by as they are bound to hate me if I don’t.

So this has been a major source of stress and I don’t know how to proceed.

To be clear-none of the girls are mean or capable of mean thoughts and most likely believe me and I am worrying over nothing. They are not bad people. I am just merely trying to explain my anxiety and how I feel people perceive me.

It’s not that I think the worst of people, it’s that I think the worse of me, and see it as only natural that people would turn against me.

Today there was another incident where I should have stood up for myself.

I went to have coffee with my friend and as it was my turn to pay I went up to the counter to order.

There were four staff members behind the counter having a conversation, and despite my size not exactly making me invisible it was a while before any of them finished their conversation and served me.

The person taking my order did not make eye contact as I ordered a small latte and a large americano.

They then served the person behind me.

The person behind me had his drinks made first.

They then asked me to remind them what I had ordered.

They then served the drinks in cups that were very clearly the same size, despite me ordering two different sizes.

I said nothing and instead went back to my friend and was in a little bit of a daze about what had just happened and probably won’t be going there again anytime soon in a hurry.

They didn’t overcharge me, I know that much, but it was still a bad exchange.

The trouble is I can only defend myself against the people I am closest to. The people who I know love me and will still be my friend/relative/partner even if I say they are being a dick.

What does it matter if a random cafe person hates me because I tell them they have got my drink order wrong?

I can’t defend myself when I’m in the wrong. I can’t defend myself when I’m in the right. I have an absolute desperate need to have people like me which I am wise enough to know is an impossible task as no one on the planet is liked by everyone.

My boyfriend has told me that I am holding myself back, that I am ruining my life, that I am letting people walk all over me.

For the most part this is all true.

I need to be assertive.

Trouble is that feels like an impossible task. Something that seems easy to do but in reality is so hard to actually put into place.

But I must change. I can’t carry on living this way. I am holding myself back.

 

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8 thoughts on “Be Assertive, Be Be Assertive

  1. Your time in the coffee shop reminds me of my own experience grabbing coffee last summer, where I had trouble asserting myself, even though I wasn’t in the wrong. I ordered a large vanilla iced coffee. The usual thing to do after this is give the cashier my name (bc they label my order on the cup), pay, get off the line and wait at the side counter as other baristas fills in orders. I was waiting for perhaps more than 10 minutes and every time they placed a drink order on the counter and it wasn’t mine, I sensed something terribly wrong. It took until the woman behind me in line had gotten her order that I started contemplating saying something to the baristas. It was embarrassing. I felt frozen to the spot, almost as if I said anything to the baristas, I would be an inconvenience to them, rather than them owing me for somehow losing my order that I paid for. In the end my friend helped me. She understood since she also has social anxiety, though she has no problem speaking up at the counter.

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    1. I’m really sorry you had a similar experience. I know some may wonder what the big deal is, I mean I did get my drinks eventually. Ultimately I would agree it is not the end of the world if one drink is the wrong size. It’s more that I feel crippled by my inability to say that something is wrong, to stand up for myself.
      I had spent nearly 10 years working in catering before leaving that industry and whilst I will admit it’s not nice having a bad customer complain about the littlest thing, I always stood by the belief that if someone asks-and pays for-one thing to be a certain way then they should absolutely have it that way. I don’t eat meat (I don’t care if someone does eat meat, nor do I judge them if they do, I just choose not to) and whilst I don’t want people to go out of their way for me, I do expect my food to be vegetarian in a restaurant if it is advertised as such. That’s why I always took customers orders very, very seriously when I worked in catering, because whilst some dietary decisions are just a matter of choice, in other cases they can because of a very serious medical or religious reason. For instance one of my closest friends has coeliac’s disease, meaning she can’t eat or drink anything with gluten in. Some people choose not to eat gluten but won’t be too adversely affected if they do ingest it, whereas for my friend the very least it will do is cause serious pain. Either way all choices regarding food and drink and dietary decisions should be respected, and if I order one small and one large drink then I should have that.
      I may have got a little sidetracked, sorry about that.
      I hate ordering food and drinks and normally beg my boyfriend to do it for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries about getting sidetracked. 🙂 It is interesting to read about your experiences in the catering business, which I had no real knowledge about until reading your comments.

        My biggest regret is often walking past a cute store that I would like to go into and try their food, but being too chicken to actually go in. It’s worse when the store has a clear window so the people inside look at me as I look in. I always assume people are going to find me weird if I go in.

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      2. Yes! I find it really scary going into a new place because I worry I’m not cool enough to be there, or that there is some sort of hidden hierarchy or code of conduct which I don’t know but every other customer does and they will all judge me for getting it wrong.
        I have sort of been saving my catering tales for ‘My worst moments of anxiety # 1’ in a few weeks as my penultimate catering job couldn’t have ended worse and was one of the major contributing factors for my debt occurring. My catering years do have some positives-at least for other catering staff. For instance when eating out I always pile my tables plates into a neat and tidy pile and I try to tip generously to all but the worst staff members. I generally try to be nice to catering staff as I wasn’t the world’s best waitress, I did make mistakes, and they can put up with a lot.

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  2. I can really relate to your stories and understand how difficult it can be sometimes. I’ve received incorrect orders but still taken them anyway, i’ve been short changed and never spoken up about it, waiting at a bar and watching everyone else get served before me even though there is a waitstaff either chatting with someone else or not looking busy, and then there are those situations like nat mentioned where everyones order comes out before you and youre 99% sure they’ve forgotten about it but still can’t do anything.

    I am a lot better now at accepting that I have rights and letting them be known. For me, a lot of it stemmed from my overwhelmingly low self esteem and this idea I somehow got in my head that everyone else in the entire world was better than me and more deserving… I also grew up with strong values around politeness and helping others (although not myself!).

    I’m not sure what you think being assertive is, but quite often people mistake aggressive behavior for assertive behavior. A key component in assertive behavior is a respect for the other persons rights as well, so as long as you respect their rights while standing up for your own rights then the chance of there being an altercation is quite slim

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    1. You make some great points. I have read books on being assertive and being assertive simply means an ‘I win, You Win’ situation, not ‘I win, You Lose’ which is being agressive or ‘I lose, You Win’ which is being passive which I do far too much of!
      What you say about being polite is something I identify with. I have worked enough in catering to be kind and sympathetic to all but the worst of staff members, I certainly don’t want to shout and scream at anyone, I merely wish I had the courage to just simply say a mistake has been made, no vendetta, no anger, just asking for it to be corrected.

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      1. i hate seeing people yell at staff, but what I hate more is seeing how yelling and being rude can get people what they want.

        I’m the good guy! I’m the respectful one, give me the tickets rather than that a-hole that just belittled your employee. *shakes fist*

        The other day I managed to stand up for myself when someone quoted me the wrong price. I asked in this awkward voice “but isn’t it $5.50???” (the guy rounded the price up to $6) and on most days I would have just paid the $6. Without any hesitation he just gave me the 50c change. It made me rather mad thinking about all the people that simply paid whatever he asked for rather than questioned the pricing. It seemed that he did that intentionally just to make a few extra dollars.

        But that was step one, next time I want to say something more along the lines of “no the price should be x” rather than this awkward questioning voice…. but hey little steps 🙂

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