It’s the being rude thing, right? That’s where we pause. No one wants to be rude, to speak out of turn, to say something. We are taught to be thoughtful in our rejections, and that sometimes it is better not to reject at all.
When we are children, we are taught to grow in spirit, but to shrink to the convenience of others. We are taught to feel ashamed of the large and clumsy world of assertion. We are taught that preference is rude, that feelings are inconveniencing. We are told that speaking out of turn is unwanted.
Now we are all grown up and left with no practice navigating our way through the anxiety attacks of “no thank you“, and the hyperventilation of “I’m sorry… butt“, and the sweet, cool release of “never mind“.
When I was a child,I went to a friends house, whose mom served beans with dinner. I did not like beans, so I did not eat them. But when I told my mom this story later, she was upset with me. She told me it was rude to tell my friends mom that I didn’t like beans, that it hurt her feelings, and I should be grateful that she made me dinner at all.
This taught me that my preference was an inconvenience for other people, and I began to feel ashamed of my opinions.
I was picturing my friend’s mom sitting up in bed, crying and crying — her husband asking her what’s wrong, and her replying “Kaitie hated my beans, I cannot believe I am so bad at making beans”. I was embarrassed that I hurt my friend’s mom’s feelings. It made me feel like an elephant in a teacup shop. Too large, too clumsy, too destructive.
When I was slightly older, I lacked the authority to voice my distaste. When someone would offer me beans, I would do anything to squelch speculation that I didn’t enjoy what they prepared. Sometimes I would even make up an allergy as to avoid any awkwardness, or I would wildly perjure myself with the garish proclamation of an “mmmmm” or a “yummy”. I figured what’s the harm in a belly full of beans when your friend’s feelings are at stake?!
It took me until later in life to realize that my friends don’t care if I like beans or not. If they make beans, it is because they like beans and if I don’t eat those beans, they get to eat more beans.
I know you’re sick of me typing beans but let me drive this home. Sometimes you have to spill the beans. Sometimes you have to open your mouth if you want to control what goes in it.
But how do you politely say “No” to someone’s offering without sounding rude? This may come as a shock, but there are ways of declining food that don’t make you a monster. The instinct is to ramble. I usually perform a 10 minute monologue that usually gets me out of eating beans.
Also, this is not a situation that requires and apology. Something you can try that works arguably better than the afore mentioned monologue would be to say something like, “no, thank you”. This works like a charm.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “What happens if they ask me, ‘are you sure?’ or if because I declined the beans, they offer me something else I do not like?”
This is harder because, to get through the first round of no thank you’s, you already had to move the boulder of guilt in your throat, and now its back and heavier than ever. Isn’t it easier just to accept what is offered to you?
“Don’t worry about it, I’m sort of a picky eater so I will find my own dinner.” Polite and direct and it takes the away the pressure of any additional dinner related stress.
This may surprise you, but assertiveness isn’t only applicable in food situations. There are a lot of situations where we silence ourselves, in fear of our own voice.
Perhaps your parents are being to intrusive, or your boss is being unfair. These are all situations in which we can utilize our voices.
Say you were overlooked for a promotion you thought you deserved — It’s hard to find your North in these situations because you don’t want to choose the wrong words and disrespect your boss. The best way to approach the situation is with a voice steady with self-assurance.
Ask her how you are performing within the company. Tell her that you were interested in the promotion and you want to know how to move up next time there is position available. Do not speak accusatorily, but don’t neglect your worth either. Look her in her eyes and make sure she knows with no uncertainty that you can handle a new challenge.
Avoid telling her what she should do or what she should be seeing in you. Make her tell you what you are lacking and how you can improve. Listen. Learn. Let her know what your goals are and ask her how in the confines of her company, you can reach them.
Same goes for when your parents are being overbearing, pushing themselves into your life in ways that drive you crazy. Maybe your parents are calling you too much, showing up at your apartment too much, voicing their opinions about your life too often.
These are the people who raised you, who made sacrifices for you, who would do anything for you, who only want the best for you — how to you look your parents in the eye and tell them to back off?
First, you need to tell your parents that there is a problem, because they are probably unaware. Next, let them know that you understand that they mean well, and you love them for caring about you. Finally, gently set boundaries with your parents — so they understand when to call, when to visit, and when you need their opinions.
One important thing to remember, is that being assertive isn’t a mask we put on our rude thoughts and ideas.
If your friend just bought a new outfit, and you don’t like the way it looks on her, it is not assertive to tell her that it makes her look fat. It’s mean.
Being assertive isn’t an excuse to blurt out everything you think, or a defense for anyone who gets hurt by you doing so. Being a “say what I want when I want” type of person isn’t the point.
Stand up for yourself, but don’t knock others down in the process.
Otherwise, we’ll all be getting knocked down, and getting up agian, stuck in an endless loop of an outdated Chumbawamba lyric we all wished we’d forgotten in the 90’s.
There are a million situations every day where we ignore our own desires out of fear, masked in submission, dressed in manners. We are afraid of being too loud or to large or too demanding.
Your voice holds weight. You will never break someone by disagreeing with them; if you do, they are a person who perhaps needed to be broken.
You are strong, so speak with a strong voice. Know your worth, and cash it in.
Dance with your dislikes and rejoice in your rejections. What you think and what you do matter. So think and do matter of factly. Be heard.