Education

Stand up for yourself

Vector illustration - listen

Vector illustration - listen

You are in the midst of studying when a friend who is done with her exams calls and wants to discuss whether she should break up with her boyfriend. Deep down, you know that this is not a good time for you to talk as you have a lot to revise. Yet, you hear her out, thinking she will feel hurt if you cut her off.

A professor asks you to take part in an intercollegiate debating contest. You would love to participate, but your sister is getting engaged on that day. Your parents advise you to ask the professor to be excused this time. Just as you approach the professor, he pats you on the shoulder and says, “I have just submitted the form for the contest with your name. I know you won’t let the college down.”

Voice yourself

In both situations, a student is worse off for not speaking up. This happens to all of us some of the time. But if you are a person who always puts your own needs behind, you are likely to experience chronic frustration. However, you can learn to assert yourself. So, even if you are always the one who ends up doing most of the work on group projects, you can learn to speak up and even get others to do their share.

One of the impediments to stating your needs or position is that some people erroneously believe that assertiveness is the same as aggressiveness. But, there is a wide chasm between the two behaviours. As Catherine Saint Louis writes in The New York Times , “You can stand up for yourself without resorting to bullying.” In fact, being assertive involves disagreeing respectfully. She provides the following tips to make disagreeing more agreeable to those of us who find it difficult to stand up for ourselves.

First, stick to the point. As Saint Louis succinctly reminds us, “No is a complete sentence.” Don’t feel the need to elaborate on reasons why you may choose not to do something for someone. While some situations may call for extended explanations, like telling your boss why you didn’t finish the project on time, avoid long-winded answers if a shorter one will suffice.

Next, if someone extends an invitation to an event, be it a party or a conference, and you would rather not go, you may decline graciously. “While I hope to goes really well, I won’t be able to make it this time.” Further, take ownership of your utterances by using ‘I.’ So, if a friend calls you for dinner in the last-minute and you are loath to go, instead of making an accusatory statement involving ‘you’, simply say, “I already have plans for tonight.” Never mind if those plans involve staying home and watching Netflix.

If you cannot decide on the fly and want more time to think through your options, ask for it. “I will get back to you about this by tomorrow.” Often, people give in because they feel pressured to respond immediately. But, in many situations, you can always buy time so that you can weigh the pros and cons of various choices. Finally, if you can predict what someone will request, as they seem to repeatedly ask for favours that you give into reluctantly, prepare what you will say beforehand. “I can’t come shopping with you this weekend to buy your mother’s birthday present, but I heard there are great sales going on in Globus Mall.” If they press on, as some people are wont, simply hold on to your stand. Once they realise that you won’t give in, they will.

The author is Director, PRAYATNA. arunasankara@gmail.com


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Printable version | May 23, 2022 7:27:07 am | https://www.thehindu.com/education/stand-up-for-yourself/article25079562.ece