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So a lot of us are automatically programmed to do the’right thing’ when something is requested of us. If we’ve been’well brought up’ we may find it tough to resist the temptation to be useful, help others, not disappoint or cause offence.

– When we learn to become assertive and express ourselves well, in a suitable way, it means that when we do say’yes’ to something we are delighted to undertake that additional job, meet up socially, do a favour, take things further. We are not feeling cajoled, bullied or guilt-tripped. On occasion we may agree to do things we’re not too keen on or stay silent and bite our tongue. We’ll see it as a trade-off; it could be important to get brownie points or just be good ways.

However, if we feel that our acquiescence has become a normal pattern, that others now expect us to always agree, we might need to take into account the signals we are giving. When we express ourselves well it will become an essential part of establishing balanced relationships. So it’s important to notice if others have started to view us as a pushover and’yes’ is now becoming the very damaging word in our vocabulary.

– Saying how we feel means that we are dedicated to establishing equal relationships, are eager to be open, honest and comfortable together.

If, over time, we notice that we are the person who’s always helping out, is obliging, saying’yes’ when we would prefer to say’no’ and getting nothing in return we may start to feel frustrated and disappointed. Rarely receiving consideration or a simple’thank you’ can indicate time to begin expressing yourself better and stating how you feel somewhat more often.

– Remember though that others may not fully appreciate how you are thinking or feeling. If you are quiet you may seem sullen, indifferent or in agreement with what’s been decided. Watch for this becoming a pattern in a relationship, especially if one person is dominant or strongly opinionated. The fact that you may have given a gigantic concession, or made a significant investment of yourself may have escaped their notice. They might have asked a question where they expected you to say how you are feeling and then only taken you at your word.

I remember a client, a leading female manger at a male-dominated national company. She was severely worried, working long hours with almost no free time or personal life. She always said’yes’ to her boss because she was worried that if she didn’t he would assume she wasn’t coping and was not up to the job. 1 evening she had been driving home from work late at night.

She’d worked on her confidence and therefore felt able to easily explain what she was already working on, she was happy to do the report but needed his input rescheduling her workload to incorporate the new petition. It was that he was oblivious of her other obligations, was enquiring if she had some spare capacity and was happy to find someone else to do it. She dealt with his request calmly and efficiently, expressed herself well and so avoided automatically saying’yes’ and ending up working throughout the night.

– Great communications are important. Being open and honest, expressing clearly that you’re delighted to do something, need to be supportive, spend time together, but need others to reciprocate, understand and appreciate your point of view is a good way of investing in your own relationships. It’s important to indicate exactly what you want from your partner in return.

– When we feel dumb, pressurised or second-guessed we could start to feel resentful. Always being the’good man’ can wear thin, especially if it becomes evident that others automatically assume we will go along with their wishes. But if we do not speak up and say how we believe we have to accept some responsibility for other people’s assumptions. It’s important to deal with a situation before it affects too much on our relationships.

If this is you, take time to reflect on why you have this mindset, why this pattern has developed in your relationships. Were your role models people-pleasers, always compliant; was disagreement considered argumentative, unattractive, dumb; were your views and wishes criticised and dismissed?

– Looking at other people’s interactions and comparing them to our own may be an interesting exercise. Watch how others like adult discussions, discuss their fantasies, compromise and negotiate. We can then learn how to modify the way we express ourselves.

Becoming more confident in a positive, assertive way can add considerably to the quality of our relationships, and the spin-off can be that we also improve our relationship with ourselves.