Picture this: your family want to go out for dinner. Your 15-year-old daughter really wants to go to the achingly trendy new pizza place. It’s vibrant and fun with an open kitchen, big open space, tiled floor and loud music. You’d much prefer your favourite gastro pub, which has great food, cosy nooks and carpeted floor. Your partner asks, “Where do you want to go?”
Do you reply:
“Oh I don’t mind really, whatever you prefer.
“Why do you always pick places like that? You know I can’t hear in them. You’re so inconsiderate!”
“Hmm, well it’s going to be hard for me to hear at the pizza place. Tell you what, let’s go there for a drink first so you can check it out for your friends and then you can go eat there with them another time”.
When I first lost my hearing I really didn’t want it to be a big deal for anyone else. So the only person I inconvenienced was myself. I spent a lot of my time socialising with a deaf smile firmly plastered across my face.
A lot of people behave passively because they want to keep the peace. But, believe me, it’s anything but peaceful when you spend your time kicking yourself for not speaking up and choosing a place where you could hear. Nor when you start to become resentful that everyone else is enjoying their evening while you’re counting the minutes until you can go home.
Some people are naturally assertive. I’m not. Maybe you’re the same. The good news is that you can learn to be more assertive. And that will really improve your life with hearing loss.
Why behaving assertively works
Behaving assertively can:
Improve your self-confidence and self-esteem
Help others respect your needs and your feelings
Improve communication with your friends, family and colleagues
Improve other people’s understanding of your hearing loss
Improve your decision-making skills based on your needs
Reduce your anxiety and frustration.
How to improve your assertiveness
Here are eight simple steps to becoming more assertive:
Ask for what you want and explain the positive outcome, eg “Would you mind swapping seats - I need to sit there to hear the chairperson”.
Be polite. “Please” always goes down well, but don’t go overboard!
Add humour if you want, as long as it’s not apologetic.
Rehearse. Think about typical scenarios where you want to be more assertive and practice in front of a mirror, or with a supportive friend.
Start small. Practise your assertiveness in a situation where there’s little risk if you trip up over yourself.
Use assertive body language to reinforce your assertive speech. If your body language is uncertain it will undermine what you say.
Read a book. I particularly like this one for being practical as well as positive.
Get some coaching. If assertiveness doesn’t come easy a coach can provide tailored techniques, and hold you accountable to practising those skills in between coaching sessions. It’s a great way of investing in yourself and creating long-term assertive behaviour. Find out more about my coaching for hearing loss.
Learning to be assertive takes time and practice. So be gentle with yourself, yet persistent. Celebrate your victories and learn from the times when it doesn’t work as you hope. It will be worth the effort, I promise.