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Overcoming Others' Expectations, a Primer to Help You Live Life Honestly Series Part 2 of 2

10 Tips to Say What You Want and Mean It

Are you over the overwhelm in relationships? Read part 2 of this 2-part series to make changes that lead to a more satisfied, honest life.

Ever felt it was difficult to say what you meant and instead agreed to take on a project or help someone else despite not wanting to? Well, you’re not alone. Expectations, whether subtle or direct, can impact your ability to practice assertive communication. Curating boundaries based on your values can help you practice assertive communication. How to implement this and other strategies are discussed here in Part 2 of this series. In Part 1, “Overcoming Others' Expectations, a Primer to Help You Live Life Honestly” factors preventing assertiveness in relationships and the negative impact of this cycle are discussed. If you haven’t already, check it out here, and when you’re ready come back to finish up the series. Read on to learn how you can begin making effective, necessary changes in your relationships.

Correcting Inaccurate Assumptions "Challenge the Status Quo"

It can be deflating to attempt to challenge the status quo. But, despite that, what if you want to change things and use your gift how you see fit? Mumsnet is a global UK-based online parent discussion forum. User, @ANXIOUS32, said it best. Sometimes you want to “just go for ice cream after school or pop to a friend[’]s house” and not feel like your time is considered fair use for taking care of others - or their kids. @Anxious32 posted a viral thread asking how to decline to take a neighbor’s child to school. What struck me about the post is that @Anxious32 had the answers to posed questions all along. @Anxious32 expressed wanting to avoid helping out of “guilt” and still sought permission from others’ expectations of what a “polite” way was to decline the assumptive neighbor’s expectations. As concerns were explained, I saw two examples where @Anxious32 assertively and honestly shared points to communicate to the neighbor:

  • “...I don’t want to[.]”

  • “...I don’t know my schedule so [I] don’t want to commit to anything.”

Certainly, there was passive and passive-aggressive communication advice from other Mumsnet users that I do not condone. But some did offer advice for @Anious32 on how to assert one’s needs. To reiterate part of Mumsnet user @MatildaTheCat’s advice, “...Be absolutely clear. Nothing worse than only half saying no”. Take it from Toni Jones, she affirms herself and us with this anthem for protecting your peace with a firm, curated, and protective “no”.

What You Need To Know About Challenging Expectations:

People’s response to you correcting their premeditated assumptions is not your responsibility. What is your responsibility, however, is the need to clarify why those assumptions are inaccurate in the first place. This can lead to self-awareness about your values - the literal boundaries between you and another person. You don't need others' permission to create the life you want - that's your responsibility and your gift. How you choose to use it is up to you.

10 Strategies to Create Desired Relationship Changes:

  1. Understand how you define yourself and what you're responsible for, i.e., depersonalization from people's assumptions

  2. Positive self-talk, listening to and honoring your body’s needs, taking breaks, and other positive and kind acts toward yourself

  3. Reframe your perspective about saying ‘no’ as a way to “make room for a better yes” so that you’re only explicitly or implicitly agreeing with behaviors that support the kind of local and world impact that you see as necessary and beneficial

  4. Accept when a relationship is transactional (remember that expectations are a transitive verb) and not reciprocal to determine who’s proven themselves worthy of a ‘no’ versus a ‘yes’

  5. Honest and kind self-reflection through audio or written journaling, music, or mental health therapy

  6. Know the difference between assertive communication and passive, passive-aggressive, and aggressive communication

  7. Creativity in your options and choices to ensure your preferences are met. For example, what might be the biggest boldest way to get started and what might be the easiest, most doable way to get started?

  8. Remember that there are people who candidly share their expectations about how to be treated in relationships without deceit of self or others.

  9. Treat conversations about clarifying expectations as an investment for your future self and a way to practice wellness

  10. Practice expressing your expectations, preferences, and interests - not for perfection, but proficiency, beginning with less threatening acquaintances and leveling up to more prominent stakeholders in your life

Final Thoughts

Remember that when challenging others’ inaccurate assumptions, do what you can to avoid unnecessary guilt. Expressing your needs is part of assertive communication and doing so leads to a shift in your relationships based on your unique values. It’s not your fault or responsibility if others dislike this shift. What is your responsibility is to implement desired strategies to create necessary relationship changes to practice wellness. Challenging the status quo is not easy. However, with intention and practice, your relationships with yourself and others can reflect a life primed for honesty.

Looking for more? Subscribe to the Grace Counseling and Wellness, PLLC newsletter, Saving Grace, for insights about prioritizing yourself, having better relationships with yourself and others, and dealing with life when responsibilities begin to feel overwhelming. We aim to empower you to make sense of your life so you can live with grace and wellness.

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