Are You a Doormat? 17 Things Assertive People Never Say


I was born a lot of things, but assertive was not one of them.

For years, I would find myself in situations where I had a vague feeling that all was not well, but by the time I figured out that I wanted or needed to stand up for myself (or someone else), the conversation had moved on. Then, I'd replay the conversations in my head whenever I felt discouraged, which only added to my frustration.

I finally learned how to assert myself through a process of acknowledging my frustration with the whole situation, planning ahead what I might say or do in certain situations, and being willing to go back to someone and say that I needed to revisit a previous conversation because I wasn't satisfied with the outcome. (See also: 5 Habits You Must Break to Become More Self-Confident)

Over time, I overcame my fear of being assertive and stopped clamming up in the moment. Along the way, I learned to never, ever say these things (at least not in the contexts discussed below).

1. "You Hurt Me"

While this may be true, the person on the receiving end of a statement like this will often feel accused of something, and will therefore respond defensively. Instead, use "I" statements, like "I feel sad because the tone behind your words seemed angry."

2. "Yes, of Course I'll Do That (Even Though I Don't Want To)"

Agreeing to do something that you don't want to do, or that you don't know if you want to do, is one of the key characteristics of a doormat. Saying "No" or "Let me think about it" is hard, but you will feel better about yourself in the long run.

3. "I Don't Know If That's OK With Me"

Letting people know that you don't know what to think gives them tacit permission to decide for both of you. Instead, ask for some time to think and come up with a policy statement, so that you can not only handle the current situation but any similar ones that come along, too.

4. (Nothing)

Even if you aren't sure what to say, if you're uncomfortable with a situation or not sure what to think, say something. Try, "I don't like that, and I want to tell you why, but I'm trying to think of the way to say it that makes the most sense." This tells them that you have a dissenting opinion and makes room for you to bring it up again later.

5. "What I Want Isn't Important"

No matter what is going on, you have a right to ask for what you want. The person you're talking to can still disagree, as is their right. Even if it causes a bigger disagreement, though, it's worthwhile to voice your desires, because you will feel better about yourself and you open the door for a win-win situation, rather than just the one where you lose.

6. "It's My Way or the Highway"

Sometimes, when people are trying to move from being a doormat to being assertive, they feel like they have to hold aggressive positions instead. This method isn't any better, though. Instead, think of yourself as being on a team with the people involved in your situation. You could even say, "Can we pool our resources to solve this problem?"

7. "Do Whatever You Want (To/With/Around Me)"

It can be hard to bring up your boundaries when you're afraid it will cause more conflict or even sever a relationship. However, without boundaries, you are a pushover. Even if you have them, if you don't bring them up, no one will know, and they won't have the opportunity to respect you for stating them.

8. "I Don't Need Any Help"

It may seem counterintuitive, but asking for help when you need it is actually a way of being assertive. It lets people know that you are not okay with things the way they are and that you know what you need. It also invites them to see your needs, attend to them, and maybe get to know you a little better.

9. "I Don't Care About You"

Another move that people tend to make when they feel like a doormat and want to be more assertive is to feel like they have to stop caring about others. They fear that this caring will get in the way of standing up for themselves. However, it's more-than-possible to be assertive and caring. For instance, you can be engaging and happy even as you are stating your needs or asking for help.

10. "I Don't Know What Is Going On Here"

Okay, so realistically, we all get into situations that we don't understand. But, as much as possible, prepare for situations where you will need to be assertive. If you often get run over in work meetings, do your research and write out the bullet points of your argument so everyone can see them while you speak.

11. "Sure, We Can Do That Again (Even Though I Hate It)"

When you're in a relationship pattern that you don't like, it can be hard to figure out what you want and voice it. Try to start with something positive, then add an "I" statement, like, "I love that you know your granddaughter so well. I'd like it if you didn't talk to my daughter about her weight, though."

12. "We Can't Fix This"

Whether the problem is relational, situational, logical, or otherwise, giving up will undermine your assertiveness. Assertive people see themselves as important parts of the groups they're in, and they have faith in the problem-solving abilities of those groups. Instead, say, "This is hard, so let's take a break and come back when we're refreshed."

13. "I Don't Really Need a Raise"

If you're thinking seriously about a raise, it's probably because you don't feel like you're earning what you're worth, and you will feel bad about yourself if you don't at least ask for more money. Plan ahead, so that you have examples of ways you've added value to your company. And if you get shot down, make sure to ask if you can revisit the topic of your performance in six months or a year. (See also: Create Your Own Raise)

14. "Come On, Guys… Please?"

If people aren't following you, then you aren't leading them assertively. Instead of begging them, take a look at yourself. Much of assertiveness has to do with your body language, so make sure you are looking people in the eye and standing up straight when you're giving instructions.

15. "I Guess I Need to Do This All Myself"

Being able to delegate is a sign of being assertive. Unless all of the tasks on your plate are truly yours (in which case, you probably need to ask for help anyway), there are usually people who can help you, or whose job it is to help you. If you're concerned that they are overwhelmed, ask them, and then figure out a way to solve the problem together.

16. "Please Don't Be Mad at Me"

Sometimes, being assertive will mean that others end up upset. This is their right and their problem. They are free to tell you what they need, as well, and work with you toward a solution that will work for everyone. You are not responsible for the ways that they feel in response to you being assertive, as long as you are kind with your requests.

17. "You Insulted Me"

When I feel insulted, I always take a step back to determine whether the person was actually insulting me, or whether they were offering constructive criticism. When you're a doormat, it's easy to be insulted and overcome by criticism that was meant to help you grow. If you're not clear, you can always ask the other person to be more specific or ask them why they made the comment.

Have you worked to become assertive? What would you never, ever say?

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