Mental Health: Are You a Wimp? (cont.)

Standing Up for Yourself

So let's return to the scenario we started with: as you leave work, your boss catches you and asks you to come in on Saturday. You have plans, and working on Saturdays is certainly not part of your job description. What should you do?

Saying "I'm sorry, I have plans" would be ideal. But that might seem too blunt. Whatever you do, don't blurt out a yes. Take a minute to think. If you need to, ask to call back in an hour with an answer, Franks says.

Also, be explicit -- it's key to assertiveness. If you're only supposed to work a 40-hour week -- and you've done your time already -- say so. For instance, you could say, "I know that this new project is really important. But I've already filled up the whole workweek with two other projects. Would it help if I shifted my priorities next week?"

"You need to make clear that you're not refusing to do your job," Greenburg tells WebMD. "You're just pointing out that you have a lot of other things going on as well, and you can't do everything."

Of course, this is easier said that done. Right now, you might sooner put your head in a guillotine than displease anyone, especially your boss. But while Frank admits it can be hard, the pay-off to learning assertiveness is worth it.

"You can't wait until you feel more self-confident to start trying these techniques," she says. "Instead, you start by using these skills, even if it feels awkward and weird. Once you begin using them, you'll start to feel better. It gets easier as you realize that you don't have to feel like a doormat all the time."

By gradually putting these tips into practice, even the most hopeless wimps can really change how people treat them -- and how they view themselves.

"It's never too late to change," says Franks. "And people who learn how to assert themselves really feel so much better in every aspect of their lives."

Published March 14, 2005.


SOURCES: Marion Frank, EdD, professional psychology services, Philadelphia. Sharon Greenburg, PhD, privately practicing psychologist, Chicago. Elizabeth Stirling, PhD, privately practicing psychologist, Sante Fe, N.M.

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Last Editorial Review: 3/15/2005 10:14:07 PM



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