When I began my own journey to be stronger in my heart, mind and body, I needed a great deal of help to understand what healthy assertiveness looked like in real life. I may have looked assertive on the outside, but I often found myself feeling timid and afraid to say what I wanted or needed to say, even within my own family. Little Miss People Pleaser became Little Miss Husband Pleaser, Little Miss Children Pleaser, and even Little Miss Church Lady Pleaser.
I didn’t want to be rejected or misunderstood or left out.
I wanted everyone to be happy, even at the cost of my own emotional health.
Sometimes writing a new narrative is daunting. You may ask yourself, Am I up to this? Does it even matter? Is what I am doing making any difference at all? The answers: yes, yes, yes. Much like entering a new country, a new narrative requires learning a new language—the language of emotional, relational, and many times spiritual health.
To increase your capacity for healthy assertiveness, which will improve everything in your life, adopt the following five keys to finding your VOICE to help you make the necessary changes to move forward:
1. Value Yourself and Validate Others
Ask, How do I talk to myself? Is my self-talk healthy or unhealthy? Use your voice to speak healing words, first and foremost, to your own heart. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, clothe yourself and everyone in your sphere of influence with strength and dignity (v. 25). Live the Golden Rule and treat others as you would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12). Validating others doesn’t mean accepting any behavior, belief system, or bad choice. It does mean offering unconditional love, personal accountability, integrity, honesty, and above all else, mutual respect and trust. We can agree to disagree and still sit at the same table.
2. Optimize Your Skills
Invest time and energy into your mental health and personal development. Einstein is thought to have said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” If you want to become an effective communicator and enhance every relationship in your life, it will take an investment of time, energy, and sometimes money. If you don’t know where to start, ask for help.10 Always remember, asking for help is a sign of strength.
3. Initiate Healthy Behavior Patterns and Healthy Communication Skills
When a heartlifter — that is, a person committed to emotional health and wellness—is at the center of a family, community, workplace, or church, healthy relationships flourish. Be the one in the room to direct conversations that are healthy, diplomatic, and steeped in wisdom and integrity. There must be at least one person, one visionary, committed to seeing this change through to the end. Leaving a God-sized legacy is a God-sized task.
4. Communicate Clearly
Be direct, diplomatic, and discerning. Say what you need to say with grace and candor. Instead of being a peacekeeper, become a peacemaker.11 That might look like creating a bit of drama or tension or hard truth, but the result will be healthier relationships. Speak the truth in love and cover it with unconditional love. Instead of comparing, gossiping, berating, belittling, or overpowering, use your voice to increase the value, worth, and dignity of others and to create a healthy atmosphere in the room or space where healing conversations take place—especially hard conversations. No fingerpointing, blaming, or shaming, and if at all possible, bring strength, not sarcasm.
5. Energize the Room
Nothing sucks the life out of a room like unhealthy communication. C and E go hand in hand. As we develop the skill of communicating clearly, we will energize the room. Proverbs 14:1 serves as a great watchword: “The wise woman builds her house [on a foundation of godly precepts, and her household thrives], But the foolish one [who lacks spiritual insight] tears it down with her own hands [by ignoring godly principles]” (AMP).
Speak Healing Words
The human voice is a powerful instrument. Author and broadcaster Steve Henn writes, “A human voice still establishes a connection like nothing else can. A human voice can heal a country. Simply listening to someone tell their story can fill you with empathy and compassion. It can lead to forgiveness. Think of everything you learn by listening carefully to someone talk. Often you can guess their age and their gender. Maybe where they grew up. Often you can feel the emotions they feel—their happiness, their fear, their love.”
To use an example we’re all familiar with: imagine what it must have been like to be the Samaritan woman, sitting at that ancient well. Jesus’s voice changed her and her community forever. It must have been warm and welcoming. It must have been gentle and kind. It must have been strong and trustworthy. He made her feel safe and secure and spoke words that looked through her eyes and into her soul.
We have that same power and potential within our grasp. Will we use it wisely? Will we speak healing words? The choice is completely ours.