How To Deal With Family Pressure And Be More Assertive

tips from experts Apr 05, 2022
how to deal with family pressure and be more assertive

By Kristina Todorova, Head Coach and Founder, Coaching for Transformers

Have you ever been challenged by your loved ones on the choices and decisions you are making for your life? Have you felt you had to adhere to cultural and family values that weren’t in alignment with what you truly wanted for yourself and your life? I think many of us have experienced situations where we’ve had to defend our choices and decisions especially if they were somehow “out of the norm” as per our upbringing and cultural conditioning. And, let’s face it – such conversations can feel uncomfortable and unpleasant. They can create unnecessary tension and disrupt our relationship with those we care about and love the most.

Not only have I personally experienced the discomfort of being challenged on some of the decisions I had taken for my life, but I have had multiple clients bring their own fears of family conflict to our sessions too. Today, I am going to share a few tips on how to deal with family pressure and have those difficult conversations in a way that strengthens your relationship with your family (yes, you can turn such conversations into a “win-win” scenario for everyone and feel heard).

1. Do not get defensive

The very first thing you may start to feel when a family member or a loved one is challenging your choices is defensiveness. By being aware of the emotions showing up for you when being challenged, you can pause and consciously decide not to react but try to understand their perspective and why they are challenging you. You can ask open-ended questions such as “what makes you say that”; “where are these thoughts coming from”. It is important to be mindful of your tone of voice too as people react emotionally to your tone much more than to the words you are using (as per research).

In my experience, those who are close to us tend to challenge our choices and decisions because they are worried about us or because they think we are making a mistake. When we show them that we are willing to hear their point of you without judging it, we create space for mutual understanding even when we have conflicting perspectives, beliefs and values.

2. Openly express why you are taking a certain decision or course of action

You can use phrases such as “this is important to me because”; “by doing this, it will help me”, with the intention of being open and honest. The purpose of providing an explanation is not to defend yourself but to openly express your perspective so that they can understand exactly why you are taking a certain decision or course of action. If your decision is directly impacting them, you can explore ways in which you can support one other. Should they appear to be reluctant to continue listening or understand your perspective, you can suggest that they take some time to think about what you have shared and discuss it again.

3. Agree to disagree

Not everyone in your life will share the exact same values as you and that’s ok. You can choose to form intimate relationships and friendships based on mutual values, but there might be different values and beliefs within your family.

If you feel drawn to pursue a particular path or you are taking actions your family disagree with, you can always verbally “agree to disagree” and tell them that it is ok to have different opinions about certain subjects. Disagreements do not need to turn into a conflict when there’s an understanding that each person is responsible for their own decisions and, as adults, for the consequences of such decisions. You can deeply love and respect one other and disagree with their choices as well as accept that they can and may disagree with yours. Therefore, communicating openly and normalising the fact that it is ok to have different perspectives and values will support you in strengthening your relationship with your loved ones, even in the midst of disagreements. 

Remaining assertive and firm in your decisions and adhering to your own values come down to having self-awareness and confidence. When you know exactly why you are taking a certain decision or a course of action and are self-confident, you will be able to openly share your perspective and honour your choices even when you are being challenged by your loved ones. My personal coaching sessions are specifically designed to help you gain clarity and confidence so that you can remain true to yourself, to your dreams and keep moving forward decisively. If you feel your confidence needs a boost, you can book a session here. Next time you find yourself in a situation when your decisions and actions are being challenged, pause, breathe and remember why you are taking them; then communicate clearly and openly (from your heart). 

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