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EST. May 2000 (AD)




How to be Assertive

By Elizabeth Hanes

It's simple: you can't get what you want from your man without telling him. But even if you feel you can't just come right out and say what you want, you can still get your point across. The key is non-verbal communication.

Psychologists might argue that non-verbal communication goes against the grain of "assertiveness." They might say assertiveness means communicating in a direct manner. Psychologists also might argue that my intense affection for faux fur constitutes a treatable condition, but to this I say, "Poppycock." And so should you.

You can be eminently assertive through non-verbal communication. Let's look at some examples.

The Absent Mate

Your spouse is working late at the office again. You very much want to call him up and quietly berate him, saying, "I'm sick and tired of being home alone again. Come home right now, you weasel." Understandably, this can be difficult to do, especially if you and your spouse have a past history of tenseness in verbal communication.

One alternative is to abandon verbal communication altogether. Instead, take out a full-page ad in the New York Times containing that photograph of him wearing thong underwear and cowboy boots, while holding a pair of fluffy pom-pons. Add the caption, "This man prefers the company of professional men to that of his wife." Be sure to include your husband's work e-mail address.

The Laggard

For the umpteenth time, you've done the chores that are supposed to be your spouse's. You desperately want to express your frustration by calmly screaming, "How many times do I have to ask you to take out the trash?! What, are your arms broken??", but he's accused you of nagging in the past, and you want to avoid another argument.

The obvious non-verbal answer is a quick quid-pro-quo. If he's unwilling to do his chores, maybe you should stop doing yours. Quit vacuuming his toupee. Tell him it's fine to invite the boss for dinner, then show up at the door in curlers and a housecoat, with a Tombstone pizza in the oven. Instead of telling his mother you can't drive up for the weekend because one of the children is ill, tell her the truth is the whole family is participating in a clean-a-thon at the local dental centre, which is much more enjoyable than visiting her.

The Cheapskate

Does it embarrass you when your boyfriend uses a coupon in an upscale restaurant? Or when he shortchanges the waitress on her tip? How about when he tries to convince the theater clerk he's under age 12? When you have expressed your embarrassment at these shenanigans, has he dismissed your feelings as "stupid" or "ridiculous"?

One way to get your point across in an assertive but non-confrontational manner is through trickery. Next time loverboy brings along a coupon for an expensive dinner, ask to see it. Then, when he goes to the men's room (which he'll have to do after you accidentally knock a glass of wine in his lap), burn the coupon by dropping it into the expensive crystal candle lamp on the table. When your boyfriend later asks you what happened to the coupon, lie. Say, "I saw [the waiter/a guy at the next table/that blonde over there] grab it during the commotion. Maybe you should confront them."

The Selfish Lover

If your lover leaves you unsatisfied in the sack, you've no one to blame but yourself. In this day and age, you should be able to calmly and openly discuss your sexual needs with your partner. Wait until an appropriate time and place - say, three days later, while your boyfriend is watching an important sporting event. Stand in front of the TV and say, "I haven't had an orgasm during the eight years we've been together. I think you owe it to me to listen to me when I tell you which things arouse me and which don't, and I think you really need to stop referring to farting and fluffing as 'foreplay.'"

But if you, like so many women, find it difficult to discuss such intimate details, you can remain quiet yet still assertively get your point across.

Pick a convenient weekend evening and set up a "date" with your mate. Tell him to be at a certain nightclub at 9pm and wait for you. Meanwhile, treat yourself to an afternoon at the spa, then get tarted up in your best low-cut dress. Take a cab across town to the industrial district and enter a bar frequented by longshoremen. Pick up one - or several - and go to a nearby hotel to frolic for hours, until all those years of frustration have been laid to rest.

As you head home in the cab, use your cellphone to call your boyfriend and tell him you're sorry, but you'll have to cancel at the last minute. Headache.

True, that won't solve your problem. Then again, you won't really care.

© 2005 Elizabeth Hanes


Associate Editor Elizabeth Hanes holds a degree in creative writing from the University of New Mexico. Her nonfiction articles and stories have been featured in "Collector's News," the Colorado Springs "Gazette," and the Pikes Peak or Bust rodeo program. She also is the wicked, wicked mind behind "Savannah Lawless." Munching Valium by day and sipping champagne by night are what keep Elizabeth a "happy woman."

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