What if you gave yourself permission to communicate in an effective and efficient way that was both direct and respectful?
What if this new way of confidently communicating led you to a happier and healthier life?
I can't wait for you to hear this episode with Dr. Amanda Seavey. Not only will you gain amazing insight but it will also help you better support differently wired children. It's time to jump in!
xx, Holly - The Mom/Psychologist Who Gets It
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Holly: Welcome Dr. Amanda Seavey
Amanda: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here!
Holly: I am thrilled that you are here, so I'm going to introduce you. Amanda is a licensed psychologist and the founder of clarity, psychological wellness in Raleigh, North Carolina. She specializes in the treatment of sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, and trauma utilizing mindfulness-based therapies. She completed her training at the University of Tennessee and Duke University medical center. So my understanding is mindfulness-based therapies are so important.
Amanda: Yes, absolutely.
Holly: The reason why we were are coming together on this podcast today and why I'm so excited that you're here is I had come across your assertiveness rights. I love that so much and I think that it's powerful to know the rights that we have. So, because this is incredibly important for parents and teachers and therapists and children, we are actually gonna make this into two parts. So you have seven assertiveness and today we're going to talk about the first four.
Amanda: Yes, it sounds great.
Holly: So Amanda why don't you define assertiveness for us? I know some people think of it in different ways.
Amanda: Absolutely, I like to think of assertiveness as really an effective and efficient communication style that is both direct and respectful. And we think about this as building confidence by improving social and communication skills as well as maintaining healthy happy relationships. We see things like more just general life satisfaction resulting from having these assertiveness skills. These assertiveness rights are kind of the building blocks for those assertiveness skills.
Holly: I love that. So I don't know what comes up for every particular listener that hears the word assertiveness. Now that I am soon to be 46 and have been around for a while I hear things like it’s rude if you're assertive. Perhaps you're just supposed to just go with everything others do. You're not supposed to say what you want. And so when we hear assertiveness, I love how you defined it because it really will create boundaries. It will create more peace and get comfortable with that word.
Amanda: You're right there's so much, placed on us, just in expectations of how we behave, staying small, and staying quiet. And we learned those things throughout life. s Those messages run deep and it's really, really important to take a hard look at them.
Holly: Absolutely, and so that's why it’s so good that we're discussing this today. If you don't give yourself permission to be assertive, no one will.
Amanda: That's exactly right.
Holly: No one is going to do it for you.
Amanda: That's right. It is the idea of what is important to me and what I need to put at the forefront of my assertiveness. Nobody can know what that is for me. It's all very individual. It is up to us to know ourselves and to be able to then communicate it to other people.
Holly: Absolutely. It's so deeply embedded in us to really not tell people what we need, not put ourselves in the front or even anywhere near the top. Then we wouldn’t be putting everyone else before us and that makes us bad, selfish, or whatever words come up for that. But it doesn't have to be that way. It really is a mind shift around this word and recognizing your needs. So people don't realize that there is a cost if we don't tell people what we need.
Amanda: Yes. And sometimes a huge cost. It can have really hurtful and detrimental consequences to us when we don't share those things.
Holly: Exactly. Sometimes people do this in different ways whether they stay quiet or they don't say what they need or want. Sometimes that could be to avoid conflict?
Amanda: I think a lot of times that's a big factor is we don't want to make waves. We don't want to have that confrontation. And I think even a step further is that conflict and confrontation bring up for us this fear of rejection or abandonment. It might even go deeper. We need to think about what is really at the heart of this for each of us, for each individual,
Holly: That's important for sure. When we say there is this personal cost it could really hinder our right to be assertive. It can be a little uncomfortable to talk about, but I think it's important. I know for me in particular, because at the Wired Differently Podcast we are all about being authentic and real, that if I’m assertive and I say what I want or need that means that I can't do everything and that doesn't feel good either.
Amanda: It's absolutely true because we put so much pressure on ourselves and we were taught to think we could handle all that pressure. Then we all look around and we see each other seemingly handling it all well. We're not really seeing behind the curtain. Then we start to feel a little like everyone else can do it all. Why can't I do it all? And it really can kind of start a bit of a spiral that way.
Holly: So if we stay where we are and are not assertive we don’t let people know what we want. People then don’t know the cost to us and saying those boundaries is hard right? We can also choose to not shift in life and become more assertive. We have to kind of pick our hard and decide what is not working. If we shift and look at this other hard we can choose to be more assertive. So when we talk about these first four assertiveness rules we will talk about how we do this. We know it's important, but where do we start? Are you ready for number one?
Holly: All right, here we go, everyone and this is a big one. It's almost even hard to say!
Holly: Number one is the right to make mistakes. Tell us about that.
Amanda: Yeah. So I think that this is such a big one. It's why I often start here because I think it's one of the hardest things that we battle internally. It is these expectations, again, to be able to do it all and to do it all well. It is this idea that we can sort of be perfect. There might be those people who feel that they know they can’t be perfect, but I've got to try. That might even be how this comes up. They know they can't actually get there, but mistakes are unacceptable. Still making mistakes means I'm putting myself out there. I'm trying new things. I'm human isn't that incredible.
Holly: I love that! It really brings on at least for me a feeling like it’s okay I should be doing this. It's not about being ashamed. When I make a mistake there can be a shame that there is something wrong with me or I'm bad. It can make me feel like I am less and make me feel pretty uncomfortable. It's the same thing, mistakes are mistakes. But if we flip the way we look at it and that we have the right to make mistakes that changes everything
Amanda: You're absolutely right. There's so much that we interpret with our reflection of who we are. My mistakes are not a reflection of who I am. They're just a reflection of my humanity. Mistakes do trigger so much shame. So I even take it a step further sometimes and try to celebrate the mistakes. Congratulate them on me to say well, look what you did there. That's amazing, that was a stretch for you. That was difficult for you and you did anyway. That's amazing.
Holly: Making mistakes are an opportunity to learn. Oftentimes I'll hear from patients or patients' parents kind of describing this need for perfection. And that kind of goes back and speaks to what you were saying. Mistakes are a reflection of my worth, right? So if I am a perfectionist or I'm constantly trying to be perfect and make no mistakes that must mean I am good.
Amanda: Exactly and truly we are so much more than that. We are so much more than what we do or these mistakes that we might make.
Holly: So when we're talking about this what strategies that we can use.
Amanda: I think one of the first things that I think about doing is noticing what's happening with this internal dialogue. What comes up and shows up and then being able to identify it. A sort of like critic coming in and telling me this isn't okay. And starting to kind of see the mistake as an aspect of us not who we are. Right so just identifying it can be a step towards giving ourselves permission, giving ourselves the right.
Holly: Yeah. So good and then also talking about, like you mentioned earlier is celebrating that. So what you learn is a process and we always talk about learning. Learning's important for maturing. That we know there will still be mistakes.
Amanda: Yeah. It's a natural part of the process a hundred percent
Holly: It is absolutely a natural part. Instead of saying I'm ashamed that I’ve messed up again but that I am learning thank goodness for mistakes.
Amanda: Exactly. Yeah. It's absolutely true. I remember my first couple of years in graduate school, I was under so much stress and pressure to just know and to be on top of things. And I remember someone said to me, you're not supposed to know that's why you're here.
Holly: That is right. And so instead of looking at it, like I'm supposed to know I should be perfect I should be able to get this right but rather look at it as a human. Being gentle with yourself and apologizing when it is your mistake. If you make a mistake and it impacts another person that's okay too. And also model that is incredibly important for parents and teachers and therapists to model for children. Since we are on the wired differently podcasts, talking about children who often think that they make mistakes continuously and they're constantly corrected. There are so many times, I'll hear from my patients than saying, I always mess up. I never get anything right. I'm just going to mess it up anyway, why should I even try? And if we can help them and ourselves learn that mistakes are supposed to happen, what an amazing way to change how you feel about yourself.
Amanda: Yes, exactly. It's like you said, there's an opportunity that comes up there. When we say to someone I made a mistake then there's a point of connection that happens. When someone says I’m sorry to us it's okay. And it feels good to hear that. And then we feel sort of cared for in that relationship. There's an opportunity that can come up there. I think the line starts to happen when we start over apologizing, which we do a lot out of habit. When we really haven't done something wrong like run into a door jam or something and we say I'm sorry. It’s not something that I've done wrong. It's just this reflexive word that we use a lot. And so asking that question is there something to apologize for here? If in fact there is the appropriate apology, don't over apologize. Don't sort of put yourself down while you're apologizing, but make that appropriate apology, connect through that if you can and then let it be.
Holly: I love that you don't have to keep carrying it around. I think that's what happens with our children, our students, and our clients is they keep carrying it around. And really most of us do as well. We can do this for ourselves. Model for your child if they make a mistake for an assignment say to them, of course, you will. You're not supposed to know. And that's how you learn. Mistakes are not to feel bad. You know, it really doesn't need to be that way. And I love the way you said let's celebrate that because when you celebrate those mistakes, then you can also celebrate what you learned from them. And really that's the main part. And like you said, let's be human because we actually are. It is okay we have the right to make mistakes. All right, well, let's go on to the next one, the right to change your mind.
Amanda: This is a great one. It is interesting but there seems to be an idea out there that changing your mind sort of means something negative about you. But in fact, I think it can reflect growth in mindset, right? That we're taking in new information all the time and we're reacting to and incorporating that information flexibly. And in that flexibility, there is so much opportunity. I have new information and there are new circumstances. You then allow yourself to take in that new information, be flexible, and sort of respond appropriately to new information. I think it is a healthy thing to do.
Holly: I agree. And I think being able to give yourself the freedom and give yourself permission to be able to do that. And I'm going to just use an example. If you are a parent with a child with an IEP, and you are in an IEP meeting, and you kind of decide that the team's goals aren’t working. So it's okay to come back to the table. You don't have to wait for a long time. You know, you have the information that you had at that moment. Now you have new information.
Amanda: Yes, exactly. And some of us are more feeling processors. Some of us are more cognitive in our processing. And so if we go with our first reaction and then feel like we're trapped it doesn't work for most of us, we need to sort of sit with things and be with them. And I think that this is sort of saying you have the right to have a reaction and to change it and then think another way. And that's well within your right to do that.
Holly: I love that. And so when you were talking about the hows. I love the idea and the way you said it. I had different information at the time and now I have new information. Based on this new information, this is now the direction I want to go. And, I think it's powerful to be able to provide words for people to use when learning a new skill. I knew what I knew when I knew it, and now I have this new information. So it's so good. All right let’s move on to the third one, which is so powerful, the right to ask for what you want. You would think it sounds so simple, but it's incredibly difficult.
Amanda: Yeah there is an idea that there are needs and there are wants. You know one of the ways that we often abandon ourselves in a sense is that we set aside our desires. If it's not needed, then it's not important it doesn't matter. And it does matter right. To honor our desire and our wants in the world is just critical for our relationship with ourselves.
Holly: Definitely. So when you recognize the first step is deciding what do I want? Because if you're squashing it, if you're putting it down as not what you want or need, that's still putting yourself really far down the line. Like what I want doesn't matter or isn't important. What I want might make other people uncomfortable or something must be wrong with me because I should just make it happen or deal with the situation. So we're really looking at all of those underlying thoughts and feelings that are coming up. It's uncomfortable even to say that or be afraid to ask for what I want. What will be the reaction of that other person? But as you said, assertiveness, it's not disrespectful.
Amanda: Right and sometimes I think of assertiveness as the meeting point where someone shares with me their needs and desires and boundaries. And I share with them. And that balance point, that meeting of those two things is actually this really healthy place that we find within relationships. If we aren't sharing our wants, then we're going to miss that point. We're going to miss where that meeting place would and could be.
Holly: Absolutely. And I love that you said that because I think naturally people think if you ask for what you want you're overbearing and selfish. Do you know what I mean? All those sorts of underlining things that come up and you are taking up all that space. It's not that you're going to that middle but more that is where you are at. And if you don't ask for what you want you will be the same at your work. Everybody will think you're fine with what's happening. If you don't say what you want you will model this for your child or your student. Being able to let them know what they want is important. What they want matters and what we show them about saying what we want matters.
Amanda: That's exactly right. There's this message of your needs, wants, and who you are. Your human right can seem to be secondary. Your rights can be set aside for someone else's needs. Sometimes when I'm in these situations I struggle with how do I share this? I noticed that I feel like I'm taking something from someone else to share my own wants. I think in truth, though, if you think about it from the other side. If you have someone that you care about and they're not sharing with you what they want most of you don't know their desires. I want to understand what's going on with you and where your boundaries are. Actually, as we work together as a team in our healthiest relationships it is okay to get some needs and wants met for each of us.
Holly: When you think about collaboration and how to ask for your needs. In this situation, it is not natural to ask for what you want. An example is a child who thinks better while they pace right in the classroom, or maybe they pace in the back of the room. Well they feel like they don't have the right to say that because they're supposed to sit constantly. All their energy and all their thoughts and everything is connected to just sitting and they can't even hear the teacher. So what if that child knew that they had the right to ask for that, that would be amazing.
I always talk about self-advocacy and a lot of the time we're not really modeling that. The right to listen to music while you're doing your work, having headphones on in the classroom, or maybe while you're remote learning, what does that look like? So there are so many different things that we can say to express what we want and feel good about it and not be ashamed. Instead of feeling bad that we are putting other people out we need to tell people what we want or they won’t know.
Amanda: It's absolutely true. We're actually doing something both for the relationship and for the other person when we share these things.
Holly: Sometimes this comes into play in different relationships such as parent-teacher. It doesn't matter if it is a teacher-child, or child-parent, or a partner to a partner. Even though that seems to be difficult when we think about what we want and what we need, it doesn't matter so much as anticipating what someone else needs. So for instance, if you are a child who has a lot of sensory needs and it's the holidays and you're visiting extended family, what does that look like?
Being clear about what you need, about what your child needs, and being okay with that. Example would be that they don't eat everything that's served.. Maybe they need to take breaks away from the table. Maybe they need a separate guest bedroom to go hang out for a while. And those are things that we really do want to model for our children. So they don't have to feel ashamed and feel bad because someone else has an expectation. It is fine and doesn't mean you don't say what you want and you can be okay and feel good in that. If they did know what you needed or wanted they would be more accommodating.
Amanda: This assertiveness point is really in between aggressiveness and passivity. It is not this idea that we are saying you have to do this. It's saying this is what I need and want. And if the other person is also being assertive and honoring their own assertiveness rights, then they have the ability at that point to sort of share where their boundaries are and what their needs and wants are. And it becomes collaborative in that way. This is all not to say I disregard everyone else's needs and wants and their feelings and their position. It's honoring that at the same time, as you're honoring your own.
Holly: Exactly. I love that. And collaboration is so incredibly important because you also get to grow and become better at collaborators. You can actually accept that you have the right to ask for what you want. So let's move on to number four, the right to experience and express your own feelings.
Amanda: This is right along those lines of expressing your wants and desires. It might even start with a feeling before you understand what their want and desire is. But we really want to say to ourselves the emotional aspect of our experience, regardless of what they are valid. If it comes from somewhere it's meaningful. And it's important information to take a look at. We'd miss out on information if we just disregard our emotional experience. I think of it like the dashboard of a car where sometimes your check engine light comes on or your change oil light comes on. These emotional experiences really help us understand what our needs and wants are, and kind of where we are, in the world and how we're relating to the people around us.
Holly: It's so true. And I think once you get better and better at knowing your rights then you can feel the way you feel. You have to give yourself permission to feel your feelings and you don't have to decide that's a bad feeling. I can't feel that and I can't express that because it wasn’t important. I'm just supposed to sort of be quiet and get along. But then you're suffering.
Amanda: That's right. That's exactly right. And I think that the idea that if we disregard our feelings that they'll go away is really not the case. Oftentimes it grows and sits there and becomes even heavier.
Holly: When you talk about how that impacts relationships it's incredible\ I was kind of looking at some examples with the holidays come coming up. When I think of extended family and I know a lot of parents tell me that that's very difficult for them. If something is uncomfortable around family then you're just supposed to be quiet and get along. But really it's not about being mean. It's not about not saying what is important because your feelings are important. And again, all, because someone doesn't accept what you're saying, doesn't mean, you shouldn't say it.
Holly: You can suffer in silence or you can say, I said this in a respectful way. At least I am practicing my rights.
Amanda: Yeah. And it really does build an internal sense of worth when we are honoring our own position and our own experience. It does kind of build a relationship with ourselves that's strong and authentic. You know it is self-accepting when we say no this is important. Saying it out loud actually sends that message back internally that this is worthwhile and important.
Holly: You have the right to feel the way you're feeling. Not long ago I was on the fence of whether or not to formally discuss my frustration with some school administration. I thought I needed to stay quiet. I don't want to upset anyone but it really wasn't about that. It was about having this feeling and expressing it in a respectful way. So I can decide to not have things changed or I can say I am formally requesting this via email, and that's okay.
Amanda: It's so important to do. I think the alternative is really that we shut it all down. We don't acknowledge that those feelings are there and then they kind of fester. Then we find ourselves lashing out at some point because we have so much that we've bottled up. It's like keeping the beach ball underwater, we can only hold it there for so long before it's going to come up. Someone’s going to say something and we're going to have that reaction that isn't too emotional to really be respectful. It's great to sort of say it and deal with it as it comes up so that we can do so in a really respectful and kind way.
Holly: I agree. And I love that example because resentment can build anger, frustration, all of those things when you're pretending you're fine. If you don't ask for what you want. you can’t have the right of letting go. It doesn't have to hold you underwater while it's impacting your body and impacting your mental health in such negative ways.
Amanda: Yeah, exactly.
Holly: When a parent is communicating with their child I will tell my kids if they are hurting my feelings and tell them that this is how I'm feeling. Whether they take that information or not I'm doing that for myself. I'm saying that what you just said really hurt my feelings.
Amanda: Yeah. And it's such a great sort of modeling behavior.
Holly: So we talked about so many important things. Let's review really quickly, the right to make mistakes, the right to change your mind, the right to ask for what you want, and the right to experience and express your feelings. And again, these are just the first four. And what we wanted to do is break up the seven because they're all so important. So the next time in part two, we're going to be talking about the last three.
Amanda: Awesome. This is great.
Holly: So good. Okay. So, Amanda, I know people are going to want to learn more about you. How do they do that? Yeah.
Amanda: So I am on Instagram. You can find me at Raleigh psych well, and then my website has got all of my contact information on it, which is claritypsychologync.com.
Holly: Perfect Thank you so much, Amanda. I really appreciate your time.
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