One of the paradoxes of being assertive is what we think we’ll happen.
This is due to the very squirrely nature of our brain.
We want something, we are scared of doing it, but we don’t like to admit we’re scared of doing it.
Since that would make us feel bad on an ego-level, we use all kinds of biases and cognitive dissonance to reframe what’s going on around us.
Often times we’ll be in a situation where somebody asks us a favor, and we don’t think much of it.
And then they ask another favor, and we go ahead and help them.
But the third time they ask, we’re starting to feel like they are taking advantage of us.
But since we didn’t say anything the first time, it’s hard to speak up now.
And in those few situations where we do speak up, it’s hard to maintain our cool.
Being assertive means to plainly say, “no,” without needing to give a reason.
But there are other ways.
And even more playful ways that are not only just as effective, but may even enhance the relationship.
Instead of just going along with any unexpected requests, ask what you get in return.
From the askers point of view, this is very hard to argue with.
Unless they are your direct boss (or a cop) they aren’t going to say:
“What do you mean what do you get? Your job is to obediently serve me!”
The opposite usually happens.
Especially if you ask playfully.
Simply state their request back, to make sure you understand.
That will make them feel good, since you’re demonstrating that you’re actually paying attention to what they said.
Then playfully say, “Ok, after I do that, what will I get?”
This presupposes you will fulfill their request, and that they’ll give you something in return.
They won’t have anticipated this, but they will enjoy the question.
It implies an ongoing “tit for tat” relationship.
It’s also a good way screen out freeloaders.
You can even playfully put them on the spot.
Since they won’t have anticipated that response, they’ll usually (and honestly) ask, “What do you want?”
To which you can reply:
“One BILLION dollars!”
And say it like Dr. Evil from Austin Powers (making sure you put a lot of emphasis on the “B”).
This will do a lot of things.
One is it will send a clear message that you are not a pushover.
Two is it will make it much more fun to “defend your boundaries.”
Three is they will honestly feel obligated to return the favor.
This is a very playful way to deal with folks you suspect are trying to sneak past your boundaries.
There are plenty others.