How to stand up for myself when put on the spot
January 17, 2015 2:24 AM   Subscribe

People constantly say I am 'cute' and I am tired of hearing it. I really admire people who have that spark and aren't afraid of voicing their opinion but not sure how to become more like that.

I've changed my style of clothes to less flowery dresses, and also tried to change my voice so it sounds more assertive and a bit louder because it is quite a girly voice. But I'm still called cute and submissive and nice.
I'll give a few examples.
I had an amazing interview and passed to the final stage, but was rejected because I am not dominant enough.
A more recent example is planning a birthday for my friend 'Eva'. One guy called 'Steve' tried to organise the whole thing and wanted it to be a three day festival basically. My other friends came to me to try to stop him, and in the nicest way I told him that 3 days was too much, that we are all busy. So I compromised a two day celebration instead. The first day we arranged tickets to an event, the second day he wanted it to be an international food party at Eva's and my place. That would have been fine with me but my other friends weren't keen on that idea and so they came to me, and again we managed to compromise booking a nice restaurant in a new area. This whole deal hurt me because I felt like I was too soft with Steve and letting him command his way, instead of telling him that we should plan this together as a team. Then on the last day once everything was organised, Steve said he suddenly can't go to the dinner because he has a wedding to go to, and rather than saying that it seems as though he isn't going because the plan wasn't his plan , I just nodded my head and said okey. When I told Eva of these problems, she asked me if I called him out on any of this, and to be honest I didn't, which made me feel really bad because I know if it were her she definitely would have said something to him. Today he messaged me and said that we need to book another event for Eva's birthday, as he is going to the wedding. This means extra money, time etc. I asked him for more details about the event, instead of saying 'Hell no, it's not my fault you couldn't go to Eva's birthday'. In the end the event didn't happen because my other friend said it wouldn't be possible. I hate hurting other people's feelings or being a burden, how do I stop this?!?
A final example. I've been vegetarian for years, and my friend came to my place to cook dinner, mainly to impress a guy who was also coming. She made chicken and didn't cook anything vegetarian, and also cooked the vegetables in the chicken juice. I ate the freakin vegetables and didn't say anything. My friends all saw this and called her out on it. They said she is selfish and i should have just not eaten them. They are absolutely right but I was put on the spot and with no time to think so I just went along with it.
Guys I go out with always say I'm a cutie pie, one said I look like a manga because of my 'save me' eyes. This is all fine but I've never been called feisty and I know it seems like I let people walk all over me, and it's been a problem in relationships.
My friends also say I let people walk all over me, but when it comes to the situation I don't think fast enough to stand up for myself and instead just let it happen. Looking back at situations I always come up with a thing I could have said, but when I am in that moment with little time to think, I never voice my opinion. Are there any books that can help me with this, or any strategies? Thank you.
posted by akita to Human Relations (29 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I wonder if you've heard of Marshall Rosenberg and his Nonviolent Communication (aka Compassionate Communication).
posted by Sir Rinse at 2:48 AM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Can you take an improv class? I think it would help in projecting your voice and thinking on your feet. I think it would help your confidence, too.
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 3:07 AM on January 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Do you have any friends that you can talk to about how you feel? You mention lots of friends in your question but they all seem awful and pushy. Do none of them know you? I'm a very pushy person but when I care about someone who I know is often timid or afraid to make waves or whatever, I make a definite effort to make space for them, to ask them their opinion and give them time to form one, to not make them feel bad when I see them being submissive anyway. It sounds like you need an ally, and you need someone to tell you that things aren't your fault, and you need someone to help make a little space for you in social situations until you're more comfortable doing it yourself. Do you know anybody who would understand and listen?

Like, with your vegetarian example, your one friend who didn't make anything for you to eat was awful in the first place, but your other friends who then yelled at her consequently made you feel bad for going along with it. They should have encouraged you to speak up about it, but ultimately it was your choice and they should respect you more. Maybe though you've just not made it clear to any of them how much that hurt you, too? Maybe you have a sort of ringleader friend who can lead the way in giving you more respect and time to make decisions about if and when you want to speak up about something.

I hate hurting other people's feelings or being a burden, how do I stop this?!?

I am sorry that you feel this way, but none of the examples in your question show anything being your fault at all. It's all friends expecting you to act and think like them, instead of acting and thinking like, and for, yourself. In professional situations, I agree that unfortunately a cute quiet woman can be easily trampled and you can push yourself to act dominant and serious to have more financial success. But when it comes to friends (and more), being a cute and quiet woman should never compromise the respect you are due. The only thing that should matter is how you treat others, and I don't see anything in this question about you treating anyone poorly at all. It's all about you being poorly treated for being yourself.

Sometimes it's good to just let things happen. Sometimes it's really not worth the energy, or you really couldn't have come up with a solution on the spot. Try to work individually with the friends you think are worth the hassle of keeping on them not pushing you around, forcing you to do and say things you wouldn't do, or demanding that you stick up for yourself in situations that you don't deem that important. Not everybody needs to fight about everything. They should accept that about you.
posted by Mizu at 3:58 AM on January 17, 2015 [16 favorites]

I don't think it has to do with you, as much as how these people use you, as kind of a doormat.

With the chicken stuff, you ate the veg without saying anything. I'm veg myself, and if someone asks why I'm not eating something or to just pick meat off, I say I just can't bring myself to do it and I eat whatever I've brought that has been prepped by me.

Also, just not helping Steve with Eva's bday plans and stuff is okay.

And maybe spend less time with these people. Go make some new friends.
posted by discopolo at 4:09 AM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm like you, although I'm a completely different physical type. When I get put on the spot my reaction is to freeze like a rabbit in the backyard. That's how I react to fear and part of my healing has been to try to accept that about myself. (I'm not there yet.)

Now... a coping mechanism for people like us is to delay reacting if possible, compose a reasonable response that protects us, and give that response. If you're contacted via email, text, or voicemail, you have every opportunity to do this.

If the situation is happening in real time, pull away for a few minutes (ladies' room), compose a response, and come back with it.

Example: The "friend" with the chicken dinner? I assume she knows you're a vegetarian? When she started pulling chicken out of her bag:

1) Retreat to bathroom.
2) Come up with appropriate response.
3) Breathe.
4) Back to kitchen: "Friend's_name, I don't eat meat and I'm not comfortable with it being cooked under my roof. You should have checked with me before you brought it over. We can order out instead and you can take the chicken home with you."
5) Breathe. (Not noticeably - just a reminder to yourself to do it.)
6) Stick to your guns amidst the wailing and gnashing of teeth that will ensue.

Be prepared to be called all kinds of names and to have some of your "friends" turn on you, even the ones who might come to your defense otherwise. The win you'll get in self-respect will be worth it. Your real friends will stick around.

Also: never underestimate the impact of hanging up on someone who's being unreasonable. Don't let people waste your time. It sounds really harsh but a lot of people need a wakeup call these days.

I'll recommend Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office again. The wisdom in that book carries over into non-work life.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 4:12 AM on January 17, 2015 [10 favorites]

Don't censor yourself. Just say what you think. Ask a trusted friend to roleplay with you, so you can get familiar with it.

Have a stock phrase, "I don't think that's a good idea." Just knowing that you have the phrase and that you don't have to think of something clever on the spot is helpful.

Say the phrase and then wait. Collect yourself, and respond to what the other person says. "Steve, I know you want to celebrate Eva's birthday, but the rest of us are kind of done with it. If you personally want to do something for her, arrange it, but enough is enough."

Why would you have to be involved in whatever he was doing? Why not let him arrange what he wants to arrange and then decide what parts of it you want to do. As for the party at your house, simply say, "That won't work for me, how about you do it at your house?"

Why on earth didn't you tell your friend, the one you let come to your house and dirty up you kitchen, "Hey if there's nothing here I can eat, I'll have to bail on your party." Or better yet, why didn't YOU cook yourself something you could eat? I can't fathom eating something I don't like. Do you honestly think that she even noticed that you choked down the vegetables? If she's that insensitive to you, her feelings aren't going to be hurt if you opt for a PBJ.

You're allowed to occupy space on the earth. Your friends will like you if you don't always agree with them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:57 AM on January 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'd advise against using terms such as 'you should have' there is an expectancy there and it's going to get folks backs up. Try to focus on behaviours/poss solutions rather than seeming like you are criticising the person. 'A woman in you own right' on assertiveness is quite good, but not everyone can be reasoned with, unfortunately for the rest of us.
posted by tanktop at 5:10 AM on January 17, 2015

When people call you cute, it can feel like the expected response is for you to demurely blush and say, "oh, shucks. Me? Thank you!" and blush some more.

Instead, try acting a little cocky and take the Bender approach and say, "psh, I know. It's pretty much the opposite of what someone "cute" would do. It's assertive, funny, and something you can pretty easily blurt out in response.

It takes getting called cute from something perhaps vaguely uncomfortable and demeaning to something you make work for you to boost your own confidence.
posted by phunniemee at 5:18 AM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

If it makes you feel any better, I super feisty, and would/have/mighta done everything you described. Maybe not all in the same week, but I don't die on every hill or fight every battle presented.

The suggestions for nonviolent communications classes (shitty name, excellent technique) and improv classes are absolutely EXCELLENT.

You could do those two things and feel much improved in a few months.

Mostly you need skills and practice. Skills and practice. Skills and practice.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 6:05 AM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: An important part of being an adult is learning to say "No".
Not "No, but.." or "No, and.." but just "No."
It was easy when you were two, but now, not so much, especially if you're on the shy side or hate confrontation.

Here's the thing: Saying no is okay. Saying no is healthy. Saying no won't affect your friendship with your true friends. Your acquaintances and randoms? Yeah, it might, but who cares?

Begin saying "No" more often. It's very empowering and makes you feel 10 feet tall.
If you're the polite type, then say "No thank you."
Variations of this are "I don't think so." and "I'm not going to do that." and the ever popular "Oh hell NO."

As a grown adult, the thing is you never have to explain yourself unless YOU see fit.

The only way you get treated like a doormat is if you lie down.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 6:10 AM on January 17, 2015 [8 favorites]

I was reading your question and thinking of what I could write to help you out.

Looking back at situations I always come up with a thing I could have said, but when I am in that moment with little time to think, I never voice my opinion.

What's good is that you recognize the problem. You're not being assertive in the planning stages, and then when some fresh hell erupts, your brain freezes and you're probably thinking, "Shit. This is NOT how I hoped this would play out." So you need to get a lot more involved in planning.

The birthday gala could have been easier you had either: 1) told Steve you and he would plan it together or; 2) told your other buddies, "Steve is planning this. Talk to him."

Your chicken-cooking friend problem could have been dealt with had you said, in the planning stages, "Sounds great! What's the plan for dinner? You know I'm veg and won't eat chicken-y anything so do you want me to make my quinoa bake or are you going to make something veggie?"

Something else to consider. Professionally, I care a lot about my students and I am known at work for being a blunt educational advocate. And that's because I know what matters to me, as far as helping my students. I can see right and wrong more clearly at work and I speak up.

But I used to struggle more in my personal life because I put too much emphasis on other people's perceived feelings. Over the years I'd also sit quietly, let situations unfold (badly) and do this weird perch-watching as I put my energy into ensuring everyone was happy by letting them run things. And how silly is that? I was so busy being a hypervigilant caregiver that I never put myself into the equation and of course, nobody was ever very happy.

It's not easy, but I learned that by starting with, "Hey, I want to do this; what are your thoughts?" and going from that keeps me in a better place than being quiet and then oftentimes, annoyed. So I'd start with thinking about what matters to you. Start letting people know. When someone suggests something you don't really want to do, say you don't want to do that thing and suggest something you would like to do. Once you are more active in your relationships, you'll find yourself less in that position of feeling put on the spot and doormat-like.
posted by kinetic at 6:20 AM on January 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

The first thing that comes to mind when you describe being cute is one of the character's wives on Big Bang Theory. She's very cute, but she's also very feisty. I can't recall other TV/film characters that model what you're after. Not that you asked about TV/film, but that's what leapt to my mind.

Miss Manners comes to mind. "What an interesting assumption." "Why would you say such a thing?"

As for being offered a food that you clearly don't eat, "No thanks. I'm good." Are they gong to argue that you're actually not good and that you need that particular food?

You'll get a lot of excellent answers here, and also over at Captain Awkward.
posted by SillyShepherd at 6:24 AM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Captain Awkward archives, on saying no.

They say firefighters and pilots act as they are trained when faced with an emergency. This isn't one, but you can train yourself anyway. Practice saying some stock phrases in front of the mirror. That way, the response can be more automatic.
posted by SillyShepherd at 6:31 AM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

When I feel like I'm being railroaded into something or don't have the words in the moment I always say, "ok, let me think about that and get back to you" or "let me check with x or check my schedule and get back to you." That gives me time to construct an answer that I'm comfortable with.

Also, don't sweat the chicken thing. It's not a pushover to be polite, and I've been known to break my vegetarianism when someone cooked something meatie for a group of people without consulting the groups dietary needs.

Last, I know the story with Steve makes it sound like he is the bully, but it sounds like your friends are pushing you around too. Why are you doing their bidding?
posted by Toddles at 6:59 AM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have similar issues. I've thought about putting together a deck of flash cards with questions that anyone might ask - from going on a date to helping someone clean their refrigerator, and getting a friend to go through the flash cards with me just so I can practice saying "no."

A lot of the examples you provide have your friends "calling you out" on this stuff. I think it's easier to work on this when you are motivated by your own reactions. How did YOU feel when you ate the veggies your friend prepared? Are *you* okay with Steve wanting to plan another party? Try journaling "x happened, and I felt like y, but I said z. The result is q. Next time I want to.... "

It looks like you want to keep things from being uncomfortable. It's a tough one. I always, always want to smooth things over. But when you always smooth things over it is almost always at your expense. You are the one who eats the food you don't like, gets stuck in the middle of weird friend planning stuff. Try stating your boundary in a polite, factual way: "I don't eat meat." "Steve, you can plan another party if you want but I can't help." and let people have whatever reaction they have.
posted by bunderful at 7:03 AM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh one other thought. I used to have a problem saying 'no', so I started saying 'no' as a first response and then saying, "well, let me think about it and get back to you." The initial "no" gets people to back off and gives you space to think.

Also when people call you cute all you have to do is look at then and say flatly, "cute?" If they attempt to continue on this path by explaining how or why you can say, "I suppose that's how I get away with murder..."
posted by Toddles at 7:04 AM on January 17, 2015

Best answer: Ah. The Nice Girl Syndrome. You may want to pick that book up.

You have been a quick student and internalized what society wants women to be (nice girls). And now others are telling you it's wrong and you're wrong. And "society" is not holding up its end of the supposed bargain (be nice and people will be nice to you).

I want to tell you that there is nothing wrong with you. There's nothing wrong with being passive. There's nothing wrong with wanting others to be happy or satisfied. There's nothing wrong with being courteous and loving. You've learned all these behaviors, which are skills that frankly many people should learn to practice more. There's nothing wrong with you.

Now you just have to learn a new part of courtesy that society neglected to put in its Nice Girl Manual:

Advocating for yourself is a courteous behavior. It benefits you, your friends, your colleagues, and society at large for you to advocate for yourself.

If your friends had advocated for themselves about the birthday carnival , it would have been resolved. They could have communicated to the organizer, "love your enthusiasm, but there's no way I can fit this carnival in. Let's do a grand dinner. I'm freally on these evenings...." Instead they were completely passive themselves and said to you, "you do it!" It wasn't nice of them to make you emissary, but it also wasn't nice of you to accept the mission. Everyone made mistakes here. The overzealous carnival planner was the only one advocating for himself, and it all went sideways because nobody else had the courtesy to speak up.

Similar could be said of the chicken dinner. I bet you freeze and become overly passive because even contemplating the risk of making someone uncomfortable goes against all your training. Your friend was very impolite in her meal planning, but you not advocating for yourself didn't end up sparing her discomfort. And made you miserable to boot.

Advocating for yourself is courteous. As others have pointed out, it will take some practice. Learning to say "no" is probably the first step. If you google "how to say No" there are many tips out there.

What it really took for me was therapy, so there's that option. The hardest lesson to learn was that advocating for myself -- which meant valuing myself as a worthy person, thinking of my needs, and putting my own needs first -- doesn't hurt others. It's not selfish. I am not taking anything away from anyone in the long run. This also took some anti-anxiety meds for me, so there's that option too.

You can do it. Go start practicing kindness toward yourself. :)
posted by zennie at 7:12 AM on January 17, 2015 [16 favorites]

I'm sort of blunt and sort of not cute but am often bad when put on the spot as well. I do a chicken approach by doing the above "hmmm, let me get back to you"...then I email what I "really" wanted to say and then don't check email for a few days (I said it was the chicken approach!). This way you get your opinion/feelings across but not in awkward-person-face-to-face form.

Like I would have said "hmm, oh, etc" about Steve and the wedding then emailed later and said "well, we did the two day thing we planned so...I think most of us are good, but if you want to plan something else, let me know what the others say". Meaning "I am so not a part of this part 3".

The chicken thing...I would have been shocked, hungry, then stopped being friends with the girl. Because honestly, if you have to explain that sort of thing, to me it's just not worth it. She knows you're vegetarian, right? And it's your house? And she didn't accommodate you at all? No. Thanks.

Don't sweat the cute thing, it's good to be cute. But better to be heard. Just pick a form of communication you can handle- email, or through a friend (get Sarah to tell Steve etc). Voicemails when people aren't home, texts, ...come on, modern times are made for people like us!:)
posted by bquarters at 7:15 AM on January 17, 2015

I think you have a need for what is (used to be?) called assertiveness training. Here's an article on it, not one that I especially love, but it goes into the basics: Building Assertiveness In 4 Steps. The key to a lot of it is simply practice. You have a right to say "no" (and you aren't required to provide a reason beyond "because I don't want to".
posted by doctor tough love at 7:31 AM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Read "When I Say No, I Feel Guilty" by Manuel Smith, Ph.D.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:57 AM on January 17, 2015

I have a close friend who is very bad at standing up for herself too. She is so passive she goes along with any plans that come up, she was virtually bullied by her supervisor at her last job, and she ends up agreeing with whichever party in a disagreement is being most forceful. She once let a friend call me up to bitch me out over the phone and threaten to send the authorities after me on xmas because I'd called her to help me out in a pet emergency, and then she called back hours later to say she didn't agree with her friend at all.

Many people lack the ability to pick up subtlety. Being too subtle is a problem. It is not a kindness to that person to let something go so far that it becomes a problem, when you could have said something clearly upfront and saved everyone some time, getting things right in the first place. It is not nice to lead people into a situation where you have several people gossiping and fuming that you were dealt an injustice because someone else was too thick to be considerate. You are creating drama by being too nice.

You're afraid of offending someone? Don't be. People won't get offended if you bring things up positively, clearly, and directly. A shit-sandwich approach (good, bad, good) is a solid way to deal with any issue. "Hey, everything's looking great! Is there anything vegetarian-friendly on the menu here? No? Why don't you let me help out with cooking here, I'll whip up a side dish i can eat." "Hey Steve, the three day thing sounds great, but we really need to just keep it to one day - no one can manage more than that right now. Maybe we can do the other parts of your plan in a couple weeks though, because it sounds really fun!"

And if anyone gets offended by that, well it's their own fault because you are SUPER NICE and obviously not the problem here.
posted by lizbunny at 8:03 AM on January 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

After writing my earlier answer I thought of this technique that I have used at times: start by describing the situation, out loud, in neutral terms. This allows you some breathing room. It's also a way to let other people know "hey, akita's got something on her mind." From there you can make a decision.

"I'm just thinking here. You're here making dinner for your boyfriend, and I'm supposed to have dinner with you guys, but I don't eat meat. I'm trying to think what the best solution is."

This makes your friend aware of what's going on with you, without being accusatory. Sometimes that might spur friend to say "OMG, I have a fabulous veggie dish planned, I almost forgot!" And sometimes not. But once you've made that "here we are, in this situation that is a little uncomfortable for me" statement, it's a lot easier to take charge of your own response to the situation.

Also it seems like you may be taking responsibility for other people's feelings, and that's something you don't really have to do.
posted by bunderful at 8:34 AM on January 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

If the issue is thinking on your feet, getting flustered in the heat of things, take a moment for yourself to process. Step away if possible, like into the bathroom or away from the group, turn away, sit down, or at the very least just pause. You don't have to say anything immediately, a pause can actually make people pay closer attention and take you more seriously. Hold up a finger or hand to interrupters and signal/say you need a moment. It'll give you the chance to calm yourself, assess the situation, remember how you've decided you want to deal with this sort of thing, and what you want to say. Then you will be able to respond with more confidence.

To me your dilemma appears to be largely a communication issue on your part, and communication is a skill which improves with practice. Be determined to practice how you want to respond, and it will come to you more naturally every time.
posted by lizbunny at 8:54 AM on January 17, 2015

In the dating scenario, someone who's worth dating can hear: "women who look like me get called cute all the time. I know you mean to give me a compliment but you should know I find it hard to hear it that way because it makes me feel like I'm not seen as competent. There's more to me than cute."

Also, it is your choice when to speak up and which things to speak up about. I think it would be great to speak up about the chicken if you wanted. However I also think it is legit to wait and deal with it another day and not right before or during the date, when no doubt she was nervous, etc. You sound like a very kind person, and I think it is possible for you to be assertive your way, and it does not always need to be the way others do things.
posted by chapps at 8:56 AM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Like everyone else on this thread, I feel a lot of sympathy for you. Being "nice" and "cooperative" shouldn't result in getting pushed around and/or taken advantage of, but sadly, it often does.

But I do want to add one thing: I have no trouble standing up for myself, saying what I think and want, etc. And it does NOT always result in everyone's holding hands and singing Kumbaya. Please be prepared for the very likely result that at least sometimes your being assertive is going to make others feel bad. They may get angry, or the very least say snarky things like "Well, you don't have to make such a big deal out of it." You have to practice "Sorry, I don't care," even if you don't say that out loud. (And, by the way, I'm called "cute" because I'm short and laugh a lot, "feisty" because I push back against people, and probably sometimes "a bitch" behind my back.)

I'm nthing improv classes, they really are great practice for holding your own place while cooperating with others. And try listening to your speech patterns. In particular, do you end your sentences with a question mark? An lot of women do, and it's impossible to make a straight statement when the end of your sentence goes up? You know? I recommend watching Lake Bell's film "In A World" to see how this works. Actually, I recommend watching it, period. Great overlooked movie.
posted by kestralwing at 11:44 AM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Coming back to say how much I agree with RuthlessBunny about having a stock phrase. It can absolutely work wonders. If "I don't think that's a good idea" seems too negative upfront, try "Thanks for your interest, but.." When my adult daughter and I were starting to work out the Two Adults relationship, she starting using "Thanks for your concern, Mom, but..." and got her way without having to have a struggle first. It backed me off without her seeming angry.

And by the way, good luck! Thinking and asking about this is the important first step.
posted by kestralwing at 11:53 AM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

This is going to sound way off the wall, but my suggestion is to go take riding lessons. I'll bet you if you take lessons 1-2 times a week for six months, nobody will be calling you cute anymore.

The reason I suggest this is because I know three women who have all been either 'cute' or very passive. Two were petite and very feminine in their dress and grooming. One was tall, but very much the doormat. Getting into horses gave them a reason and an excuse to get dirty and be assertive. Assertiveness, not aggressiveness is the key. If you can tell 1000 lb animal "NO" and "WHOA" it gives you hella confidence. According to one woman's husband, it was a sad day when she became involved in horses, because she "just isn't the wife she used to be." She laughs at him. All three of them say it horses have changed their lives.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:06 PM on January 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Practicing being blunt and assertive is the simplest and probably the most bang for your buck if you're only going to have one strategy. "No, Steve, I hate that idea and so does everyone else. What about this other thing?" That can be overdone, though.

There's also going along at the moment (like eating the chicken-y veggies), then bringing it up later how it hurt your feelings. For people I'm going to have a longer relationship with, I find this the most effective. It's also the hardest though, because you have to follow through and do it. It's easier to let the whole thing drop and not bring up the unpleasant situation again once the moment is past, but that's how you teach people that walking on you is ok. You also have to be willing to forgive, but not forget. Next time your friend wants to cook at your house, you have to pointedly ask what she plans on cooking so you're both clear that you remember what happened last time and that will not happen again.

And sometimes you have to be willing to be harder to convince to forgive. Let yourself be pissed off at someone for a while, it doesn't make you a bad person. Some people need consequences to not be serial offenders.

Sometimes people are caught up in their own thing and just need the situation restated in the most offensive way possible to realize they're being a jerk. "So, you're going to come to my house and cook a meal, but not make anything I can eat? And I'm supposed to watch you eat? Is that supposed to be fun for me?"
posted by ctmf at 2:03 PM on January 17, 2015

What has helped me is, as Sheydem-tants wrote, not responding in the moment. It takes some time, and importantly for me, time where I'm separated from others' feelings, to figure out how I feel and what to do.

This book was also recommended to me, and I found it helpful (even though the title...ugh): Too Good for Her Own Good

I've also had a lot of success planning responses for difficult issues that I could anticipate ("why don't you e-mail me about that? I'm on my way to a meeting."), and vetting responses with sympathetic friends and family ("I feel like saying 'blah blah blah blah,' but does that sounds a little harsh?" They almost always say "no").
posted by MrBobinski at 4:55 PM on January 17, 2015

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