Assertive Communication and How to Get Your Needs Met without Blame, Shame or Guilt with Stephanie Sylvia Costello
Welcome to this episode of The Determined Mom Show. I have the lovely Stephanie Sylvia Costello with me, and she is an intimacy and relationship mentor from Safety and Freedom LLC. I’m excited to be here because I think this episode is going to help a lot of people that are listening. After all, there’s just so much around this.
But we’re gonna be talking today about assertive communication and how to get your needs met without blame, shame, or guilt. Without receiving it or giving it. So tell us about you and how you got started in what you’re doing.
I always like, where do I start in that part of the story? So I’ll start with the part about becoming a mom. I had quite a traumatic childhood and initially wanted to be a cop then moved into going to school for psychology and human services and loved it. And that’s kind of really the short version of where my story starts.
I became a mom. My husband and I have been together for 11 years and after we had our second child, I got diagnosed with PTSD and that was like a huge slap across the face. Like what? I have been having these issues all this time and I’ve at the time felt like I just destroyed myself.
My child was living in a dysfunctional communication and emotional relationship with my husband, and now we have the second child and there’s like this strong mom guilt and shame and I’m not good enough to melody the because I have to take care of Brody and they were only 18 months apart.
It was just a whole whirlwind of my life. I didn’t have any support at the time. I didn’t know who to turn to or what to do. Nobody understood. And I was a cloth diaper mom and a nursing mom, and all of these things of like these outlandish as my family would put it like, you know, didn’t, didn’t understand my style of parenting.
So, at that point is when I was like, I need to do something different, and fast forward, we did have a third baby, and now that we’re, about five, six years ago that started and now we’re like on the other side. So it’s been an incredible journey.
That’s awesome. I love it. And I think at the moment that that happens, this is just my experience and also, you know, the experience of people that I know at the moment that you’re, that diagnosis takes place that is like a low, right? It’s kind of like a rock bottom Like, what are you sure? Like why? Like what does this mean?
Does this explain anything about me? And so it’s also a point of discovery and you know, also climbing up, you know, out of that rock bottom place. So I think it’s kind of magical when those things happen, even though at the time it doesn’t seem like it.
There was so much. A lot of moms don’t talk about it and not all moms experience it. So I think that it’s something challenging. But there was a lot of mom hate or like hate for the child, not for her as a person or anything like that, but there was like this enable, an incredible amount of hate towards her.
I just didn’t understand, and it’s like why I love her so much, but my body is reacting in such an obscure way and I had no idea why. And so, As I started to develop personally and then also professionally, I’ve been working in the field for like 13 years, so that was another guilt-rid thing of like, I’m doing this professionally, why am I failing so much?
Like, I know how to do these things and then there’s this part of my brain that just was not developed and processed or, or worked on. And so in how the intimacy and relationship mentor stuff came out of that is out. You know, I’ve been in this long-term relationship and I have three children and I’m still struggling with a lot of this stuff. Be assertive with a tone of love. Like if you’re going to be assertive, it needs to be with a tone of love.
Otherwise, it’s gonna be aggressive and angry and upsetting, and it’s gonna have mono, not monotones, but lying messages that you did not intend to convey.
I’ve repeated this several times. You need to make your bed, that’s like, I love you. I know that you are human, so please make your bed. Whereas I’ve, I’ve repeated this a million times, make your bed.
How stupid are you? Why do you keep making this mistake? You’re so dumb or whatever other. A message that the child might receive, in those two very different tones that we’re using.
So let me be clear. I am not perfect at this either. Like, my kids are seven, five, and three, there’s so, and, and I have a chronic condition that is, Is a nervous system dysfunction. So leaving this morning, my daughter quietly comes in and she knows, and she just instantly starts talking to me and she’s ruffling with things and like me, I’m having a hard day.
So that is like, basically how I say to explain it to the kids is mommy’s messages are broken. So all the messages that you have no idea you’re sending are like, penetrating my brain as if someone’s screaming in my ear, and so we have to do a lot of practicing around, quiet time, and sometimes mommy just needs what mommy needs because of, you know, and asking for those things.
So there’s, I’m taking it a few different directions, so let me kind of bring it back. One, do not place blame and shame, and guilt on yourself, right? Like, I know that’s so much easier said than done, but we play so much. Like I could just. Destroy me emotionally with my condition.
And like right now, you know, my kids are outside playing in the snow. I don’t have the energy to go play with them in the snow, which is sad. But at the same time, it’s not like I have to take care of myself. I have to sit and relax and be patient with myself.
So if I sat there and sabotaged myself all day long, then I go up, then they’re coming in and they’re so excited cause they’re just playing in the snow and they come up to mom and mom’s like mad and they think that mom’s mad at them and they have no idea because they don’t understand.
One awareness is really, it is key. being aware, like there are those moments where. You know when you’re in it and you’re angry and you’re frustrated, and you’re observing yourself as you’re saying it. And you’ve got this weird double thing going on. You’re like, I know I’m making this mistake, but I can’t stop the train from rolling right now.
And you’re just like, You’re like, you’re screaming, but inside you’re screaming cuz you’re like, I know I shouldn’t be doing this. That is what I call determination and resilience.
Exercising in the same way when you go to the gym if you have your shoulder up by your ear and you’re at the gym with a physical trainer and you’re doing this little t-rex like hammer curls, your trainer’s gonna be like, Hey, listen, like maybe you should like, drop your shoulder, fix your arm.
You know, especially with kids, we can’t just keep repeating ourselves because then, then there’s just that cycle of mom’s just gonna repeat herself and never do anything.
I’m just gonna keep listening to her, repeating myself, and not doing anything myself. Three times, right? Or as much as you can before you need to do something. Because sometimes there’s a need to take action right now.
Then saying, Usually to get their attention, I’ll count down the trees. So I’ll say three, two. And if I get to one, mom means business. Now. You better get out of her way.
That takes practice. People are like, it doesn’t work. It’s like, well, you have to, they have to learn what that means. If you do it the first time, it may not work. And depending on how you’re using your tone there as well. So like if I’m angry, it’s like three, two, and they’re like, oh shit, mom means business.
Excuse my language. And then if it’s like mom needs attention, it’s like three, two, right? It’s like this singing tone. So that they’re like, okay, you know, it’s, what are we gonna do? Like, it’s like this exciting thing. Well, about depending on the equation.
It’s just a, it’s the same thing as, I use the example of when you go to the bathroom, you’re not gonna, if you like, number two, you’re not gonna just get up and not wipe, like it’s a necessary thing. Same thing with figuring out your awareness journey. It’s a necessary part of life.
With that said, I have a head trash or head purge tool. Resources that I use. I am regularly on my own, and you don’t need to go to my website. You can, if you want safety and freedom.com, click on free resources. There are all my free resources right there, but you don’t need these fancy tools and someone else’s process and structure. It’s just picking up your pen.
Use paper, not tech if you have to, I guess a tech is an option, but there are so many distractions that it’s not the same as a pen to paper. There’s something about scientifically how your brain processes things differently when you’re using a pen to paper. Just write it out like, I hate myself. I’m so angry and I hate how I react and I want my kids to listen and I love being a mom, but I also have such reactions of, you know, blah.
But whatever the head is. And, then give yourself the space to kind of put that on what I call the proverb real mental shelf. Like, okay, I see your head trash, you suck. I’m gonna put you right here, right now. And just like, there you are on the shelf storage and now like you can still see it, but you know, like, it’s not right here. And it’s not, it’s not guiding your reactions. And that’s that awareness piece of like, I see you, but you’re not in charge right now.
The blame, the shame, and the guilt are there. It’s off again, it’s all in our tone and it’s all in our beliefs and what we’re perceiving is our issues or what we can control. So, one of the things I do my best with practicing is that when the kiddos are upset, not taking it personally, like I’m not a crappy mom, because my kid’s upset.
You know, like they’re human with their brain and chemicals and, you know, I try to see it from a very objective situation versus subjective, which is, putting my input on what’s happening. And so, the blame and the shame and the guilt, unfortunately, it’s like a, it’s a pandemic in my, in my perspective, it’s just a, a pass on.
Tradition, not tradition, but a toxic pattern that is just ingrained in us from two to six, and the blame and the shame and the guilt as a kid, especially on finances. Like, you know, I just turned 30 and I’m doing a lot of observing belief systems that I have, especially blind beliefs that I didn’t know I was agreeing to, and now I’m realizing that beliefs are thoughts that we stopped questioning.
They’re kids and they need to explore. So being able to break those belief systems, is, is a huge part of the awareness piece. And then being able to not take things personally. So we were told we weren’t allowed to question as kids, but now we’re realizing, okay, our kids have every right to question.
They just, we gotta figure out how to break it down to their level. A seven-year-old is not gonna get the same answers as a three. And so not taking it personally and then always doing our best, and knowing that even when we do fail, we get to go back and say, you know, I screwed up there and I’m gonna work hard not to do that again.
I think if the movie, Wally, you know how those two, two of the adults get knocked out their chair and they’re like experiencing the pool for the first time. That is kind of what I think the awareness journey to be. Is, you’re aware of what’s happening and you’re all of a sudden experiencing it from the outside for the first time and you see everybody else kind of just on their robotic, you know, cycle.
Time and practice. It takes exercising, making mistakes, setting boundaries, and holding to your boundaries. It takes determination and resiliency and that emotional determination and resiliency are something that takes a long time to get confident in and stop pleasing people. And yes, whatever else might be there.
Like I had, I have a family member with who I had to set some very firm boundaries. So having children is like self-development on steroids. That’s kind of the way I look at children. And as I, my oldest was I think like nine months old and I had a very first experience with this family member and I was dead determined, like that will never happen again.
You know, here’s your mirror and. it was not the best use of my communication skills at the time. I think I could have been a little bit more loving and not so aggressive with it. But at the same time, I don’t feel any shame or guilt or regret for how I said it. It’s the kids who will love you for the you that I let them.
Not for you that you truly are. And that was, that’s good. Huge. That it is. It is good. But I said it was not nice. Like I am right now, I’m saying, oh, the tone of love, and it wasn’t very loving when I initially said that, but it’s true. And I think that was a huge catalyst to continuing to respect my boundaries because I have no problem with not allowing you around the kids and not scheduling the time.
It makes it a little bit harder with social media now because kids just have unlimited access to tech most often, and there are not a lot of boundaries around tech. So if there’s anything I can say is like really making sure you are very aware of all the tech opportunities your kids have access to and who they’re talking to.
If you’re trying to set boundaries, kids don’t understand, they’re so impressionable. So you mustn’t be wanting them to be impressed by somebody else. Impression. I don’t know if that’s a word, but then I was impressed.
I wanna be clear that this conversation is, again, six years worth of diving in and observing and practicing and figuring out and learning new, like, it’s been such a long journey so to, to break it down into a simple, easy-to-use. Right now structure is not easy. So I like to reach out. You need, if you need help, not.
You need a helper to do this work. You need a non-biased opinion to get this clarity that we all crave to have. With that said, one of the things that you’re kind of touching on is a workable compromise. I have this communication structure. the courageous communication structure that, I’ve come up with, and it’s very simple.
If you draw a Venn diagram on your paper, which is, you know, the circles that meet in the middle, and there’s that middle portion where they overlap, and then on the left side is you or me. in the middle is WC for a workable compromise, and on the other side is them.
They, whoever it is. And if you need to add a third, you can even add like a third, you know, whatever the, as long as there’s a middle ground where everybody is meeting, that’s what we’re kind of getting at here. And then the three questions you ask yourself are, I want for me, I want for you, I want for us.
And then, Their question is, I want for, uh, you, or you would say you want for you, you want for me and you want for us now. Very important not to make assumptions. Don’t take things personally and don’t make assumptions, right? unless somebody has given you the answers to those questions, you’re assuming.
Now, if you’re creating a hypothesis and you’re just kind of curious, that’s one thing. But if you’re assuming, and it’s a dead-set fact in your head, It’s gonna be counterproductive. There’s no way to find a workable compromise because we’re making an assumption. And so the work will compromise in the middle ground is, okay, this is what I want from me.
This is what I have an idea for you, and this is what I desire, intentionally desire to achieve for us. What’s your end of the game? And then trying to figure out where the middle ground is. And so, for example, I was working with a client recently. The client wanted a cat partner, but said, hell no.
And there’s, and it’s now what? And this, my client, was feeling, making a lot of assumptions. You know, a partner that doesn’t love me, is never gonna care about what I want. I’m never gonna have what I want. All these assumptions, real fears, and feelings that she was experiencing, but she was attaching the fears and the feelings.
It took them a couple of months to figure out and work through and. Just because one wants something and the other doesn’t mean there’s not a middle ground. And it doesn’t have to be, it could have been a hamster, a bird, it could have been whatever it is. It’s just the intent behind the whole conversation was, I want something to love when I come home, and right now a baby is not an option, so let’s find a middle ground. And they were able to work that out.
So, and their more workable compromise in there is who’s taking the dogs out, who’s responsible for the dogs, when, who’s feeding and watering and playing and all, all the different responsibilities that go into. And so, my partner, my client didn’t want the litter box. It’s like and, and does not, has a genuine fear of cats.
So it was like, that’s an understandable thing. You have a genuine fear of cats. We’re not gonna force you to be miserable in your own home because you know, that’s counterproductive. One was miserable without a cat, one is miserable with a cat. Neither of them is fair.
So where is the best place for everyone to get in contact? The best place would be my website, www.safetyinfreedom.com, safety in freedom.com, and then you can find me on all the platforms at Safety in Freedom.
Two pieces. One, you are not broken. You’re amazing. Just the way you are with all of your strengths and your weaknesses or limitations or whatever you wanna call them, you are amazing just the way you are and the world deserves you exactly the way you are. And if you’re desiring help or you just wanna have a conversation, you can go to safety in freedom.com/call to pick your time right now.
It’s just a conversation. Just let’s figure out what you’re needing and see if there’s anything that we can do to help. And if you’re like, I’m not quite ready for the call, then you can go to safetyinfreedom.com/assertive communication and download a free checklist that will allow you to work through some of the things we’ve talked about and, and, and start taking action right now.
I appreciate that. I hear it across the board. You’re so gentle and kind and caring. Yeah. And then I’m like, this avid mountaineer does all this crazy stuff. It’s like, that doesn’t seem like something you would do, but I do like all this. So I had an energy exertion y. I like my calm self right now.
It’s gonna be completely different. You’re gonna be like, oh my goodness. Like, wow, this is great. It’s like this no BS meter switch turns on and you’re like, I don’t care about anybody anymore. Like I care what you think. So, that’s aside from our conversation, but it’s interesting.
Thank you so much for being here. It has been a pleasure. And, for our listeners, definitely, uh, subscribe wherever you’re listening and leave us a review so that way we can help more people, with all of the things that we talk about. So, all right, thank you.
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