Why is it that women suffer twice as much from anxiety and depression than their male counterparts? Aside from hormonal factors, women have been shown to have more trouble asking for what they want and letting others know when their boundaries have been violated. Many women are either passive (allowing others to run over them) or aggressive (pushy, angry, and even violent) when what we SHOULD strive for is to be assertive.
What's the difference between assertiveness and aggression? Won't we look like the dreaded "B-word" if we speak up for ourselves? The difference is that an aggressive woman makes demands, "You WILL give me the raise I deserve," whereas an assertive woman makes her needs known, "I'd like to speak to you about my current salary. I feel I'm not being fully compensated for the work I do." Assertiveness is neutral language--not passive or aggressive--and when practiced along with the proper relaxation techniques (deep breathing, etc.), can reduce the stress caused by bottled up emotions. Here are a few examples:
Your co-worker failed to finish her part of the big presentation you two are to prepare. She shows up late and "forgets" to bring her slides, and a raise is on the line for you.
Passive response: Um, you forgot your slides? That's okay. I'll just fill the time by reading this excerpt from the National Bureau of Labor. Don't worry yourself about it.
Aggressive response: I can't believe you forgot your slides again! How could you do that when you know how I need this raise? You're really selfish, Judy. Thanks a lot.
Assertive response: It makes me feel let down that you didn't finish your part of the project and I'd appreciate it if we could set another deadline so we can give the presentation as planned. Let's have lunch and discuss it.
It's important to remember that, in the heat of a nerve-wracking situation, we may behave in a manner that is undesirable, so it's always better to take a breather before discussing the issue at length. Try to set a later date to discuss the problem, preferably in a relaxed setting. This will help you avoid saying things you'll regret.