If you want to know how to be more assertive, you’ll love this article.
Being assertive is a core communication skill and a healthy communication style which can help you keep people from walking all over you. Being assertive means that you stand up for your point of view by expressing yourself effectively, whilst not disrespecting the beliefs and rights of others.
How To Be More Assertive:
Being assertive, amongst other things, can also greatly help boost your self-esteem and crucially earn others’ respect. In the workplace for example, this can help with stress management, especially if you tend to take on too many responsibilities because you have a difficulty and fear of saying no. Does this sound familiar?
Differing personality types dictate that some people seem to be naturally assertive. But if you’re not one of them, you can learn to be more assertive with this informative article which explains what assertiveness is and details some of it’s many benefits. I explore passive versus assertive behaviour models and include extremely useful tips and scenarios for you to practice. Learn to say NO!
What exactly is assertiveness?
Assertiveness is a communication mode and a behaviour characterised by confident declarations or affirmations of statements.. This affirms one’s point of view without aggressively threatening the rights of another’s.
To express in other words, assertiveness is standing up for yourself in a way that does not violate the rights of another person. It is a direct and honest expression of your feelings and opinions to others. Consequently your rights and the rights of others are equally expressed, valued and respected.
You may have been uncomfortable being assertive in the past because you confused it with impassiveness and/or aggressiveness. The aforementioned however assumes your rights are more important than other people’s rights.
Moreover, aggressiveness is a way of standing up for yourself that potentially violates the rights of other people. It results in often humiliating and putting down the other person. Aggressiveness incorrectly assumes your rights are more important than other people’s rights.
One can consider oneself to be assertive when the following typical characteristics are commonplace:-
- A liberty and ease to express one’s feelings, thoughts, and desires.
- An ability to initiate and maintain comfortable personal relationships.
- A willingness to compromise with others.
Because assertiveness is based on mutual respect, it’s an effective and diplomatic communication style for all walks of life. Being assertive shows that you respect yourself, because you’re willing to stand up for your interests and express your thoughts and feelings. It also demonstrates that you’re aware of the rights of others and are willing to work on resolving conflicts.
Of course, it’s not just what you say — your message — but also how you say it that’s important. Assertive communication is direct and respectful. Being assertive gives you the best chance of successfully delivering your message. If you communicate in a way that’s too passive or too aggressive, your message may get lost because people are too busy reacting to your delivery.
Assertive communication involves respect for the boundaries of oneself and others. It also presumes an interest in the fulfilment of needs and wants through cooperation. If others’ actions threaten one’s boundaries, one communicates this to prevent escalation of a situation to a sometimes unhealthy and detrimental conclusion.
Benefits of being assertive
Being assertive is typically viewed as a healthy communication style in most scenarios. The following list of benefits is by no means exhaustive. Being assertive can reap benefit on many levels in and out of the workplace and home.
Here are 12 benefits of being assertive:-
1. It can improve working and personal relationships by encouraging open and honest communication. Where there is honest and open communication, people are less likely to be grumbling behind each other’s backs.
2. It lets other people know, in a non confrontational way, how you feel about a situation.
3. It enables others to get a much clearer picture of how realistic their expectations are. It will help them identify where they will need to redistribute work or identify other solutions for example, thus helping to avoid a crisis.
4. It can give other people confidence that you know what you are talking about. Conversely passive behaviour can give others the impression that you aren’t so confident in what you are doing or saying.
5. It can help give a discussion or project focus and direction, thus helping others achieve their goals.
6. Assertion often tends to breed assertiveness in others, so people work more happily together.
Individuals are also more likely to achieve their needs/wants hence avoiding a conflict situation.
7. It enhances our confidence and self esteem. By being assertive we can develop a healthy regard for ourselves, reducing any tendencies to boastfulness (aggression) and hopelessness (submission)
8. It gives us greater confidence in others. Through assertiveness we recognise the capabilities and limitations of others as opposed to seeing them as inferior (aggression) or superior (submission).
9. We increase our responsibility for ourselves, our wants, needs etc. We are less likely to blame others (aggression) or excuse ourselves (submission). This happens because we increase our self control and can channel thoughts and feelings constructively.
10. Assertive behaviour saves both time and energy. We can make decisions more quickly based on individual merit and save time when handling disputes. A lot of time and energy is wasted on scheming and worrying.. If we behave assertively we don’t need to worry about this and we consequently reduce stress.
11. Assertive behaviour increases the chance of everyone winning from a situation. It increases the likelihood that all parties will see their needs met, their ideas and opinions heard and considered. Their abilities therefore are likely to be put to good use.
12. Assertive behaviour can decrease and diffuse conflict situations.
Assertive versus passive behavior
If your style is passive, you may seem to be shy or too easygoing and indifferent. You routinely may say things such as, “I’ll just go with the flow or whatever the others decide.” You tend to avoid conflict and hassle. Why is that a problem? Because the message you’re sending out is that your thoughts and feelings aren’t as important as those of other people. Essentially, when you’re too passive, you give others the notion to disregard your wants and needs.
Consider this example: You say yes when a colleague asks you to take over a project, even though your plate is already full and the extra works means you’ll have to work lots more overtime and miss out on some quality time with your family in the evenings and weekends. Your intention may be to co-operate to be helpful and co-operative or to sustain job security.
However always saying yes can be detrimental to your well-being. It may also likely cause you internal conflict because your needs and those of your family always seem to come second.
The internal conflict that can be created by passive behaviour can lead to:
- Feelings of victimisation
Now consider the flip side. If your style is aggressive, you may come across as a bully who disregards the needs, feelings and opinions of others. You may appear self-righteous or superior. Very aggressive people often humiliate and intimidate others.
You may think that being aggressive gets you what you want, however, it comes at a cost. Aggression undercuts trust and mutual respect. Others may come to resent you, leading them to avoid or oppose you.
Now consider passive-aggressive behaviour. If you communicate in a passive-aggressive manner, you may say yes when you want to say no. You may be sarcastic or complain about others behind their backs. You may have developed a passive-aggressive style because you’re uncomfortable being direct about your needs and feelings.
What are the drawbacks of a passive-aggressive communication style? Over time, passive-aggressive behaviour damages relationships and undercuts mutual respect, making it difficult for you to get your goals and needs met.
Tips and Techniques for Assertiveness
People develop different styles of communication based on their life experiences. Your style may be so ingrained that you’re not even aware of what it is. People tend to stick to the same communication style over time. But if you want to change your communication style, you can learn to communicate in healthier and more effective ways.
Assess your style. Do you voice your opinions or remain silent? Do you say yes to additional work and responsibility for example even when your plate is full and you’d like to say no? Understand your style before you begin making changes.
Start by identifying your thoughts, feelings, and wants. Think of what you want to communicate and how you want to phrase your message. Make your communication clear and specific. Use ‘I’ statements. Using “I” statements lets others know what you’re thinking without sounding accusatory. For instance if someone is often late picking you up you could say “I would prefer it if you called to let me know if you are going to be more than 10 minutes late picking me up.”
Also practice saying no. If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying, “No, regrettably, I can’t help with that now.” or “No, I’d rather not to be truthful” Don’t beat around the bush — be direct. If an explanation is appropriate, keep it as brief as possible. Use a level tone and volume.
Don’t hesitate with you words. Face the person you are talking to and maintain some direct eye contact. It is okay to say no. You do not have to explain or justify your reasons for saying no to a request.
Use body language. Communication isn’t just verbal. Act confidently even if you aren’t feeling it. Keep an upright posture, but lean forward a bit. Make regular eye contact. Maintain a neutral or positive facial expression. Don’t wring your hands or use dramatic gestures. Practice assertive body language in front of a mirror or with a friend or colleague fi you find it helps.
Finally, keep emotions in check. Conflict is hard for most people. Maybe you get angry or frustrated, or maybe you feel like crying. Although these feelings are normal, they can get in the way of resolving conflict. If you feel too emotional going into a situation, wait a bit if possible. Then work on remaining calm. Breathe slowly. Keep your voice even and firm.
Start small. At first, practice your new skills in situations that are low risk. For instance, try out your assertiveness on a partner or friend before tackling a difficult situation at work. Evaluate yourself afterwards and tweak your approach as necessary.
Remember, learning to be assertive takes time and practice. If you’ve spent years silencing yourself, becoming more assertive probably won’t happen overnight.
If despite your best efforts you’re not making progress toward becoming more assertive, consider formal assertiveness training. And if issues such as anger, stress, anxiety or fear are getting in your way, consider talking with a mental health professional. The pay-off will be worth it. By becoming more assertive, you can begin to express your true feelings and needs more easily. You may even find you get much more of what you want as a result.
Communicating assertively is a skill that can improve with practice !
To conclude try utilising the following two scenarios to practice your skills using role-play techniques with collages or friends.
Assertiveness Scenario 1
You work in a small team and you have a high workload. You are keen to develop your career but equally you want to have a good social and family life. You are currently finding ot difficult to balance work and life outside of work.
Anyway, a friend has treated you both to concert tickets for later in the week and you are really looking forward to a rare night out and a chance to relax and enjoy yourself. You are currently working on several pieces of work with tight deadlines and are feeling quite anxious about achieving these. To top it al off, on the day before the concert your boss tells you that he needs you to draft an important report for senior management by the end of the week.
Past experience tells you that he will also want you to deliver your other projects on time too meaning that you will have to forego your night out to meet these end of week deadlines. You need to decide what to do and how you are going to explain your decision to both your boss and your friend respectively for each decision you make to enact the scenario.
Assertiveness Scenario 2
You have just worn your new and expensive shoes for the first time. When you take them off you notice that the upper is already separating from the sole. You return to the store the following day expecting to be offered a replacement pair or a refund due to the footwear being inherently faulty.
To your dismay however the sales assistant is unhelpful and refuses to offer redress as you have worn the shoes. There is even a suggestion that you have misused the footwear. You normally hate confrontations of any kind and as other staff members and customers are listening to the conversation you are feeling a little embarrassed. You feel upset and angry but somehow feel that you must stand your ground which you do.
The sales assistant contrary to her hopes that you would go away finally relents and at a concession offers to have the shoes inspected and repaired. You really do not want to accept a repair on a brand new pair of shoes. What are you going to say and how are you going to say it to achieve the results you want?