Assertiveness means standing up for yourself in a non aggressive way, it is not just a skill; it is a mind-set. And it can be difficult to learn because living it is more of an emotional issue than a rational one – both for the aggressive and for the passive person. It is a matter of unlearning certain misconceptions and learning another way of looking at yourself and others. In a word, it is confidence.
Being assertive is a core communication skill. Being assertive means that you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others.
Being assertive can also help boost your self-esteem and earn others’ respect. This can help with stress management, especially if you tend to take on too many responsibilities because you have a hard time saying no.
Some people seem to be naturally assertive. But if you’re not one of them, you can learn to be more assertive.
Why assertive communication makes sense
Because assertiveness is based on mutual respect, it’s an effective and diplomatic communication style. 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.
The benefits of being assertive
Being assertive is usually viewed as a healthier communication style. Being assertive offers many benefits. It helps you keep people from walking all over you. On the flip side, it can also help you from steamrolling others.
Behaving assertively can help you:
Ø Gain self-confidence and self-esteem
Ø Understand and recognize your feelings
Ø Earn respect from others
Ø Improve communication
Ø Create win-win situations
Ø Improve your decision-making skills
Ø Create honest relationships
Ø Gain more job satisfaction
Learning to be more assertive can also help you effectively express your feelings when communicating with others about issues.
Learning to be more assertive
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.
Practice saying no
If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying, “No, I can’t do that now.” Don’t hesitate — be direct. If an explanation is appropriate, keep it brief.
Rehearse what you want to say. If it’s challenging to say what you want or think, practice typical scenarios you encounter. Say what you want to say out loud.
Use body language
Communication isn’t just verbal. Act confident 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.
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.
Realize that it’s all in your head
In situations where you feel you are not speaking your mind, ask yourself why and then ask, Very often, people will see how silly their fears are and that the fears are rooted in their minds, not reality.
Ask for clarification. Request more information when asked to do something you believe is unreasonable. Perhaps the explanation will help you understand the request more fully and give you the confidence and assurance to say yes or no.
Remember, learning to be assertive takes time and practice. If you’ve spent years silencing yourself, becoming more assertive probably won’t happen overnight. Or if anger leads you to be too aggressive, you may need to learn some anger management techniques.
If despite your best efforts you’re not making progress toward becoming more assertive, consider formal assertiveness training. And if certain issues such as anger, stress, anxiety or fear are getting in your way, consider talking with a mental health provider. The payoff 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 more of what you want as a result.