I need to learn to be more assertive. ~Brooke Elliott
Many people confuse assertiveness with aggression.
There isn’t anything wrong or aggressive about open and honest communication when done appropriately.
You’re merely clarifying your needs to another person.
Assertiveness is being able to express your feelings while still respecting the feelings of others.
Benefits of Assertiveness
Assertiveness is an important skill that can greatly reduce the amount of conflict in your life if used appropriately.
Assertive people tend to see that their own needs are met in a timely fashion and therefore are healthier individuals with much less stress in their lives.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, passive people see themselves as victims and may become resentful and angry until one day they explode.
And I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen some strange and disturbing explosions happen in an office environment.
So to help you avoid bottling up resentments, I’ve compiled some techniques you can use to become a more assertive person.
Tips to Help You Become More Assertive
Stick with the facts.
When confronting someone about a problem, instead of exaggerating the situation by saying “You ALWAYS (or NEVER) ______,” simply state the facts of the current situation.
Cognitive behavioural therapy sees this language a mental distortion, and Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) calls it a generalisation.
I’ve found these rarely work and are more unhelpful than constructive in building any rapport or being more assertive.
In fact, this type of thinking and language undermine your position of power, confidence and assertiveness in communication.
For example, if a person is habitually late, instead of telling them they’re always late, mention what time they arrived and what time they had agreed to be there.
The discrepancy will speak for itself.
Begin with “I” instead of “You.”
When you start a confrontation with “you,” it seems like an attack and usually puts the other individual on the defensive.
Starting with the word “I” brings the focus to you – how their behaviour has affected you and how you are feeling.
You could also use the word, “we/us,” to create the perception of alliance and not the opposition which makes the listener more receptive for what you have to say.
Rather than criticize the other person, show the people in your life how their actions affect you (singular and plural)
Maintain a confident posture.
Letting others see your confidence helps you to assert yourself.
- Stand up straight
- Look people in the eye
- Stay relaxed — this, in particular, is hard as you breathing shortens and heart rate increases (adrenaline in your system) — so pause and breathe before you,
- Speak clearly
- Respect the other individual’s personal space
Think of two people: one who is slouched over and afraid to look at your face and the other who is standing tall and commanding respect.
Which one would you respect?
Use a firm pleasant tone of voice.
Being assertive doesn’t mean raising your voice or getting emotional.
Keep your responses short and direct.
There’s no need to make excuses or justify your response.
Yelling only instigates more anger and possibly even violence.
Speak your mind calmly to keep everyone calm.
Don’t assume that you already know the other individual’s motives.
You may be surprised to find they aren’t the heinous person you thought they were!
Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you might not know all the details of what’s happening in the life or mind of the other person.
Listen and then ask questions.
Instead of concentrating on how right you are, remember to listen to the other person’s point of view.
Try to understand where the other person is coming from and ask questions to clarify any concerns you might have.
You may need to compromise to find a solution that meets the needs of everyone involved.
The best solution is when both parties are satisfied with the outcome.
Every situation is different, so you’ll need to assess the circumstances to determine how much assertiveness is appropriate.
Acknowledge your successes.
Being assertive may not go well in every situation, but you can always learn from your mistakes and do something different next time.
Acknowledging your success brings you the confidence to continue asserting yourself.
You may occasionally feel guilt about asserting yourself because it can feel selfish to speak up about your own needs.
Just remember that you, too, deserve to be treated with respect.
Only you can teach people how to treat you.
Only you can do the best job of taking care of you.
So go do it now.