A lot of people ask me what exactly is assertive and how does it really help us. This blog of mine might be of some help to you, to understand the concept of assertiveness and also its advantage in our lives.
Do you find it difficult to say ‘No’? Can you ask for what you want? Do you often feel you’re being treated like a doormat? Do people sometimes say they find your reactions aggressive? Do you feel guilty if you think you haven’t been nice enough?
If you identify with some or all of these statements, you may want to develop ways to think, communicate and behave more assertively.
Assertiveness is a way of making sure your needs is met, while still considering the needs of others.
Assertiveness is the ability to express one’s feelings and assert one’s rights while respecting the feelings and rights of others.
Assertive communication is appropriately direct, open and honest, and clarifies one’s needs to the other person.
Assertiveness comes naturally to some, but is a skill that can be learned. People who have mastered the skill of assertiveness are able to greatly reduce the level of interpersonal conflict in their lives, thereby reducing a major source of stress
Assertiveness is standing up for your right to be treated fairly. It is expressing your opinions, needs, and feelings, without ignoring or hurting the opinions, needs, and feelings of others.
- Starting, changing, or ending conversations
- Sharing feelings, opinions, and experiences with others.
- Making requests and asking for favors
- Refusing others' requests if they are too demanding
- Questioning rules or traditions that don't make sense or don't seem fair
- Addressing problems or things that bother you
- Being firm so that your rights are respected
- Expressing positive emotions
- Expressing negative emotions
Improving your assertiveness skills takes time and practice. Change isn’t easy, and sometimes it can feel risky – especially when things don’t work out as well as you hoped. Some things to think about:
- Body language. How you stand or sit, the gestures you use, how you look at someone and your voice are important. They help convey how you see yourself in relation to the person you are talking to. If you are hunched and awkward, speak in a whisper and avoid eye contact, you are suggesting that the other person is more important than you are. If, on the other hand, you stand too close to someone and shout in their face, they are likely to feel you are being aggressive! Someone communicating assertively will stand or sit in an upright, relaxed way, establish eye contact and have an open expression. Speaking in a warm but firm voice, with an even tone, will help you make your points clearly.
- I’ statements such as ‘I feel...’ ‘I think...’ ‘I would like...’ show that you are taking responsibility for your own feelings, rather than blaming someone else (eg ‘You make me feel...’) or taking responsibility for their feelings.
- Timing. It’s important to try when you feel ready. It may not be a good idea to try when you are more stressed than usual; on the other hand, it’s important not to put off making changes.
- Practice. Learning to be more assertive takes practice. You can try out assertive responses in front of a mirror, or get a friend to give you feedback and suggestions. It’s also important to think about how the other person may react, and how you might cope with this.
If you have decided that you would like to communicate assertively, it can help to adopt a ‘step by step’ approach like the one below.
- Start by understanding your usual mode of communication. Are you passive, aggressive or a mixture? What influences the way you behave: fear of not being liked? feeling you have to be perfect? anxiety about being criticised? Think about a situation. How could you deal with it differently? What would you like to happen?
- Identify an opportunity to behave differently. It’s best to start with something fairly unimportant, rather than something you care deeply about. (Remember, you can’t change other people.)
- Ask yourself what you want to achieve. Is it realistic? Will it help solve a problem?
- Decide what you want to say. Think about using ‘I’ statements and try to be as specific as you can. ( eg ‘I’d like to go to the cinema’ rather than ‘Shall we go out tonight?’) When you speak to the other person, leave time for them to listen and respond.
- Support what you are saying by how you say it. Think about your body language and your voice. If what you are saying is serious, look serious – smiling may give the message that it’s not important.
- If the other person doesn’t seem to be listening, or tries to sidetrack you, stick to your point. Repeat it calmly until you feel that you are being heard.
- Listen to the other person’s opinion and if necessary see if you can negotiate a compromise.
- Reflect on the conversation afterwards. Are you satisfied with the outcome? Would you do anything differently next time?