How to be assertive
Being assertive is a life skill that influences our path in life, our relationship with others and our level of happiness and self-satisfaction.
It can be challenging to develop; but as other life skills, it grows with persistence, repetition and experience.
What is assertiveness?
Assertiveness is the quality of being able to express your feelings with respect and calm when you don't agree with a person o situation.
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Why is it so rare?
Most of us grew up not being assertive.
Most people have the tendency to silence their feelings of disagreement in a situation, or react with anger and frustration, thus making the situation worse.
Being assertive is being able to say NO and express with freedom that you don't like something or the way a situation is being approached.
While working on being assertive you will be working in your confidence as well as self-control.
Many of us have met a person who was assertive (or close to it), a person who was able to express with honesty and politeness what they didn't like in certain situation.
I remember when I was in high school and middle school my best friend at the time was this kind of person.
She would be the person that everyone wanted to be friends with, and a person able to express her disagreement and feelings in a situation to any person involved.
I always admired that about her, because at the time I would just stay in silence and swallow my feelings even when I felt unfairly treated.
Assertiveness was something that I developed with time, practice and willingness to learn and you can do it as well.
Some benefits of being assertive:
1. First and most important benefit from being assertive is being at peace with yourself.
When we are not assertive, and we let others treat us unfairly, there are resentment feelings unexpressed, things that we didn't say but later thought about saying, can stay in our head playing a broken record for years!
There are few things more frustrating than having this sort of mental record about what we could have said but failed to express.
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2. Others will perceive you as sincere and honest, because you are being exactly that.
When you are the person in a meeting who opens up and talks about your doubts or perception about a situation that affects you and others; when you are the person standing up for others or the person saying in a polite and positive way what everyone is thinking but failed to say, you are perceived as honest and courageous because you are being honest, sincere and courageous.
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3. Better relationships.
Assertiveness is about confidence and good communication which are key elements in the development of good relationships.
If you improve your communication adding assertiveness, you will succeed more in your personal relationships.
Imagine being able to tell your boss or your couple, openly and with respect what you don't like about a situation/ interaction/ event.
There would be less misunderstandings in your life. People are not mind readers. You need to talk.
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Some tips to practice when trying to communicate with assertiveness:
1. Body language:
Words are important, but body language is as important as words, or maybe even more.
When you are talking, people (unconsciously) are scanning your gestures and body language, they know and perceive (unconsciously) if you are distracted, if you don't really care about what they are saying, if you are somewhere else, and if you are being sincere or not.
When expressing disagreement your body language is important because is sending a message by itself.
I think it was Stephen Covey in the 7 habits of highly effective people who said: " your intentions are not what people see and hear. People hear your tone. And some of your words. They see your face, they watch your mouth."
Be careful with your body language when expressing a challenging opinion.
2. Sandwich your critical point if necessary. If not, just be polite and respectful.
There are situations when is a priority to "sandwich" the critical point you are about to say.
This often happens with our closest relationships, the ones we hold in high regard, like the relationship with our parents, couple, children and some friends.
It is similar to the approach used to give negative feedback; you would sandwich the critical point between two positive things.
If you consider it is not necessary to sandwich your point because it would lose seriousness, like when standing up for yourself with an obnoxious coworker or boss, just try to be respectful, polite and calm, but make the point as clear as possible.
Make observations about the behavior instead of accusations and express clearly your expectations and how would you expect the situation to change, again, people are not mind readers.
-I noticed that you laughed during my presentation and I don't appreciate that; instead of- “you were making fun of me and I didn't like it.”
-I notice you seem distracted when I talk to you about my hobbies and I would appreciate more attention when I talk to you about things that are important to me; instead of "you never listened to me and you don't care about anything that I like"
-I would appreciate if you give us feedback using a better tone. We respect you, there is no need to yell; instead of -failing to say something.
Everything is difficult the first time, but practices makes the master and assertiveness is a skill that you can develop with practice.
Do what you think and say what you feel.