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. 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 wok on resolving conflicts. Of course, it’s not just what you say 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. Here are some tips to help you improve assertive communication:
What is your communication style?
Do you voice your opinions or remain silent? Do you say ‘yes’ to additional work even when your plate is full? Are you quick to judge or blame? Do people seem to dread or fear talking to you? Understand your style before you begin making changes.
Use ‘I’ statements
- Using ‘I’ statements lets others know what you’re thinking without sounding accusatory. For instance, say, “I disagree,” rather than, “You’re wrong.”
Practice saying ‘No’
- If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying, “No, I can’t do that now.” Don’t beat around the bush – 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 might encounter. Say what you want to say out loud. It may help to write it out first, too, so you can practice from a script. Consider role playing with a friend or colleague and ask for blunt feedback.
Use body language
- Communication isn’t just verbal. Act confident even if you aren’t feeling it. Keep and 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 is front of a mirror or with a friend or colleague.
Keep feelings 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.
- 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 afterward and tweak your approach as necessary.
Assertiveness Right 1: I have the right to judge my own behavior, thoughts and emotions and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences.
Assertiveness Right 2: I have the right to offer neither reason nor excuse to justify my behavior. I need not rely upon others to judge whether my actions are proper or correct.
Assertiveness Right 3: I have the right to judge whether I am responsible for finding solutions to others’ problems. I am ultimately responsible for my own psychological well-being and happiness.
Assertiveness Right 4: I have the right to change my mind. As a human being, nothing in my life is necessarily constant or rigid. My interests and needs may well change with the passage of time.
Assertiveness Right 5: I have the right to say “I don’t know.”
Assertiveness Right 6: I have the right to make mistakes and be responsible for them. To make a mistake is part of the human condition.
Assertiveness Right 7: I have the right to be independent of the good will of others before coping with them. It would be unrealistic for me to expect others to approve of all my actions, regardless of their merit.
Assertiveness Right 8: I have the right to be illogical in making decisions. I sometimes employ logic as a reasoning process to assist me in making judgments. However, logic cannot predict what will happen in every situation. Logic is not much help in dealing with wants, motivations and feelings. Logic generally deals with “black or white,” “all or none” and “yes or no” issues. Logic and reasoning don’t always work well when dealing with the gray areas of the human condition.
Assertiveness Right 9: I have a right to say “I don’t understand.”
Assertiveness Right 10: I have the right to say “I don’t care.”
Remember, learning to be assertive takes time and practice. If you’ve spent years censoring yourself, becoming more assertive probably won’t happen overnight. Or if anger has lead you to be too aggressive in difficult situations, you will need to include other anger management practices into your overall assertive communication growth and development.