How to be more assertive
Do you often speak in an apologetic voice? Do you avoid confrontations? Do you let your emotions take over? Or do you bottle them up? Do you struggle to get your point across? Want to discover how to be more assertive and take control of the situation?
Good communication skills are essential. They aren’t only a base of close relationships but a necessity to fit in and survive in every kind of environment.
Being assertive isn’t just about saying no and standing up for yourself. It’s also expressing your feelings and needs while respecting other people’s beliefs. Assertive behaviour includes asking for help and support, expressing affection, expressing negative emotions such as a feeling of hurt, setting boundaries, voicing an opinion that other people might not agree with, making a complaint, calling someone out on inappropriate behaviour. Without assertiveness, we’re vulnerable to people taking advantage of us. Additionally, we’re more likely to feel helpless and out of control as our needs aren’t being met.
Assertiveness differs from other communication styles. When we are passive, we struggle to get our point across and voice our needs. Passive-aggressiveness is an unhealthy way to express feelings indirectly that makes your relationships to suffer. If you tend to engage in an aggressive communication style, you focus on unloading your feelings on the other person instead of working towards an agreement. Assertiveness aims to create an environment in which both sides are respected and able to reach a compromise.
Unfortunately, most of us tend to struggle with assertiveness. We might have been taught obedience was the only way to respond even in situations where our rights were violated. We might have low self-esteem that prevents us from being motivated enough to assert ourselves and prioritising our needs. We might be afraid of upsetting the other person. We might mistake assertiveness for selfishness or aggression.
If you want to be more respected, communicate better and increase self-esteem and confidence, this guide is for you.
Become more assertive by following the tips below:
Start giving people compliments
One of the overlooked aspects of assertiveness is the ability to express our thoughts and emotions. It’s not just setting boundaries and saying no but confidence to be true to our feelings. An easy way to start working on assertiveness skills is by giving people compliments.
Whenever you like something about a person, make sure to let them know. It won’t only make them feel good but will give your more confidence.
Practise relaxation techniques
Situations that require the most assertiveness often make us feel stressed and anxious. Imagine you’re sitting on a train and a stranger violates your personal space. Perhaps they’re much bigger than you or there are no other passengers around.
If you’re not an assertive person, you might feel helpless and trapped. The overwhelming emotions will most likely cloud your judgement and you won’t even have a chance to think about asserting boundaries. To keep calm under pressure and control your emotions, it’s important to learn to relax.
A good place to start is with breathing techniques. Place a hand on your stomach and take a deep breath through your noise – notice how your lungs expand and how your hand is pushed away. Then breathe out through pursed lips and imagine the tension is leaving your body.
Improve your self-esteem
We might lack assertiveness because we feel inferior. If we don’t feel good enough, we lack the motivation to stand up for ourselves and subconsciously believe we don’t deserve to have our needs met.
Essentially, assertiveness is the confidence to voice our wants and to live according to our principles. The easiest way to start working on your self-esteem is by practising self-affirmations. Choose a positive statement that’s short and simple but powerful. For example, “I’m worthy of love”, “I’m beautiful”, “I’m good enough”.
Another great tactic is reframing negative thinking. In other words, be kind to yourself. Whenever you engage in self-deprecating thinking, try to come up with something positive. When you start paying attention to negative thoughts, you might be surprised by how often they arise in your mind.
That’s because they became a habit. The good news is, habits can be broken with enough practice.
Do you imagine the worst-case scenarios when you’re about to explain how someone’s behaviour hurt you? Do you fear people’s reaction when you set boundaries?
For every negative scenario, try to think of a more positive alternative. Get into a habit of asking yourself “What if it all goes well?”. Focus on what you want to get out of the conversation. For example, “I want to communicate my feelings, I’m hoping we can find a solution that suits us both” or “I want to be treated with respect and it doesn’t matter if they react negatively because I deserve being around people who don’t cross my boundaries”.
Adapt assertive way of speaking and assertive body language
Assertive communication is clear and non-accusatory. Try to use “I” sentences that encourage you to express your feelings but without criticising the other person. For example, a good way to start a conversation with your partner would be “It makes me feel insecure when you meet female friends without telling me” – it invites constructive communication free of blame and hostility.
At the same time, make sure that your facial expression matches the way you communicate. Try not to look angry or anxious. Keep eye contact and use an appropriate, calm but firm tone of voice.
Practise saying no
Start from refusing to comply with a simple request from a person you feel most comfortable with. For example, be assertive when your partner asks you to watch a movie you don’t feel like watching or when your friend wants to go shopping and you know you’re slammed with work.
Notice the other person’s reaction and how the refusal makes you feel. If saying no makes you feel guilty, you can make this exercise easier by accepting the discomfort. When you practise breathing exercises next, focus on negative emotion and let it drift through your mind without engaging in it.
If your muscles tense, relax them and imagine you feel calmer and calmer every time you exhale.