Assertiveness is a core communication skill that can help you to express your needs and wants in an effective manner. For many, standing up for our beliefs and voicing our opinions can seem daunting, but with practice and a few tips, anyone can learn to become more assertive over time.
Being assertive allows you to express your point of view, whilst considering the needs and wants of others in a respectful way. Building on this skill can help to boost your own self-esteem and increase your communication skills with others. It also allows for building on your self-respect, as you increase your confidence to convey your interests, thoughts, beliefs and emotions.
Expressing yourself in a way that is either too passive or too aggressive can often lead to miscommunication. People will often respond and react to the delivery of your message which can cause conflict. This can reduce effective communication and decision-making processes.
Passive communication can include being easygoing or shy, often going along with what others want in group situations. You may tend to avoid conflict altogether, putting your own wants and needs aside to please others. This can look like saying yes often, with difficulty being able to say no. This can worsen your internal conflict over time causing stress or anger by ignoring your own needs.
Aggressive communication is where individuals may feel superior to others. They make decisions without considering others thoughts or feelings which can seem selfish. Aggressive communication can also entail humiliation and intimidation towards others. This communication style can lead to feelings of mistrust and disrespect by others.
Assertiveness lies in the middle of this spectrum between passive and aggressive. It is a healthy way of communicating with others that provides mutual respect. It can avoid having others take advantage of you, improve your self-confidence and decision-making skills, help to recognise your emotions and create honest relationships with others.
How can we learn to be more assertive?
- Assess your communication style
In order to be more assertive, it is helpful to firstly take a look at your current way of communicating. Are you one to voice your opinions or do you prefer to remain quiet? Do you often find it difficult to say no to others? Consider your current approach so that you are aware of the changes that need to be made.
- Use I statements
The best way to articulate our wants and needs is by using I statements. This lets others knows how we are feeling or thinking in any given situation. Statements can look like; I think that… I would like… I believe that… or I disagree with… This language allows for others to hear our perspective on situations in which they can then respond without feeling confronted.
- It’s okay to say no
Saying no is a healthy boundary that can often feel difficult to do. An alternative way to decline a request is to say, I can’t do that right now, I’ll do that at a later time, or I have a bit on my plate at the moment. Being direct is the most helpful way to convey your needs. If you need to explain why, keep it brief. Remember, it’s okay to say no, we all have boundaries and needs of our own, and its okay to put ourselves first.
- Practice increases your confidence
If being assertive is something foreign to you, start by doing it slowly. You could practice in low risk situations with friends or family to begin with. When you feel more confident in doing so, you can apply this to the workplace or in group settings.