Assertiveness is definitely a life skill that many people need to learn if they wish to lead a happy and productive life. This is especially true for those of us who try so hard to please others.
We all have the right to express our feelings and opinions. When we place greater emphasis on the rights and feelings of others, it can end up undermining our individual rights and self-confidence. Such passive responses mean we fail to communicate our thoughts or feelings and this results in others taking responsibility and making decisions for us.
When we are not assertive, it creates feelings of low self-esteem or self-worth, which is more likely to make us less assertive in the future. Our low sense of self-esteem tends to invite others to treat us in the same way. This is a cycle we need to break up – we need to learn to be assertive whilst at the same time respecting other people’s views and opinions.
Being assertive is something that can be learned. But it is a skill that takes practice. Most people find that they end up being passive or overly aggressive.
There is actually a fine line between assertion and aggression, you need to find that balance. You need to focus on developing a strong sense of yourself and this means standing up for yourself and acknowledging that you deserve to get what you want.
Benefits of Assertive Behaviour
1. Improved self-image
When you choose to be assertive, you do not see yourself as inferior or superior to others. You adopt a realistic self-image and your sense of self-worth reflects this.
You will realize that people have their own preferences and this helps you better deal with occasions where you cannot meet the preferences of others or vice versa.
2. Better understanding of others
When you are assertive, you stop trying to please others. When another person makes a request, you will be able to view it as an opportunity that benefits both parties, rather than as a threat.
If you choose to refuse their request, you are able to understand that they chose to feel upset and it was not you who made them feel that way.
3. Improved self-confidence
The more assertive you become, the more respect you will have for your own opinions. You become more aware of your own identity and beliefs. This will improve your self-awareness and self-confidence tremendously.
Even when others disagree, you will feel comfortable expressing your opinion without having to worry about upsetting anyone else.
4. More time and more energy
When you deal with a situation passively or aggressively, the situation builds up creating lots of stress, wasting energy and time. You may snap outwardly at others creating a mess or worse you may turn inwards resulting in health issues.
Expressing your views clearly and assertively dealing with the situation the first time around ensures that the issue gets dealt with there and then.
5. Helps You Become Healthier
Being assertive can help you lose weight, make healthier food choices and live a healthier life.
If you are trying to follow healthy eating or weight loss program, then well-meaning friends and family are bound to tempt you to take it easy and just enjoy yourself by having that cake, chocolate, or pizza.
If you truly wish to get make healthy food choices or stick to your diet resolutions, then you need to be assertive and be firm when you say ‘No’
Developing Your Assertiveness
To become a more assertive person, you need to pay more attention to developing the following skills:
- The first step is recognizing your own self-worth and your rights. You need to acknowledge that your thoughts, feelings, and needs are as important as everyone else’s though you cannot place them above anyone else’s.
- You need to identify your needs and find ways to get your needs met without sacrificing others’ wants in the process.
- Acknowledge that people are responsible for their own behavior. You do not have to accept the responsibility for how people react to your assertiveness. Protect your rights and do not apologize for being assertive.
- Control your emotions. Permit yourself to get angry, but remember to always be respectful. Stand up for yourself and confront people who challenge you. Express and receive negative feelings, criticism, and compliments in a healthy and positive manner.
- You must learn to say “No” whenever you need to. You can’t do everything or please everyone. You have to train yourself to be OK with that.
- Always go with what is right for you. You can consider suggesting an alternative for a win-win solution. If you sacrifice your needs to please others, you will definitely regret it in the long run.
Assertive Communication Techniques
There are many ways to communicate assertively. The following communication techniques can be adapted to suit any circumstances you face.
- The event: You first need to recognize how the other person views the situation.
- Your feelings: You have to tell the other person exactly how you see the problem.
- Your needs: Express what you need and your emotions clearly so they don’t have to guess that.
- The consequences: You can describe the positive outcome if your requirements are met. If your first attempts are not successful in getting your needs fulfilled, the escalation technique can be used. This involves getting more and more firm as time goes on by giving more emphasis to the consequences of not getting these needs met.
Once you know what you want to say and express, it is much easier to actually do it. Use “I statements”: “I need” or “I feel” to convey basic assertions.
The Journey to Assertiveness Mastery
Assertiveness is a skill that can be learned and developed, but it does take time. By practicing the techniques given above, you will become more and more confident in expressing what you feel or need.
Begin now and find out how being assertive helps you find solutions and solve problems. Assertiveness is a communication skill that ultimately improves your productivity and efficiency.