How to Be More Assertive: The Top 10 Tips
Some folks see the world as being composed of basically 2 types of people: those who are aggressive or confrontational and those others who aren’t.
Obviously, as in most things, there is a middle ground.
However many people have a high resistance and even a real fear of confrontation in almost any form. In fact they see practically anything other than full compliance as being confrontational.
For example: your waiter brings you a cold pasta dish which you decide to eat rather than return; somebody steps in front of you in the grocery line and you let it go to avoid an uncomfortable interaction; or your boss doesn’t offer you a raise in a long while but you are fearful of asking for one.
These examples are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. People who are fearful of any form of confrontation lack the very important skill of assertiveness.
Assertiveness is a fundamental communication skill. It plays a vital role in the way you see yourself.
Being a more assertive person can raise your self-esteem, reduce your stress levels and help you cope better with life in general.
Being assertive is a way or style of communicating that you can stand up for yourself, have self-respect and respect for others. It is a highly desirable skill set that one can learn.
It should not be confused with being aggressive. The aggressive style of communication is frequently off putting and highly confrontational. It is often a very poor strategy for getting one’s point across and establishing consensus.
There are essentially 3 ways to behave in any given situation: passively, aggressively or assertively. People who struggle with standing up for themselves typically have a baseline behavior of passivity.
Everyone wants to be treated fairly. When your rights are violated you should be able to express yourself and your position.
Being assertive is defined as being able to effectively communicate your preferences and your opinions.
Assertiveness training includes facing your fears, passive tendencies and the urge to always be nice and not “rock the boat”.
You are encouraged to overcome your fears by speaking up and asking people to listen to your opinions and requests as well as expressing both positive and negative emotions whenever the context calls for it.
Assertiveness training is helpful for aggressive style people as well. They can learn to deal with their frustrations more effectively before becoming angry. Anger management should include assertiveness training.
Top 10 Tips to becoming more assertive
1) Commit to change: The first step is to decide you want to change your style and become more assertive rather than passive or aggressive. This means that you are now willing to take risks.
2) Identify your fearful challenges: Make a list of the many things you have found difficult to do because you believe you have been too passive to do them. Or conversely, what you have done that you really didn’t want to do, like saying yes when you really wanted to say no.
3) It’s not about being an extrovert: You don’t have to be an outspoken extrovert to be assertive. You can be quiet, reserved and understated and still be an assertive person.
4) Start small: Rate your list on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most challenging. Start with the least challenging thing first and commit to conquering it the next opportunity you have. You would not run a marathon without training first, so take small steps. But take them now!
5) Learn to use “I” statements: Statements like “I would really like it if you could speak to me in a calm voice and not yell” or “I’d prefer it if I could get back to you when I’ve thought it over before answering” are empowering without being aggressive.
6) Learn to accept compliments: Passive people generally have a hard time accepting a compliment or being told that they did something well. Practice saying thank you when someone says something nice to you or even agreeing with them that you too were happy with whatever it was you did.
7) Learn to express negative thoughts or feelings: You are entitled to your opinion and, if expressed respectfully, you should be able to say what is on your mind. If you disagree with something or object to it is empowering for you to learn to clearly state that objection.
8) Learn to say no: Passive style people will often say yes when asked to do something because they don’t want to disappoint anyone or make anyone “feel bad”. They then become upset with themselves for doing so and sometimes overwhelmed with unnecessary responsibilities. No is a wonderful boundary promoting word that shows you understand your limitations. Learn to use it!
9) Learn to express your position and your needs: Clarify your thoughts. It is your responsibility to let the other person know what you need from them. They can’t read your mind. Be specific.
10) Practice first: Practice by recording yourself and looking at yourself in a mirror as you rehearse. You don’t have to obsess and do this for hours at a time, but just enough to begin to feel a little more comfortable to start working on your list of challenges.
The challenge of changing your style and becoming more assertive is a process of creating a new pattern or habit. It takes time, commitment and a willingness to persist. If you find that you need some help reach out to a professional for guidance.
About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with individuals, couples and business partners helping them to improve their communication skills and resolve conflict.