What does being assertive mean?
Assertiveness is the ability to deliver your own point to another person in a calm and mutual manner, whilst avoiding dominance over others and yourself.
Often at times, many people struggle with the ability to be assertive due to feelings of intimidation, insecurity and fears surrounding rejected or being disliked. When issues are left unresolved or avoided completely, scenarios can occur where it can become more difficult for a person to act assertive in a situation due to the delay in speaking up initially. It is also important to note the difference between being assertive, passive and aggressive:
Passive behaviour is the action of expressing negative feelings to another person indirectly as opposed to using confrontation. This is mainly due to feelings of inadequacy which leads to avoiding conflict. This then allows others to dominate your thoughts and needs.
Aggressive behaviour is controlling the conversation, undermining another’s viewpoint, determined to get their own point across without allowing another’s input. Being aggressive in conversation disregards another’s feelings and needs and creates an appearance of superiority.
Benefits of assertiveness
When you practice being assertive, it becomes easier to communicate with others when problems or decisions arise. There are many long-term benefits of being assertive:
- Your input, feelings and needs are valued by others
- Respect is shared
- You feel accomplished
- You gain self-respect and confidence
- Results are win-win
- Practice decision-making skills
- Creates healthier relationships
How to practice assertiveness in communication
- Prepare the other person for what you are about to say by starting the conversation with something like “I need to speak with you about something and I’d appreciate if you listened to what I have to say before replying…”
- Empathise with the other person to show that you are understanding of their view, this makes it clear to that person that you are not trying to turn the conversation into a fight.
- Explain the reasons behind your point in a calm matter to help others empathise with you and to avoid looking stubborn or aggressive.
- Be clear and straightforward about your needs and wants in a direct request, so the other person knows what exactly your goal is. If you need to repeat yourself to ensure they understand, do so.
- Take ownership of the matter by saying “I” when referring to thoughts, feelings and opinions.
- State facts rather than judgements to help justify your point more effectively.
- Analyse and confront the other person’s behaviour in an argument if they are showing any irrational behaviour to identify any other issues that may surface as opposed to the original topic.
- Allow time for the other person to calm down before discussing an issue.
- Summarise to ensure you both are understanding of each other’s needs in order to come to a resolution.
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