Assertiveness is one of the most invaluable communication skills that will help you in your personal and professional relationships. Believe it or not, it has a lot to do with diplomacy. Because it is based on mutual respect, being assertive means that you are will stand up for yourself and but also do it without offending people. It’s a much more effective way to resolve conflicts than being merely passive or aggressive.
If you have a passive communication style, you will tend to go with whatever the majority says. This will inevitably result in resentment, stress, and a desire to vindicate yourself. You don’t want to end up feeling like a victim, do you?
On the other hand, being aggressive might get you your desired results, but at a cost—particularly trust and respect. Being too aggressive means that other people will end up hating and avoiding you.
3 Ways to Be More Assertive
Why is being assertive your best choice? You will gain self-confidence, earn other people’s respect, win over other their trust, and foster honest relationships in the end. There are even studies that suggest it help prevent certain mental health problems such as bulimia, social anxiety disorder, and depression.
But how do you do it effectively?
1) Evaluate your current style. Are you too passive or too aggressive?
2) If you’re too passive, then look for underlying beliefs that may be causing you to feel uncomfortable to speak your mind. Chances are you had a childhood experience that traumatized you in some way (big or small). Can you remember a situation? For example, I was 6 years old and I asked for a new bike from my father. I happened to ask on the day he lost his job. He blew up at me and threw a saucepan across the room. I dived out of the way, so avoided getting hurt. Even though my father apologized profusely, I was scarred from that experience and stopped asking for things I wanted. I went back in time and sat with that traumatized inner child, feeling compassion for her, and I explained the situation from an adult perspective, and reminded her that she is no longer in that position, and can protect herself, and ask for what she needs safely. After doing that about 3 times, I felt the trauma that had been lodged in my back brain start to dissipate. Since then, I have had much more courage to ask for what I want. See if you can do the same.
3) If you’re too aggressive, try using “I” statements. For example, say someone accuses you of doing a job ineffectively. You may be very tempted to use a “You” statement, such as saying in an accusatory tone of voice, “Who are YOU to judge my work?” Instead, you might try saying in a neutral tone of voice, “I’m surprised by that comment. What’s happened that made you say that?” They will than have to explain what led them to that assumption. You may discover they are missing important information, or they just have a different view of what “effective” means, or they may have constructive feedback that will be useful. Or, maybe all three. If you find out what’s underneath that comment, you can get down to a mutually agreeable solution more quickly without, hopefully, burning any bridges.
You should also not engage in a conversation if you feel triggered. Wait until you have calmed down. Go for a walk, count to 10, take a low, slow breath, so that your brain energy can move from the survival brain to the frontal lobes. Then you will have more access to your communication skills. At the same time, watch your body language. Being assertive requires a lot of careful thinking and reflection. Practice it in your head, or even keep a script if possible. In any case, rehearse what you are going to say, just to be sure that you are saying it the best way possible….and notice that your work and personal life will open up in wonderful ways.
Take the D.A.N.C.E. Communication Style Quiz HERE and find out your strengths and challenges when it comes to interpersonal communication. Look in the right hand column for how to get your FREE quiz.