Assertiveness is a skill, and as such, it can be learned. A common misconception is that you need to act like an extrovert to assert yourself. Yet, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Being assertive means being direct about what you need, want, feel or believe in a way that’s respectful of the views of others. It’s a communication skill that can reduce conflict, build your self-confidence, and improve relationships.
Asserting yourself can feel empowering and freeing without downplaying anyone else’s dignity or damaging your connections.
In fact, there are some key, straightforward ways to make yourself seen, heard, and respected daily. With practice and persistence, you can improve your interactions and quality of life considerably.
When your boundaries and intentions are plain to yourself and those in your life, you gain a healthy measure of entitlement, a necessary factor in gaining agency and confidence. Now, let’s consider these five ways to assert yourself:
1. Prioritize Clarity and Share with Intention
Asserting yourself is the act of making yourself and your positions plain to others. You want to be heard and understood so no one can claim that they didn’t know or understand what you wanted to communicate.
Thus, to positively assert yourself, first commit to speaking up for yourself even if it’s uncomfortable. Then, be thoughtful and clear-minded regarding the purpose of what you want to share. In other words, know what matters to you and clearly state it.
Finally, listen actively. As you share your needs and boundaries, expect questions or pushback from other parties. That’s okay. Simply listen with respect, hearing them out doesn’t mean you have to abandon your limits.
If unsuccessful, then switch to a form of communication that just emphasizes your own views and needs. Communication with the eyes on “I statements” close the door to discussions and engagement that does not reflect your views.
2. Keep Communication Succinct and On Message
Remember that you are asserting yourself. This means you are expressing yourself, not convincing anyone of anything. It’s okay to agree to disagree and attach consequences to a relationship that doesn’t honor your needs. The connection may simply not be mutually beneficial.
For relationships that you do wish to maintain, foster communication that keeps attempts to assert yourself honest and focused on the present. Stay calm, relaxed, and speak in a neutral tone to connect well.
3. Communicate Rather than Complain
The most effective way to achieve respect and consideration is to be a problem solver rather than to simply lodge complaints. Take a solutions-oriented approach to conflicts or issues you want to address. Work at seeing people who may have dismissed you before as peers you hope to inform. Then do so, firmly, without whining or animosity.
Try to stick with statements that include phrases like ‘I think’ or ‘I feel’. Avoid aggressive language such as ‘you always’ or ‘you never.’ Make eye contact frequently, but don’t stare them down.
4. Be Brave not a Bully
Aggressive behavior can result from attempts to be assertive if you aren’t careful and focused. Again, your goal is to put honor yourself and your desire to have your personhood and needs to be respected. Not to blame, assign guilt trips, indulge heightened emotion, or make anyone do anything they don’t want to.
Assertiveness is respectful of both yourself and the other person.. Respect is key for your relationships to work. Simply speak up and voice your concerns as needed, whenever you feel compelled to do so. Let others know that you will hear them out as well.
Practice being assertive as often as possible. Speaking clearly, adjusting your posture, and strengthening your handshake are small changes you can make to start boosting your presence and sense of control. Work on your body language in the mirror or with trusted loved ones. Record yourself to see how others view you.
Moreover, you can review past situations and interactions as learning lessons. Don’t beat yourself up; just explore how you might prepare for similar situations going forward. Being assertive is a skill that requires time and repetition to become comfortable. Stick with it, in time you’ll gain more confidence.