Do you struggle to communicate your opinions or feel people don’t see or hear you? You’re not alone. While we would all love the confidence to say no or stand up for what we believe in, it’s not always easy. But it is possible to learn how to be assertive with a few strategies and tips to help you become a strong communicator. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits of assertiveness and how to help you plant your feet firmly on the ground.
Passiveness vs Assertiveness: What’s the Difference?
To clear up any confusion, let’s clarify the stark differences between assertiveness, passiveness, and aggressiveness.
- An assertive person confidently communicates their needs and desires calmly and respectfully. They don’t allow others to take advantage of their kindness and firmly maintain their boundaries.
- Aggressive tactics are made from a selfish one-party point of view without regard for the feelings of others.
- Passive individuals are often people pleasers. They allow their needs and desires to be put on the back burner to comply with those around them. Furthermore, speaking up for what they want feels foreign and often creates feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, and fear of rejection.
11 Reasons You Should Be More Assertive
Between the communication styles, assertiveness is viewed as the healthiest and is a key part of developing emotional intelligence. That’s why it has several benefits that can help you feel happier personally and professionally.
- Improves self-worth
- Maintains your boundaries
- Increases your confidence
- Reduces external validation
- Increases job and life satisfaction
- Strengthens your communication
- Improves emotional regulation
- Allows you to earn and maintain respect
- Creates more authentic and genuine relationships
- Encourages you to develop negotiation skills
- Decreases resentment and self-criticism
How To Be More Assertive: 7 Tips that Help
1. Know your value
The first tip to learn how to be more assertive is to know your value. That’s right. You deserve what you want, just like everyone else. Furthermore, if you don’t value yourself, it will be harder for others to follow suit. So, rather than looking for external validation, reflect and find it from within. Write a list of the traits you love about yourself, analyze past moments where you felt proud and confident, and practice ways to love yourself more. You’re worth it, always.
2. Learn to say no
After knowing your value, learn how to set boundaries and say no. No is a complete sentence. This means you don’t need to provide a follow-up explanation on why you can’t do something or feel guilty. You have every right to decline an invitation and stay at home to make easy DIY face masks if you want. But the key to reducing the overwhelm is to start small. Start by saying no to a restaurant, salesperson, or at your bank. Doing so bit by bit will help you gain the confidence to tackle situations that hit closer to home.
During confrontation, it’s easy to react vs. respond. However, when you do, you lose sight of your values, point of view, and you may make a decision based on your emotions rather than the present moment. Therefore, take a moment to breathe. Breathe through the stress to center yourself. Breathing will calm your fight-0r-flight and allow you to return with the confidence to stick to your beliefs. To do so, learn how to stay focused when you’re overwhelmed, like belly breathing. Inhale through your nose as your belly expands, and exhale out your mouth as it deflates like a balloon. Repeat until you feel collected.
4. Improve your body language
Did you know Albert Mehrabian, a researcher and psychology professor, discovered that communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words? This means 90% of what we say is based on our body language alone. Therefore, when maintaining your assertiveness, review your body language. For example, stand up straight, roll your shoulders back, keep your head up, maintain eye contact, and position a wide stance. While you’re at it, relax your tone of voice but keep it clear. A high-pitched tone will relay anxiety or aggressiveness.
5. Rehearse beforehand
6. Identify your feelings
While it’s always important to identify how you feel before and after, the key to assertiveness is emotional regulation in the middle of encounters. It teaches you how to stay calm while voicing your concerns. Sounds difficult, right? It doesn’t need to be. With practice and mindful awareness, you can do both. For example, as someone expresses their viewpoints, you may notice your heart rate increase, your chest pound, and your palms become sweaty. Take a moment to label the emotion as anger and breathe to reposition yourself with calmness. This mindfulness exercise also allows you to maintain respect for the other party.
7. Review and grow
You’re human and learning how to adopt a new communication style. This means you’re likely to make mistakes, and that’s okay. But every time you practice, you learn how to increase your confidence, establish your boundaries, and communicate your desires. It doesn’t matter if the first time you tried wasn’t perfect or the outcome wasn’t exactly how you imagined. First, perfection doesn’t exist, and second, you can return to the situation after reflection. You have every right to pivot and come back. Yet every time you assert yourself, reflect on what you want to improve. Perhaps you want to be more responsive rather than reactive, or you want to lower your tone of voice or listen more mindfully to the other party’s perspective. The beauty of reviewing allows you to recognize your successes and failures – both lead to growth.
A part of learning how to be assertive is taking baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you can’t magically become confident overnight. So, move slowly, be kind to yourself along the way, and continue to reaffirm your self-worth. Over time, you will drop the people-pleasing tendencies and voice your concerns respectfully and confidently.
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