Whether you consider the workplace or the home, assertiveness is a skill that can boost self-esteem and earn the respect of those around us. It can also help us to set and maintain boundaries in respect of how we are treated by others, while there is even evidence that assertiveness helps with the process of stress management. This is especially applicable for those who take on too much responsibility and are unable to say “no,” as it equips them with the tools to communicate honestly with colleagues, partners, and bosses alike.
With this in mind, what simple and practical steps can you take to become more assertive in everyday life? Consider the following five ideas.
1. Challenge your Perception of Assertiveness
This is an important starting point for your journey, as studies have proven that we are exceptionally poor judges of our own assertiveness. As a general rule, we tend to view others as under-assertive and reflect on ourselves as being either overly aggressive or pushy. A study by SAGE confirmed this, revealing that 38% of respondents felt that they had been overly assertive in a particular situation despite the reassurance of their partners. This is known as the “line crossing illusion,” and it explains why so many of us struggle to be assertive even in circumstances where it is necessary.
This understanding is crucial, as it creates greater awareness surrounding the concept of assertiveness and enables us to appraise individual situations and the actions of others in a more informed manner. As a result, our responses are likely to be well-measured and suitably assertive depending on the circumstances involved.
2. Develop Various Methods of Expressing Yourself and Your Opinion
Once you have begun to understand the nature of assertiveness and challenge your perceptions of it, you can explore non-confrontational methods of expressing your thoughts and your opinions. This is fortunately easier than ever in the modern age, given the popularity of blogging and the fact that online streaming sites such as YouTube receive in excess of one billion unique visitors each month. These mediums are not only easily accessible, but they also enable you to share your opinions with a vast audience without having to encounter direct confrontation.
In addition to this, you can also begin to express yourself through a handwritten journal or diary. This is an even simpler way of expressing and asserting yourself, while it offers a completely private and secure medium for one-way interaction.
3. Begin to Assert Yourself in Conversation and Through Interaction with Others
Once you are more accustomed to expressing yourself and your unique opinions, the next step is to assert yourself in everyday conversation and through interaction with others. It is crucial that you start slowly, however, initially by setting yourself a series of low-risk challenges that enable you to practice being assertive on a daily basis. These can vary depending on your circumstances, but common examples include ordering your own food at dinner, praising colleagues in the workplace, or holding court and sharing real-life experiences with friends during a social occasion.
These exchanges are considered to be low-risk as they will solicit either a positive or a nondescript response, as this will gradually help you to develop your confidence and create an aura of authority. From here, you can begin to challenge yourself with higher risk activities, such as returning any faulty items that you have purchased or sharing negative feedback with a colleague. As you progress, keep a daily journal of your progress and highlight specific areas of communication that require improvement.
4. Speak Clearly at all Times
One of the main issues with being assertive is your ability to communicate directly with others, especially in challenging circumstances where negative feedback is being shared. This can cause us to speak in an accusatory manner in some instances, whereas in others we may find ourselves talking too quietly in a subconscious bid to avoid confrontation. Either way, there are some simple techniques that you can use to improve the words and the tone that you use when asserting your opinion.
Firstly, consider using what is commonly referred to as “I” messaging. This simply involves sharing your opinions and thoughts from a first-person perspective, rather than highlighting what you believe others have done to contribute to the situation. This minimises the risk of offending others and lays the foundations for a more serene and productive conversation. As you continue to focus on your own feelings and opinions, you can simplify the communication process, avoid aggressive confrontation, and subsequently ensure that your tone stays neutral and at an audible level.
5. Practice, Rehearse, and Target Specific Behavioural Issues
By now, you should be at a point where you are demonstrating more assertive communication skills on a daily basis. You must also commit to this over a concerted period of time, as you practice and rehearse these communication skills with diligence, focus, and consistency. You should continue to practice in front of the mirror, as while this may seem a little excessive, it enables you to reinforce the importance of assertiveness and refine your communication skills further.
You may also want to work on specific areas for improvement, as these may be behavioural traits that are a little harder to change. Let’s say that you are prone to apologise excessively, even in instances where you are not at fault. If this applies to you, you will need to pay particular attention to this and focus on rehearsing relevant scenarios with friends and conditioning your responses.
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