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How To Become More Assertive Easily

How To Become More Assertive Easily

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Featured photo credit: David Blackwell / Flickr via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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