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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 August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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