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4 Proven Steps to Being More Assertive

4 Proven Steps to Being More Assertive

Being assertive is all about putting your point across in a positive way that is more likely to get you what you want with all parties feeling happy. You generally need to use this skill when you have an opposing point of view or when you need to disagree with others, which can be socially difficult. The UK government has sanctioned numerous intervention programs to teach this skill to the group of people who need it most in society: offenders. I’m one of the people tasked with teaching this skill, as well as many others, to bring about positive changes, but it’s not just for offenders, as other people can benefit from this incredibly useful skill too.

Below I share with you a framework with four steps to being more assertive, both personally and professionally, which are research-based and proven to work. This isn’t to say they will work everytime, but they are much more effective than alternative methods (e.g., being too aggressive or passive).

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1. Describe the situation.

Start by describing the situation and giving an overview of what your understanding of it is. At first, try keep this as factual as possible, as this stops other people from being able to disagree with you. This may involve using sentences such as “the way I understand the situation is this …” You may also add your opinion on the matter afterward by using statements such as “my opinion is this because …” By justifying yourself, people don’t feel you are giving an opposing opinion just to disagree with them for the sake of it. Giving your justification is powerful, as this promotes empathy, which allows them to see things from your point of view and may also be enough to persuade them into your way of thinking

2. Express how you feel.

Once you’ve given an overview and described the situation from your point of view, you want to express how you feel about it. When expressing yourself, it is really important to own the feelings by using “I” language. What is this? This involves statements such as “I feel like this” or “this situation makes me feel like this …”

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When doing this, you want to try to avoid “you” language, where you make statements that will put the other person on the defensive. For example saying “you make me feel …” or “because of you I feel …” Statements like this are unproductive, but also antagonistic toward people on the receiving end of them. Also, they make the claim that the other person is able to control your feelings, which is not true (only you control your feelings), and it’s really important that you do not try to shift this to others.

When you express how you feel about something, this also stops other people from being able to disagree with it. For example stating “I feel upset by this situation” means the other person can’t just say “no you don’t feel upset,” as they are your feelings. If you make the mistake of using “you” language, this makes it easy for the other person to argue the point by saying “I haven’t made you feel anything.” This is a subtle difference, but a key one that can either create a collaborative discussion or turn it into hostile argument.

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3. Say what you want.

Next you want to be specific and say what it is you want to happen from the situation. Say what you would like to do and also what you would like other people to do (or not to do). Be clear and specific and avoid being vague. You can refer back to your justifications or feelings at this point to backup what you’re saying for added extra effect.

4. State how the outcome benefits all parties.

You want to end your point by stating how your chosen solution or point of view is ultimately going to benefit all parties. Too many people fall into the trap of expressing simply how it is going to benefit themselves. This isn’t persuasive nor does it make people inclined to agree with you if they see no benefit for themselves in some way. By describing how the other person can benefit as well as yourself, they now have a reason to come over to your way of thinking.

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In some situations where you have a disagreement with someone, just getting them to consider the long-term consequences can be enough for them to see things from your point of view. Another tactic is to positively reframe the situation, so instead of them seeing the situation as a loss, you can plant the seed for them to see things differently in a more positive way.

An example of this is the glass half-empty or half-full metaphor that is famously used. “Don’t think of the situation as a loss; think of it as a good experience and learning” is another good example of this too. There is always a silver lining, and you need to use this to your advantage by getting people to see it.

Assertiveness is a skill and like any skill, it takes practice to get good at it. You can start using it instantly in conversation to get better at it with close family members and friends before unleashing your new found power on the world!

Featured photo credit: Scott Swigart via flickr.com

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Saj Devshi

Psychology Teacher

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Last Updated on April 14, 2021

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

Expressing Anger

Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

Being Passive-Aggressive

This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.

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Poorly-Timed

Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

Ongoing Anger

Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

Healthy Ways to Express Anger

What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

Being Honest

Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

Being Direct

Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

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Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

Being Timely

When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

How to Deal With Anger

If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

1. Slow Down

From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

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When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

2. Focus on the “I”

Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

3. Work out

When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

If you’re not sure where to start with an exercise routine, check out Lifehack’s free Simple Cardio Home Workout Plan.

4. Seek Help When Needed

There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.

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5. Practice Relaxation

We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.

That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

6. Laugh

Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

7. Be Grateful

It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

Final Thoughts

Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

More Resources on Anger Management

Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

Reference

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