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Published on March 11, 2021

What Is Assertiveness And Why Is It Important?

What Is Assertiveness And Why Is It Important?

Do you ever find yourself giving in to the wants and needs of others or agreeing to activities that steal your attention from what is most important to you? If you said “yes” to either of these, then maybe you have difficulty being assertive.

Here I will explore what it means to be assertive and discuss the importance of making it a priority in your life. I will highlight a few real-world scenarios that you might encounter and break down possible responses for best results. You will also receive practical tips to incorporate into your daily routine that will improve communication skills and boost self-confidence.

What Is Assertiveness?

Assertiveness is the ability to clearly and directly communicate your own wants and needs. It is the capacity to firmly express one’s feelings, views, beliefs, and choices respectfully, even when they differ or are opposed to what someone else wants.

An assertive person is comfortable and confident in their stance, even when it means saying “no” and disappointing a friend or colleague.

Understand the 3 Communication Styles

Think about the way that you communicate. Are you only out for yourself, striving to make sure your own wants and needs are met by any means necessary? Or do you give in to others by putting their desires and priorities above your own?

The first style noted above is an aggressive style. People with an aggressive style focus only on their own needs and will do whatever it takes to get what they want. They can resort to bullying tactics, intimidation, guilting, manipulation, or demanding measures.

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The second style noted above is a passive style. People with a passive style are those who make everyone else a priority. They are unable to refuse a favor and never say no, even if it brings great inconvenience to themself. They put their own desires and interests on pause to answer the call of anyone who seeks their help.

There is a third communication style, which is being assertive (assertiveness). People who are assertive know what they want and stay true to their priorities and self-interests while, at the same time, being mindful and respectful of those around them. They express their desires without imposing on others. they can decline an invitation without feeling guilty and can say “no” without stirring up conflict.

Identifying Your Style

To help you determine your communication style, here are three real-world scenarios dealing with assertiveness. These are examples that you have likely encountered to some degree in the past and will probably face again in the future.

In the event that your communication style changes depending on the social situation, context, or people involved, then simply do your best to give the actual and honest response that you would give in the situation described.

Scenario 1

This weekend is the annual BBQ and you have been looking forward to it for weeks. Friends and family are coming in from out of town and you cannot wait to see everyone. The big celebration is just hours away, and you can hardly contain your excitement. But then, you are hit with an unexpected request. Your colleague messed up on an important project and is asking for your help to resolve the matter. This will not be an easy fix and will likely take up most of the weekend.

How would you respond?

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  • Agree to help your colleague, which means having to notify friends and family that the BBQ has been canceled.
  • Refuse to help your colleague while calling him an incompetent idiot as you slam the door on your way out.
  • Inform your colleague that you have important family plans this weekend and will not be able to assist.

Scenario 2

You are a member of a community group. You want to help make a difference in your neighborhood and local area, so you donate time and resources when available. One of the group’s officers has just asked you to take the role of chairman for a committee. Your time is already limited, and this would mean added responsibility and more time donated to the organization, which leaves less time to spend with your family.

How would you respond?

  • “Okay, I guess I can do it.”
  • “I already do enough for this organization and now you want me to do more for you?”
  • “Thank you. This sounds like a wonderful opportunity and I’m flattered. However, my time is limited so I must decline.”

Scenario 3

A speaker you admire is coming to your area to host a seminar. You have always wanted to see this person speak at a live event. You have seen countless recordings online and finally, you have the chance to sit in the audience and take part in the experience. You tell your spouse the great news, but your partner just doesn’t share your excitement and does not want to go to the seminar.

How would you respond?

  • “You are right. I guess it isn’t that big of a deal. I was foolish for wanting to go to the seminar.”
  • “If you really love me then you will go with me.”
  • “If you aren’t interested in going that’s okay. You don’t have to go. I just thought I would offer. However, I am still going because it is important to me.”

Were you able to identify your communication style? Could you pick out the three distinct styles? In each of the examples, the first choice was the passive style, the second choice was the aggressive style, and the third choice was the assertive style.

Why Is It Important?

Being assertive means valuing your wants, needs, feelings, views, beliefs, and choices. You acknowledge their importance and consciously decide to make these things a priority.

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Assertive people value their time and energy. They also have higher levels of confidence and self-worth. Being assertive can also help alleviate confusion, decrease anxiety, and reduce conflict while interacting with others because your desires and interests will have been expressed clearly and directly.

5 Tips on How to Be More Assertive

We now know how good assertiveness is. If you’re struggling to be assertive, though, here are five tips to help you.

1. Set Clear Boundaries

The first step to being more assertive is learning how to set clear boundaries. This can include setting time limits for meetings and activities, not answering the phone after work hours, powering down your mobile device or setting up away messages to avoid distractions, or saying “no” without feeling obligated to offer a reason or backstory.

2. Script Basic Responses

This can be extremely helpful for individuals who find themselves agreeing to requests before giving careful consideration to what is being asked. If you find yourself saying “yes” just to please others, then having a few go-to responses can be a total game-changer. This can be as simple as saying, “Let me check my schedule first and I’ll get back to you.”

Just remember to follow back around with a definite response. Another example would be to simply state, “I am sorry, but I am unavailable,” and leave it at that. Again, you are not obligated to give an explanation.

3. Know Your Worth

Your time and attention are valuable. Stop giving them away to everyone and anyone who asks. If you won’t value your time, then you can’t expect others to do it. Incorporating positive self-talk and reciting affirmations can also help boost confidence, improve self-esteem, and increase feelings of self-worth.

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4. Keep Your Cool

It is often difficult to think or communicate clearly and effectively during times of high stress or debilitating anxiety. Practicing deep breathing, relaxation techniques, or grounding exercises can help refocus your mind and alleviate unwanted negative feelings. This can help improve cognitive ability and you will be in a much better mental state to respond appropriately.

5. Take Baby Steps

Practice assertiveness every day. Start small if necessary. Look for little opportunities within everyday common exchanges to practice making assertive decisions. This could mean taking the initiative to decide tonight’s dinner, choosing the activity or movie for a family fun night, taking the day off and treating yourself to a spa day, allowing the incoming call to go directly to voicemail, or saying “no” to something that does not interest you.

Final Thoughts

Consider your wants, needs, feelings, views, beliefs, and choices. Determine how important these things are to you. They should be a priority. Make the conscious decision to start putting them first.

Determine the value of your time, energy, and attention. This exercise will force you to look deep within to measure your self-worth. Be honest with this introspection. If your findings are unsatisfactory, then take a proactive approach by making necessary adjustments. Use the tips described above to make your best interests a priority in your life.

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Featured photo credit: Smartworks Coworking via unsplash.com

More by this author

Rich Perry

Rich is a Communication Strategist who helps entrepreneurs craft their message and empower them to deliver it.

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Last Updated on April 14, 2021

How to Increase Willpower and Be Mentally Tough

How to Increase Willpower and Be Mentally Tough

Everyone has something they’d like to change, and the desire for self-improvement and progression is innate. Unfortunately, when it comes to change, learning how to increase willpower and break bad habits is tough, and it seems that we fail more often than we succeed. For those things that we struggle with, it seems that our willpower is never quite enough.

Are we doomed to live the same behavioral patterns of the past? Can we actually increase our willpower, have better self-control, and create lasting positive changes in our lives?

This is absolutely possible, as willpower is like a muscle, getting stronger with regular use.

Recent research, as detailed in such books as, Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, And What You Can Do About It by Kelly McGonigal, and Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, suggests that we are not forever bound to our poor habits, and that we can actually change and increase our willpower in the process.

How can you learn how to increase willpower and direct powerful changes in your life?

To assist in this process, we’ve got 15 actionable steps that, if built into habits, will yield powerful results around willpower.

1. Feed Your Brain

Skipping meals is simply bad for your brain and even worse if you want to learn how to improve your willpower. The brain is our decision making muscle, and its ability to provide us with the necessary willpower to make correct decisions is influenced by whether it is sufficiently fed.

We should eat regular meals, ideally low-glycemic foods, healthy proteins, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates, so that we can avoid a glucose rush (associated with sweets and simple carbs) that immediately plummets.

You can check out some of the best brain foods here.

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2. Work on One Change at a Time

Willpower can be increased, but it is a slow and gradual process (just like increasing muscle mass). We are working with a fixed amount of it daily.

We can’t change everything all at one, and we can’t massively change our lives at stressful times. If we want to see real change, we should start small, and tackle one long-term goal at a time.

3. Use Dark Chocolate for an Energy Boost

Sometimes we are in a position where we need to make a quick decision, and it feels tough when we haven’t yet learned how to increase willpower. Taking a bite of dark chocolate offers a small energy boost that helps our brains with the decision.

Obviously, it is much better to eat healthy, slow-burning foods to provide a steady source of fuel to our brains, but in the event of a “willpower” emergency, indulging by eating chocolate isn’t a bad thing. It can actually help to increase our willpower and reduce stress levels.

4. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Adequate rest improves our self-control and provides an optimal environment for the brain to function. Rest reduces the body’s need for glucose, and it allows the body to make better use of what we have. Adequate rest is generally 7-8 hours a night for an adult, and 10-12 hours a night for a child[1].

Self-control requires brain power and high energy levels, and when we are tired, our bodies generally don’t deliver enough glucose to our brains. Sleep is essentially as you’re working on how to have more willpower.

5. Steer Clear of Temptation

People who have lots of self-control don’t need to exercise their willpower as often. Therefore, when willpower is required, it is strong and in steady supply.

You can increase your willpower by not putting yourself in situations where willpower is required and steering clear of those “danger spots” where temptation is present and willpower is necessary.

6. Develop Small but Powerful Habits

Research confirms that good habits help us as we are learning how to increase willpower. Even if we start with something simple, like making our beds, this can have a powerful, positive effect on our willpower. This occurs because these small habits build self-discipline and self-control, and that spreads to other areas of our life.

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For more tips on creating good habits in life, check out this video:

7. Make a Manageable To-Do List

Everyone has some form of a to-do list, whether it’s on paper or not. We may not realize it, but this ubiquitous productivity tool may actually be increasing our stress and decreasing our willpower.

When we create endless lists and leave tasks perpetually undone, our subconscious nags us about it, and we end up worrying far more than acting. When we do this, we get in a bad mood, and our emotional state plays into our ability to resist temptation.

8. Take Frequent Breaks

It is impossible to exercise perfect self-control all the time. We simply run out of willpower and end up making poor decisions if we don’t supplement ourselves with rest and breaks.

Take a nap from time to time, grab a (healthy) bite to eat, watch a little TV for a minute or two, and then get back to your tasks and goals as you’re learning how to increase willpower.

When you do this, you come back refreshed, and you’ll have more willpower to produce better work.

9. Meditate for 5 Minutes a Day

Take 5 minutes and just focus on your breath. Detach for only five minutes from the chaos around you as you work on how to strengthen willpower.

Every time your mind wanders, you have to expend energy to get it back on track, tapping into your reservoir of willpower. The simple act of building self-awareness through mediation will help you in your impulse tendency.

When we become mindful, we are also engaging that part of our brain that we need for willpower, rather than just letting our impulses take over.

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Here’s a 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

10. Avoid Alcohol

This one should be glaringly obvious. Alcohol impairs our judgment, reduces our self-awareness, and impedes our willpower.

Be mindful of how much you’ve had to drink when making decisions, and try to avoid an excess amount if you’re in a situation where you have to exercise willpower.

11. Make a Plan for Temptation

It’s impossible to avoid all temptation as you’re working on how to increase willpower. For the cases when you run into it, you need to have a plan in place to help you resist it and avoid making poor decisions. For example, if you know your co-worker always brings in doughnuts on Fridays, and you’re on a diet, what plan can you put in place to avoid caving to temptation and grabbing two or three?

Having a predetermined plan can significantly increase our willpower when presented with the temptation.

If you need help in this area, check out Lifehack’s Free Guide: The Dreamers’ Guide for Taking Action and Making Goals Happen.

12. Remember Your “Why”

What is the purpose of changing our behavior and learning how to gain willpower in the first place? What are we trying to accomplish, and what will we lose if we give in to our bad habits?

When we consistently remind ourselves of the answers to these questions, our willpower is increased to stick to our plans.

13. Do the Opposite of What You Normally Do

Every time we modify our routines, we are exercising self-control. The more that we can exercise self-control, the stronger our willpower will be.

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When we succeed in making small changes, we develop the ability to take on much larger ones. You can start small with this by consciously trying to brush your teeth, eat, or open the door, with your non-dominant hand.

It may feel very strange at first, but it actually goes a long way to increasing our willpower.

14. Choose a Reward in Advance

For a given change, if we first determine a reward in advance, our willpower to follow through on our change will be increased.

Our brain is hardwired to pursue positive rewards when learning how to increase willpower. This can be as small as a piece of chocolate or as big as a vacation. Match the task to a reward in order to make the most of your willpower.

15. Anticipate Roadblocks

Before we start down the path of a new goal, we should consider the roadblocks that may arise in our path. There is always resistance in the path of a positive pursuit.

When we anticipate them in advance, we have stronger willpower to deal with them when they actually arise.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to increase willpower requires time. You can’t build a muscle overnight; it will take weeks, months, or even years of digging deep and adding to your willpower reserves. However, once you’ve done this, making decisions and resisting short-term temptations will be easier than ever before.

More on How to Increase Willpower

Featured photo credit: Ev via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Sleep Foundation: How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

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