Assertiveness : Stand Up For Yourself Without Stepping on Anyone

Do you regularly turn the other cheek in conversations?

Do you like to be nice and not rock the boat? 

Do you find yourself regularly sacrificing what you want for others?

Or maybe you find yourself on the other side of the coin?

Are you dominant in your conversations? 

Do you make sure and get your way?

Is your voice the loudest in the room?

Do others accuse you of being demanding and self centered?

Or do you go for indirect aggression or what many call passive aggressive?

Do you respond or attach with sarcasm? 

Do you manipulate others through guilt? 

Rather than being direct, do you like to insinuate?

Or do you hide behind humor, and just joking to get your attack in?

These communication behaviors may also flip depending on your circumstance. You may find yourself a wolf at work and a lamb at home, or vice versa. These behaviors are not fixed, though we do tend to favor certain ones depending on how skilled we are, our communication biases, and how we perceive the footing of our relationship with the person with which we are speaking.

Possible Silver Bullet

There is a 4th communication behavior that when employed correctly can be the silver bullet. This doesn’t mean it will solve every communication issue, but when employed correctly and with skill it will bring balance. Assertive communication is key to developing trust with others, building rapport, and when negotiating.

Assertive communication focuses on the issue not the person. This isn’t about changing someone else’s personality ,winning arguments, or getting your way. It’s about standing up for your personal rights, expressing thoughts feelings, and beliefs in a direct, honest, and appropriate way while also always respecting the thoughts, beliefs and feelings of other people.

Asking for what you want firmly and fairly.

Those who are skilled in being assertive stand up for themselves without unneeded anxiety, express honest feelings comfortably, and express personal rights while never denying the rights of others.

Many times those who are not assertive have low self esteem, low self confidence, aren’t comfortable with their role or position, and many times stress plays a large factor. All of this coupled with past experience will push someone to a tendency to go towards a Passive, Aggressive, or Indirect Aggression communication style. 

4 Steps to Building Assertiveness

  • Recognized the changes needed and believe in your rights
  • Figure out appropriate ways of asserting yourself in specific situations that concern you
  • Practice giving assertive responses
  • Try being assertive in real life situations

Practicing in a safe place to get used to this new communication style is critical to success.

Visualizing yourself in a situation and playing it through in your head is a great starting place. This helps put you in the right frame of mind and gives you a safe place to play. Then take the show on the road and try being assertive in a real life situation. Start small. It may take some time, one for you to become comfortable, but also for others who have never seen this side of you to adjust to the change.

The watch out to be aware of when practicing assertiveness is not to overcompensate. When practiced in an unbalanced way you land in one of the other styles, typically being viewed as aggressive. Many new to the practice find that they may go too far and become aggressive.

It takes practice but also being mindful of the core aspect of assertiveness. This is a communication behavior and not a lifestyle. It’s about being forthright, positive, and insistent in the recognition of one’s rights and never at the expense of anyone else’s thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

5 Assertive Techniques

  • Express your needs and wants, feelings and thoughts, beliefs and opinions while respecting everyone else’s 
  • Say NO, in a polite and respectful way
  • Clear, open, honest communication
  • Active Listening – Listen to others and understand their point of view
  • Stay calm – Be patient – Agree to disagree

Assertiveness is about controlling your own behavior, not theirs.

You can become more assertive without turning into a self-important jerk who is trying to win every conversation. You can be firm without being rude and still maintaining respect and civility (Politeness). Knowing your personal boundaries and being able to clearly articulate what is important to you in a calm, open, and reasonable way will build self confidence and can reduce stress and anxiety. 

This is one more step in communicating in partnership rather than viewing communication as a battle and something to attack or to shy away from possibility of conflict.

Assertiveness is also important when building leadership skills.

Striking the right balance in communication and being able to communicate effectively without being seen as regularly employing passive, aggressive or indirect aggression behaviors will help build a stronger partnership with your team members.

Modeling this behavior, helps to show the 4th alternative and can influence others to adjust the styles they are regularly using. When assertiveness is coupled with good judgement there are amazing dividends to be found.

A team will find you less likely to be a steamroller grinding and rolling over everything in your path, to being one that is accessible to everyone, one that communicates clearly and fosters a spirit of collaboration. 

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