As we talk about being assertive, I have come across many people that have told me “every time I try to be assertive I get labeled all kinds of negative things”. Assertive communication is the ability to express positive and negative ideas and feelings in an open, honest and direct way. It recognizes our rights while still respecting the rights of others. It allows us to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions without judging or blaming other people. And it allows us to constructively confront and find a mutually satisfying solution where conflict exists.
Being assertive can boost self-esteem and can make others respect you, as it shows that you are willing to stand up for your ideas and beliefs. If you are more of a passive person who tends to avoid conflict, then it being assertive might take some extra practice. It might feel uncomfortable at the beginning and it might make you feel somewhat rude. Be sure to practice the below points, as the more you practice, the more natural it will become. If you tend to communicate more in an aggressive or a passive aggressive way in which you end up not saying things directly but displaying your feelings through anger negative attitude practicing saying things in a calm way might be challenging.
So how do we practice assertive communication?
Be honest and open about your idea
Being assertive means being able to share your thoughts and ideas honestly and clearly.
Avoid feeling guilty or making others feel guilty
Being assertive can sometimes make you feel guilty about not agreeing with others. Avoid feeling guilty or making others feel guilty about not agreeing with you as they are also allowed their own opinions and feelings about the topics.
Avoid getting angry
Part of communicating effectively is staying calm throughout the process. Try to communicate your ideas in a calm and relaxed way and if you feel like you are getting upset, take a break, breathe and remind yourself the importance of staying calm to be able to get your point across.
Use ‘I’ statements and Avoid Blaming
Stick with statements that include ‘I’ in them such as ‘I think’ or ‘I feel’. Don’t use aggressive language such as ‘you always’ or ‘you never’ which can sound blaming and make the other person get defensive.
Agree to disagree with others
Understand that people will have different points of views and that it’s okay. Let others have their point of view and agree that others having a different part of view is part of life and just like you everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
Practice saying no
If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying, "No, I can't do that now." As I was told once by a professor in college “no is a complete sentence”. You don’t always have to offer an excuse or a reason for why you are unable to do something but if an explanation is appropriate, keep it brief.
Practice, practice, practice
Make sure you rehearse before you say it. It might be difficult to say what you want or think, practice typical scenarios you encounter while expressing your point of view. Say what you want to say out loud and ideally practice with someone else who can give you feedback. It may help to write it out first, too, so you can practice from a script.
Next time you want to communicate your point of view or an idea to others, try the above techniques and check out the difference in the results. Remember that communication skills take practice and time to develop, so be patient with yourself and don’t give up as the benefits of effective communication can make a difference in your life and in the life of those around you.