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This actionable post tells you how to become more assertive, taking baby steps to get there if needed. Start today!
Do you often feel pushed around or manipulated? Are you unable to set clear limits with people? Do you have a tendency to over-commit yourself?
For years, cultural norms have conditioned women to be submissive. Sadly, the odd occasion that she may choose to be otherwise, she is likely to be labelled as authoritative, aggressive, argumentative, etc. While it can be challenging to be assertive in a culture that applauds passive obedience, the damages of not asserting yourself are far worse. It creates negative emotions such as anxiety, resentment, frustration, anger, and low self-esteem.
Studies have shown that these emotions may further manifest into physical illnesses such as migraines, cardiovascular diseases, weak immune system, etc. Therefore, being assertive is not only crucial for your mental well-being but also for your and physical well-being. So, what does it mean to be assertive? Often assertiveness is associated with aggression or rudeness. However, being assertive means expressing your needs clearly and firmly in a way that shows respect for yourself and others. It means standing up for your rights without violating the rights of others.
Here are six steps that teach you how to become more assertive.
The first and most important step of learning to be assertive is believing that you deserve to express your needs and, are entitled to have opinions. Don’t fear disagreements; it is perfectly normal to have different points of view, healthy even. We just have to learn to disagree respectfully. While being assertive may not always guarantee the desired outcome, it certainly allows you to be true to yourself and your needs.
People usually respond in 3 ways: Non-assertive, aggressive, and assertive. Non-assertive people oblige to every request or demand and accommodate everyone but themselves. Aggressive individuals, on the other hand, ignore the rights of people by using offensive and hostile behaviour. Assertive people, however, speak their mind and encourage others to do the same. How do you usually respond in a particular situation? Are you non-assertive, aggressive, or assertive? Take time to examine your responses and observe your behaviour. It will help you become aware of your patterns and create effective responses.
Your colleague is consistently late to meetings which create extra work for you. How will you address the issue in a non-confrontational, yet assertive manner?
Here is an effective 3-step pattern that you could follow:
(i) Describe your problem
Include three key points in your message: Other person’s behaviour, your feelings, and the consequence of their behaviour.
“I noticed that you were late to the last four meetings (person’s behaviour). Organising separate meetings with you eats into my working hours (consequence). It increases my workload, and I feel stressed out (feelings).”
(ii) Propose practical solutions
Collaborate on possible outcomes to create a constructive discussion.
“If the meeting time doesn’t suit your schedule, should we move it to a slot that suits us all?”
(iii) Confirm the outcome
Be clear and confirm the outcomes to prevent future misunderstandings.
“I am pleased we agreed to reschedule the meeting to Wednesdays; I hope it reduces our workload and stress.”
While expressing your needs are a priority, for best results you must also consider listening to them attentively, maintaining a non-accusatory tone, and choosing appropriate times to discuss issues.
Rehearsing your responses will increase your confidence and chances of success. Start by setting small and realistic goals. For example, tell your house help or driver that you do not appreciate their tardiness and expect them to be on time. Or, decline a party invite if you’d rather stay home and watch TV. Slowly, work your way up to more challenging situations and relationships. The idea is to set realistic goals, practice, and not be disheartened by failure. You may shine in some situations and fail in others, but you will always gain a lesson.
One way to evaluate your progress is by seeking feedback; it helps to assess your growth objectively. Talk with a trusted person who supports your goals. It is likely that your support person may share the same communication goals. The benefits of exchanging ideas and encouraging one another are many and invaluable. Don’t shy away from putting yourself out there; it shows you are brave enough to learn.
In some situations, you may decide not to be assertive. For instance, you may consider it prudent to overlook an issue with a relative who visits once every five years versus the one who lives with you. Assertive people, therefore, choose when they want to be assertive. They carefully weigh the pros and cons and choose their response wisely. The key word here is choice.
Finally, you could choose to please everyone over being assertive, but are you happy with your choices? If not, consider applying these techniques to create a more fulfilling reality for yourself.
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