“To be passive is to let others decide for you. To be aggressive is to decide for others. To be assertive is to decide for yourself. And to trust that there is enough, that you are enough.” ~Edith Eva Eger
Learning to be assertive is one of the most important life skills you can develop. Studies have shown that being assertive can lead to a whole host of benefits, from increased self-confidence to better relationships and improved mental and physical health.
What does it mean to be assertive?
Being assertive is about balance. It means being comfortable with firmly enforcing your boundaries, but not mean or aggressive. It means being both confident and respectful, listening effectively to others, and unafraid to communicate your own wants, needs, and desires. When you’re being assertive, you aren’t afraid to stand up for yourself or others, but you do so with respectful confidence.
Why is it so important to be assertive?
Before you start, it’s important to understand what being assertive means. Psychologists define assertiveness as being able to express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view while respecting the rights and beliefs of others. The basis of assertiveness is mutual respect and honesty. Assertive communicators are straightforward and know how to set and maintain healthy boundaries. Their relationships value and promote trust.
How can you learn to be more assertive?
If you’re serious about living an authentic life and succeeding in reaching your goals, learning to be assertive is crucial. Think about how you feel about your life right now. Are you satisfied with your personal and professional situation? Are you conflict-avoidant? Do you worry about what other people think of you? If you’re not happy with where you are now, the good news is that assertiveness is a habit that can be learned just like any other. With practice and commitment, you can change your mindset and live a life more aligned with your true values and aspirations.
Try these tips for introducing a more assertive approach into your life:
- Decide what your priorities are and stick to them.
- Work out your individual boundaries.
- Develop a positive open posture and look people in the eye when you speak to them.
- Use positive ‘I’ statements about how you’re feeling instead of blaming or finding fault with the other person. Be especially wary of feeling tempted to say, ‘you always’ or ‘you never.’
- Get comfortable with saying ‘no’ to things you don’t want to or can’t do. Keep it simple and non-emotive and don’t feel you need to add an excuse or explanation.
- Only use ‘sorry’ when it’s appropriate for the situation. You don’t need to apologize for saying no.
- Offer alternative suggestions to proposals you don’t like.
- Look for compromises.
- Be honest and direct about your feelings, thoughts, and intentions.
- Consider writing a script for a situation that feels awkward. Rehearse being confident.
Try to keep your focus on the impact of the situation and finding a way to work together to find a mutually satisfying solution.
Above all, being assertive means staying in your power, accepting that you have control over how you approach the situation and your feelings about it. Assertiveness won’t get you everything you want all the time, but you will feel in control and deal much better with situations that would have previously been stressful.