Assertiveness stands in a murky middle between aggressiveness and passiveness. Assertiveness can be characterized as the ability to speak up for yourself, or others, in a manner that is both positive and effective.
This definitely does not come easy to everyone, something that I and many other people struggle with! The following ways to help with your assertiveness will feel difficult and uncomfortable at first, but they will pay off in the end.
Start small and look for ways to sharpen your skills!
There are a number of interactions in our life that we let slide because we don’t want to be a fuss.
Want your coffee with low-fat milk? Ask. Want to buy a blouse, but a button is broken? Ask to see another.
Little conversations like these where you ask for your needs to be met may take a great deal of courage. But they build up your ability to assert yourself in different situations.
Embrace the “I” pronoun!
“I feel [emotion] because [x,y,z]” statements are the golden ticket when engaging in most types of confrontational conversations. Phrases like, “You never…” or “You haven’t..” can cause the other party to completely tune out of your conversation.
By using “I” statements you show that you’re taking responsibility for your feelings and concentrating on the actions and not the person. For example, “You never clean the dishes” communicates a different meaning compared to, “I get frustrated when the dishes aren’t cleaned.”
The person you’re talking to understands how the action makes you feel and it’s communicated that you aren’t trying to personally attack them. Argument avoided! (Hopefully!)
Fake it consciously!
It can not be understated how easily faking assertiveness, can lead to being assertive. The flip-side to that advice is to be conscious of your surroundings.
Most of human communication is in the form of body language. So stand-up straight, but don’t cross your arms. Be direct, but stay calm.
Understand the differences between yourself and the person you’re communicating with. 90% of confrontational conversations happen because of miscommunication, oversights, and simple mistakes.
Do keep that in mind when communicating an issue, or problem, with someone. There’s a fine, but clear, line between aggressive confrontation and an assertive conversation.
Simple, yet underrated. From the beginning of a project, or interaction, honesty can help avoid a lot of future frustrations. If you’re honest in all of your interactions, when an incident happen, solutions can happen quicker! When in a more confrontational conversation, honesty is the best policy. If the person who you’re talking to knows that you’re being genuine, they will respect you more and be more open to your conversation.
Zaire Johnson will graduate in 2019 from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A Computer Systems Engineering and Mechanical Engineering major, Zaire dreams of serving as the Secretary of State.