Posted by Holly Carberry
Assertiveness is an essential part of effective communication, and it’s a skill that’ll come in handy in just about every area of your life. Being assertive will make you a better communicator, a better colleague, teammate and friend, and it’ll help you get the most out of your life, while respecting those around you.
What is assertiveness?
Essentially, being assertive is about respecting yourself and others. It’s being confident, without being arrogant or aggressive.
- Being able to speak up for yourself while respecting other peoples’ viewpoints
- Being clear and straightforward when you communicate
- Being honest with yourself and others
- Being able to negotiate and reach compromises
Essentially, assertive behaviour comes down to the simple issue of respect, and balancing self respect with respect for others.
- Assertiveness means you have equal respect for your needs and the needs of others
- Aggressiveness means you have more respect for your needs than the needs of others
- Passivity means I have less respect for your needs than the needs of others
What are the benefits of assertiveness?
We negotiate all the time, when we agree contracts, buy things, disagree with a partner, set boundaries, make compromises, interact with family – the list goes on. When you can get your point of view across and stand up for yourself without upsetting other people, negotiation becomes much easier. It means that you’re much more likely to get the outcome you want, while keeping the peace and remaining positive. Sometimes, being assertive means you don’t get the outcome you wanted, but that you’ve reached a fair compromise.
If you often find that you end up compromising too much, give in easily, and feel that people take advantage of you, learning to be more assertive will help you to stand up for yourself.
If you often find that you upset people unintentionally, are accused of being aggressive or confrontational, or find it difficult to communicate in a calm way, then assertiveness will help you be a better listener, and give you more awareness of your interactions, so you can be respectful and compassionate with others.
How can I be more assertive?
There are three basic steps to becoming more assertive:
- Really listen, and show that you’ve understood
- Say what you think and feel
- Be clear about what you want to happen next
Now let’s break those down with some more detail:
- Listen. Focusing on listening first allows you to approach interactions with more empathy, and to understand others and their point of view, even if you don’t agree with it. Really listen (rather than using the time the other person is speaking to build up a defence or attack).
- Say what you think and feel. Try to get comfortable expressing what you think and feel in a direct way, without being aggressive or self-deprecating. You have a right to make your own decisions, and for your voice to be heard, just as much as anyone else, and although it might feel uncomfortable at first (especially if you’re used to suppressing what you want to please others, or being too forceful when you’re speaking your mind), it’s a good habit to get into, and the more you practice, the easier it’ll get.
- Be clear. Indicate in a clear and straightforward way what action or outcome you’d like. It’s that simple: if everyone, in every interaction, was clear and direct while being respectful, it’d be much easier to get things done. Understand that you might not always get what you want, but as long as you’ve articulated what you want in a clear way, you’ve got a good chance of getting it – and either way, you’ve approached the situation in a fair, respectful way, which is always a win.
If you’d like to learn more about how to be assertive, have a look at my Assertiveness microlearning course on the Evolve Online Learning academy. You can purchase the course individually, or sign up for a membership (from £10/month) to get access to a whole range of useful courses on everything from time management to managing stress and confident public speaking.