Assert yourself

How do you become more assertive?

Some people can speak their minds. They have no problem telling the boss that they cannot work late or letting somebody know what they think of them. The invariably do so with just the right turn of phrase so that the person on the receiving end is not offended. Sometimes, they are even respected for their honesty!

Then there is another group of people who seem to go through life lost for words, unable to say what is on their minds, or able to stand up for themselves over the smallest matter. If you belong to this group, you will know only too well that immensely stressful situations occur when you are unable to express your needs effectively. When this happens, feelings of losing control typically take over.

To get the balance right is a simple matter of learning how to assert yourself. When you confront a person or situation in an assertive manner, it helps you to stay calm and enables you to create a win-win position. In this article, we will be looking at how communication can help you stay in control of stressful events.

Communication explained

There are three different styles of communication – passive, aggressive and assertive. You probably have an inkling as to which category you slot into but it is worth clarifying each style, nevertheless.

Passive communication

You may recognize this type of behaviour in people who always try to please others and avoid conflict at all costs. Their characteristics include a meek, compliant and long-suffering attitude. The passive communicator uses phrases like, ‘If you wouldn’t mind.’  ‘Sorry to both you,’ and ‘Is that all right?’ He or she will often avoid eye contact, may be softly spoken, and have a self-pitying attitude.

This kind of behaviour reflects the fact that passive communicators have withdrawn into themselves to avoid any potential confrontation, so that the stress of the moment seems instantly relieved. Passive people invite others to take advantage of them, and while they may feel resentful and angry about the situation, they will tend to suffer in silence.

Aggressive communication

Aggressive people tend to bully others and step on their right in order to protect their own. They are characterised as domineering or forceful. Phrases like ‘You’d better….,’  ‘You’re a typical…..,’ or ‘Stupid…. ‘ are a common part of their speech.

Body language can also indicate aggressive communicators; clenched fists, finger pointing, leaning forward and glaring, and talking loudly are just a few characteristic signs. This kind of behaviour is often an abuse of power.

Assertive communication

Assertive communicators are clear, direct and honest. They are often described as thoughtful, optimistic, rational and decisive. They use phrases like ‘I want….,’  ‘I feel….,’  ‘Let’s do…..,’ and ‘What do you think?’    Their body language reflects their self-confidence – they stand straight and steady, and speak clearly with assurance.

Communicating in a passive or aggressive way may appear to relieve or deflect stress instantly but either can become a burden in the long-term. Learning to communicate assertively may take time but, once mastered, you will find that your new manner can relieve stress just as instantly as your old method of communication – with none of the long-term effects. You will also find that assertive behaviour boosts your self-confidence, earns you respect, and increases your odds of winning.

How do you communicate?

Perhaps you are not entirely sure of how you come across to others – you may think you are being assertive when in fact you are being aggressive. It is easy to fool yourself into thinking favourably about yourself.    Read the statements below and compare them with how you would respond to the request that you work late to finish a report, knowing that you had already agreed to meet a friend.

‘OK, I’ll ring my friend and cancel my arrangements.’
‘No, my contract says I finish at five, so you will have to get someone else to do it. I’m, leaving now.’
‘I understand the report has to be done urgently but I can’t  do it to night. I’ll come in early tomorrow to finish it.’

The first reply is passive, the second aggressive and the third assertive. If you would have answered with a passive or aggressive response, then your style of communication could be contributing to some of the stress that you are experiencing in your life. Now is the time to start learning how to assert yourself.

Next, we’ll learn how to become an assertive communicator.

Three steps to becoming an assertive communicator >>

Text Copyright © Alix Needham
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