Assertiveness is an essential communication skill that allows you to express what is on your mind in a clear, concise manner.
Some people may hear the word “assertive” and confuse it with “aggressive”, but it is actually a super positive skill that can greatly impact you and your finances. Just think about all the job interviews, co-workers, and networking events that you've been involved with. For me, the people who always stand out are the confident ones. For these people assertiveness goes hand-in-hand with their confidence. It's just part of the package, and because of that package it's not a coincidence that success follows them around like a lost puppy dog.
Assertiveness is a skill that is definitely worth mastering. Some people have a natural ability to be assertive while others could use some serious practice. If being assertive doesn't come naturally to you, that's totally okay! Luckily, it's something that can be taught, and with practice it gets easier and easier to implement.
Here are 16 ways to be more assertive today…
1. Be Honest With Yourself
Most people are aware that they are not assertive. Don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself in evaluating your skill level. Take a good look at how you communicate with people and where your level of self-esteem and confidence lies. Being honest with yourself is the only way you will be able to really see where you at with this skill and it starts with honesty (along with a bit of vulnerability too, I guess).
2. Learn to Breathe
People who are not naturally assertive often get nervous or anxious when a situation calls for assertiveness. You may tense up and stop breathing or you may start to breathe really fast. Either way, recognize your reaction to different situations and take the time to learn simple breathing exercises to calm yourself down and relax a little. (Random related tip: I've heard that when we chew gum then the body reacts to that as if you're eating. Since the body thinks you can't be in danger if you're eating then the adrenaline doesn't go into effect like it normally would. Of course, if you're at work chewing gum most likely may not be appropriate but it's something to consider and think about how you could use this tip.)
3. Set Your Boundaries
If you feel like you fall into the “pushover” category, then that's a shitty feeling. I know, I've been there too.:/ The first thing you've got to do it set your boundaries. You need to create the rules for what is acceptable around you and where you want to draw the line. Consider boundaries you have with family, friends, co-workers, and your boss. Now, if you all of a sudden bust out boundaries on people, just a heads up- the people in your life may be taken aback. That's okay. Stand your ground, and do your best to be consistent. It helps if you can decide on your own what is and is not acceptable to you before you start implementing any new boundaries. For example, if you have a co-worker who tells you what to do all the time but they're just your co-worker and not your boss or superior then, it's time to put your foot down. There's one thing to being a team-player but it's something else entirely to be shat on (ifyouknowwhatimean). Long ago, in a far off distant land, I used to have a co-worker who wanted me to hole punch everything. Yes. Seriously. She would tell me, that “I was SO good at it”. Um. No. I was new at the position so I held my tongue simply saying, “Yeah. Uh… thanks?” Though, the next time she asked me to hole punch something for her, telling me how “great” I was at it, I told her, “sounds like you need more practice. Here you go.” Then I handed her the hole punch and documents. Yeah, I know, touché. I sure told her.;) It was a little thing and sure, I could have just hole punched everything in the office but it felt good to stand up for myself. The more I practiced in little ways like that, the easier it got.
4. Practice What You Have to Preach
If communication leaves you tongue-tied, consider practicing in the mirror. Rehearse common conversations or situations. Repeat them over and over until you begin to feel a level of comfort. It will feel a bit silly at first but it totally helps.
5. Enlist a Trusted Friend
A close friend or family member likely already knows you lack assertiveness. They may be willing to practice different scenarios with you to increase your confidence.
6. Monitor Your Emotions
People that lack assertiveness often prefer to avoid conflict because it launches strong emotions. Learn to recognize your triggers and avoid situations (when possible) where your emotions are more likely to be all over the place. Utilize relaxation techniques to help you refocus when you are caught in a difficult situation or better yet- make a plan. If you know you're likely to get flustered in a certain situation decide in advance how you'll handle the situation. Then, when the situation happens (or a similar one happens) you'll be able to put your plan into effect.
7. Practice a Confident Stance
Part of being assertive involves communicating through body language. Your movements and posture reflect how you really feel. Practice standing up straight and projecting confidence. Make eye contact with other people and maintain an easy smile. Be aware if you have a tendency to fidget. If you’re beginning to feel shaky, maintain a positive mindset, and make an effort to calm your hands or feet.
8. Learn to Say No and Mean It
Many people have a problem saying no. Regardless of their interest level or their availability to do things for other people, they will always say yes out of fear or anxiety. Learning to say no does take practice, but it’s important to give direct, honest answers as a part of effective, assertive communication. Plus, if you're always doing things you don't really want to do simply because you feel obligated for one reason or another then there will be no time left for how you truly want to spend your time.
9. Don’t Place Undue Blame
When you want to express an opinion assertively, use the word “I’ as in “I do not agree with your statement” rather than “You’re a big liar.” You want to stand up for your side of the discussion or argument without putting down the other person.
10. Challenge Yourself for Greater Confidence
Make a commitment to step out of the box from time to time in order to build up your overall self-confidence. By working on your overall level of self-confidence and participating in activities that reinforce your self-esteem, you can also develop assertiveness.
11. ESP is Not Reality
You can’t expect people you interact with to know how you feel or what you want to say unless you say it. People are generally not able to read minds, so you have to be committed to speaking up for yourself and letting others know when they’ve crossed the line.
12. Drop the Guilt
Guilt is an emotion that often prevents people from practicing assertiveness. You need to accept that what you have to say will not always be popular. Some people are skilled at trying to make other people feel guilty, but it’s important to realize that you are responsible for your own feelings and behavior and not that of others.
13. Choose Your Battles Wisely
Along with developing your assertiveness, it’s also important to realize that not every situation requires assertiveness. Learn to identify when it is best to stick up for yourself and when to just walk away. Humility is a wonderful trait too.
14. Don’t Be the ‘Ass’ in Assertive
There is a big difference between being assertive and being aggressive. When one’s self-confidence level rises, it is possible that he or she can flip the coin and become arrogant rather than assertive. Know the difference between standing up for your beliefs and opinions and just being an outright jerk. If you're still in the beginning stages of learning assertiveness being TOO assertive is easy to do. There's definitely a sweet spot between assertive and aggressive that sometimes takes time to work out.
15. Journal Your Thoughts
Writing about tough situations can help you sort out your feelings and better prepare you to stand up for yourself. A journal can also help you recall times when you were strong and capable, and that can inspire you to keep perfecting your skill.
16. Find a Mentor
Sometimes it takes seeing assertiveness in action to make the concept click. Find someone whose communication skills you admire and pay more attention to how he or she acts and reacts. If you are close to that person, ask for tips to help build up self-confidence and become a better communicator.
BONUS TIP: Lift weights. Now, this tip may seem completely random but here's the thing- when you feel strong and when you can stand up straight, and when you know you feel good about yourself physically it goes a long way to projecting and feeling assertive.
Have you struggled with assertiveness? What techniques have helped you become more confident?
P.S. Be sure to check out: 17 Things to do Today to Make Yourself Proud in a Year
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