It isn’t always easy to stand up for yourself. You know what you want but you don’t want to speak up. You might be afraid others will react with anger or dismiss your needs as unimportant. Some people are naturally assertive, they confidently state what they want and are willing to say “no” when a request is unreasonable or inconvenient. Being assertive can increase your confidence and lower stress levels.
Use assertive body language. How you hold yourself can give away your true feelings. Sometimes, you might say what you want with your voice but your body tells a whole different story. Practice using assertive and confident body language:
Keep your shoulders squared
Keep your chin up
Use eye contact
Use a clear, calm voice. Keep your voice level, not so soft no one can hear you and not so loud that people believe you are angry. Speak slowly, rushing your speech makes it seem as if you want to get out your thoughts quickly because you don’t think anyone will stick around to hear you out. Keep your language concise; don’t elaborate unless it is necessary and avoid rambling.
Know what you want. You can’t be assertive if you are wishy-washy about what you want, need or feel. If you are confused, then say that. If you aren’t, take some time to get your thoughts together and decide what would be best for you in this particular situation. There is no harm in saying, “I prefer not to answer that right now. Can I give it some thought and get back to you …” This gives you time to sit quietly and review the situation to come up with a solution that works for you. For example, suppose a coworker asks if you would bring in a cake for another coworkers birthday. You don’t have the time to bake a cake or the extra money to spend buying one but you don’t want to say “no.” You let her know you need time to think and later come back with, “I am busy over the next few days and wouldn’t have time to bake a cake. How about if we take a collection and then order a cake from the bakery?”
Practice being confident. Stand in front of a mirror and pay attention to your posture and how you speak. The more you practice, the better you will become at looking confident. At times when you don’t feel confident, giving the appearance of confidence improves your chances of others listening to what you say.
Understand your boundaries. Know what you are willing to do and what you are not willing to do. For example, you are willing to give your friend a ride to work but only if she helps to pay for gas. You are willing to spend time with your boyfriend’s buddies, but only if he is willing to spend time with your friends. You are willing to work overtime during the week but not on the weekend. When you know your boundaries, it is easier to work to find a compromise to situations.
Stop expecting people to read your mind. How many times have you gotten angry because someone took advantage of you? Did you speak up? How is this person supposed to know that the situation bothered you? We often expect others to know how we are feeling or what we are thinking, especially if it is a significant other or close friend. But everyone thinks differently and no one is going to know exactly what you think unless you tell them.
Take responsibility and make changes when you don’t like your own behavior. Don’t blame others because you didn’t let your needs, wants, opinions or feelings be known. Going back to the example of making a cake for your coworkers birthday. Suppose you made the cake even though it wasn’t convenient. You feel resentful and blame the coworker who asked you to make the cake. Take responsibility for the fact that you didn’t speak up and that you are to blame. Then, you can take the steps to change your behavior.
Don’t take responsibility for other’s moods. You don’t speak up because you don’t want someone to be angry. Their anger isn’t your responsibility - it is theirs. Just as you have to be responsible for your behavior, they need to be responsible for theirs. Sometimes, lack of assertiveness is because you are taking responsibility for trying to keep the other person appeased and happy.
Being assertive isn’t the same as being aggressive. Aggressiveness is when you use force - implied or actual - in order to get your point across. It is when you attack someone for their opinion when it disagrees with your own. Assertiveness is understanding that while you have the have your own opinion, feelings, wants and needs, so do other people. Assertiveness is speaking your mind while respecting the other person’s point of view.
Next week: Dealing with Aggressive People
Published On: February 07, 2014