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9 Ways to Be More Assertive

Amanda Page Jul 30th, 2013 (updated Oct 16th, 2013)
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Being able to communicate assertively has been linked to reduced stress, anger management and greater self-esteem. Assertiveness is based on mutual respect and can be an effective and diplomatic way to communicate that allows you to express yourself while respecting the point of view of others. Some people are naturally assertive, but even if you’re not, a little practice can help you be more comfortable asserting yourself.

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Understand assertive behavior
Understand assertive behavior

Find an effective communicator to observe. Focus on the word choice, tone of voice and body language. Notice the differences between assertive, passive and aggressive behavior. Passive behavior means prioritizing conflict avoidance above one’s own interests. Aggressive behavior means forcing others to agree with you.   

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Use "I" statements
Use "I" statements

Instead of saying, “you’re wrong,” say “I disagree.” This little adjustment can make a phrase feel far less accusatory while allowing you to represent your contrasting point of view. Strong “I” statements also feel more direct and give the impression that you are willing to take full responsibility for your views. For example, picture how it sounds when people say “we feel” versus “I feel.”  

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Relax
Relax

If being assertive doesn’t come naturally, chances are you get nervous when faced with conflict. Focus on remaining calm. Breathe normally, hold eye contact, and relax your shoulders and face. Focus on seeing the other person as a friend, not an enemy, and maintain a constructive approach to the situation.    

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Focus on facts
Focus on facts

People respond better to objective facts than to exaggerated claims made to emphasize a person’s stance. Try to consider both sides of an argument to ensure careful examination of all points of view, and strive to keep the discussion objective.

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Put yourself out there
Put yourself out there

Force yourself to handle uncomfortable situations instead of avoiding them. If someone at work intimidates you, force yourself to approach them and have a conversation. Practice speaking out loud in front of mirror or role-playing with a friend. Once you hear yourself being assertive, you will have more confidence and feel better prepared for the real thing.  

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Body language
Body language

Assertive language can only get you so far if your voice is trembling and you’re staring down at the floor. Work on speaking with a strong and clear tone, holding a confident posture and maintaining eye contact.   

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Cross check
Cross check

Make sure you are being heard. Ask others to summarize your point or request. This not only helps you evaluate the effectiveness of your communication, but it also prevents others from making excuses or misunderstanding you.  

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No unnecessary apologies
No unnecessary apologies

Passive behavior tends to include apologizing when there is no need. Apologizing unnecessarily comes across as shy and weak behavior. Apologies should be reserved for accidental insult or personal mistakes, not to ask for the right to assert yourself.  

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Emotion management
Emotion management

Confronting a difficult situation can make you feel angry, frustrated or sad, and sometimes you may become too upset to remain diplomatic. Make sure your mind is calm and balanced before entering a discussion. Avoid having a discussion until you are able to keep body language, emotions and speech in check.