Standing up for yourself and your beliefs is necessary for healthy relationships at home, work, and play. An assertive person is able to respect the convictions of another while clearly expressing his or her own needs and wants.
Types of Personalities:
Many people confuse being assertive with being aggressive. While assertive people can respectfully communicate their desires, aggressive people violate the values of others. Here are some common categories of communication styles:
Assertive- The ability to clearly communicate what you want is a sign of an assertive communicator. Assertive people will stand up for themselves if they feel taken advantage of or if their rights are threatened. They also typically think before they speak, and might write down their thoughts before communicating them to another individual. Assertive people are able to clearly express their thoughts, feelings, and opinions without disrespecting another’s.
Passive- These individuals tend to go along with the crowd. They avoid conflict at all costs and don’t want to be involved. Because passive individuals do not value their own thoughts and feelings as much as they do others’, people will notice. As a result, others may not necessarily value them either, and will take advantage of them. Passive people can also secretly resent their inability to say no. Relationships may become strained or even ruined from persistently saying yes.
Aggressive- Not taking others’ thoughts and feelings into account is typical of an aggressive communicator. They tend to be bullies and can become easily angered. An aggressive person may get what they want in the moment by inspiring fear, but people will learn to resent them and become defensive.
Passive-aggressive- A passive-aggressive person may say one thing but mean another. These individuals don’t address situations upfront. Instead, they hide behind sarcasm and complain about others behind their backs. Others can become frustrated because they do not know whether to believe them or not.
Being assertive has many advantages as opposed to operating as a passive, aggressive, or passive-aggressive person. Because you respect yourself and your thoughts others will see this as well. In turn, they will respect and value your thoughts and opinions more. You are also free to exercise the right to say no and not assume too many responsibilities. In addition, an assertive person can enjoy these benefits:
- Less stress
- Greater self-confidence
- Better life decisions
- Job satisfaction
- Honest and open relationships
Assertive or not?
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to assess whether you use assertive communication with others or not.
- When you don’t understand or can’t do something, do you ask for help?
- If you disagree with others, do you offer your opinion?
- Do you speak with a confident tone of voice? Are you easily able to make eye contact with people?
- Do people feel comfortable talking over you?
- Do people assume you will say yes when they ask you to do something?
- Do you frequently become angry with yourself when you are unable to express your thoughts?
- Do people you supervise at work fail to follow your lead?
Growing in Assertiveness
Being assertive may not come naturally to everyone. Just because your typical communication style differs doesn’t mean that you can’t become more assertive. Here are some practical ways to become a more effective communicator and stand up for yourself:
I versus you- Use “I” statements as opposed to “you” statements. For example, “I don’t agree with that statement,” instead of “You’re completely wrong.”
Practice saying no- If saying no proves difficult, run through a practice conversation in the mirror or with a friend. Don’t feel like you need to give a long explanation. Be direct.
Eye contact- Pay attention to your body language and emotions. You should make eye contact with people. Stay calm, stand, or sit up straight.
No blaming- People tend to shut down or grow defensive if they feel blamed for a situation. While it might feel good to blame someone, it isn’t helpful. The individual will not be able to hear and consider your thoughts when they feel accused of wrongdoing.
Trigger words- When we’re angry, we tend to speak in extremes. Avoid words like “always” and “never” when angry.
Humor- Do your best to keep the mood light. Laughter and humor are excellent coping mechanisms.
Anger- Consider if anger is what makes you an aggressive communicator, instead of an assertive one. Anger management training and assistance might be a helpful resource.
An assertive person learns to choose their battles wisely because not every argument is worth it. Holding a grudge is never helpful, so sometimes you have to let the issue go. You may not be able to win every argument, and some people may not be able to hear your thoughts. But when the moment presents itself, an assertive person is able to stand up, speak clearly and calmly, and be heard.
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