I. What are assertiveness skills?
Assertiveness skills are your ability to express yourself in a way that is respectful towards others, but also allows you to stand up for what is important to you. Assertive behavior is not about stepping on other people or forcing your wishes and needs upon them, it’s about finding the balance between getting your own needs met while respecting the needs of others.
II. Why are assertiveness skills important?
Assertive communication is a skill that can help you reach your goals without compromising your own integrity, or stepping on other people to get there. The world is not always black and white, sometimes it’s about finding the middle path in order to meet your needs while respecting the needs of others. If you’re not assertive under these circumstances, then other people will run right over you and be unhappy themselves because they are compromising their own integrity in order to get what they want.
III. How do I learn assertiveness skills?
There are 10 ways to learn how to become more assertive:
1. Name your feelings.
When you are angry, sad, frustrated, disappointed or any other similar emotion it’s really easy to point the finger at someone else and blame them for how you feel. However, this kind of thinking patterns will not be very helpful in solving the situation – instead try to pinpoint what exactly it is that you feel. Maybe you’re sad because a friend didn’t show up to hang out, but maybe you’re also anxious about going to the party by yourself. Once you name your feelings and pinpoint them, then it becomes much easier to describe them accurately and assertively.
2. Ask for what you want or need.
This is a very important skill and requires practice. We all want things, we all have needs and we all expect that those needs will be met by other people. Maybe it’ll happen automatically, or maybe we’ll need to ask for it. But if you don’t know what you want or if you’re too afraid to say what is important to you, then you will have no expectations for other people to meet. For some it’s very difficult to ask for what they want straight up without beating around the bush or adding some sort of disclaimers. However, being direct is very important – it allows the person on the receiving end to give an answer right away and prevents them from taking on unnecessary stress of figuring out what it is that you want.
3. Listen to yourself.
A lot of our communication is unconscious – we say things without thinking, or maybe not even realizing ourselves why did we say something in the first place. This kind of communication pattern can lead to misunderstandings and conflict between people, so it’s very important to bring awareness to your own communication pattern and try to be more conscious in the way you express yourself.
4. Speak up, speak out.
If there is something that bothers you about someone else’s behavior, then say it! Don’t just let it go if it makes you uncomfortable or sad – address the issue head on. Of course, if the issue seems trivial or stupid you might not need to bother with it, but usually things that bother us are indicative of something deeper going on beneath the surface.
5. Use “I” statements.
If you want to say no to someone’s request, tell them why instead of just saying yes or no. For example, instead of saying “no you can’t use my phone”, say “I’m sorry but I’m on my way to an important meeting right now”. You see the difference? By using an “I” statement it becomes clear that you respect yourself and your needs, which is more likely to make people listen to what you have to say.
6. Be assertive, not aggressive.
This is a very common mistake – people confuse being assertive with being self-centered and egotistical. There’s no reason to become an asshole just because you’re asserting yourself more and standing up for your needs. Aggressiveness might achieve your goal in the short term (such as getting attention) but in the long term no one will like you and it’ll make people want to distance themselves from you.
7. Have clear, healthy boundaries.
Everyone deserves to have someone in their lives who respects them and only communicates with them when they really want to do so. If you don’t think you’re the type of person who can push people away or be uninterested in what they have to say, then you probably need to take a look at your current boundaries. What kind of relationships do you currently maintain and how do they make you feel? If you realize there’s something off about them (or maybe even abusive), set some healthy boundaries and keep communicating with people until you find a new equilibrium.
8. Stop giving “fake” compliments.
Everyone loves to receive praise and be told that they’re great, but what’s the point in praising something that isn’t real? If you think someone is particularly cool for example, don’t just say “wow your shirt looks great!” because it doesn’t. Say what specifically you like about their appearance, because this way it becomes much easier for the other person to replicate your compliment and feel confident in themselves.
9. Be genuine.
If you don’t feel like something or can’t appreciate someone else’s qualities and achievements, then don’t go around telling them you do. Not only they’ll probably feel upset about it and unappreciated, but also you’ll lose respect from other people because they will know that your words are just empty filler.
10. Don’t give ultimatums.
Ultimatums usually come as a result of low self-esteem, so it’s essential to improve your self-esteem if you want to be able to give these things up. Ultimatums are usually completely unnecessary and will only create more stress for everyone involved, so instead of using them try to have an open conversation with the other person about where you both stand on the situation.
11. Make sure you don’t get stuck in someone else’s “shadow”.
This is an expression that the famous psychologist Carl Jung coined to refer to all of the unwanted characteristics of a person that are usually projected onto others – for example, if someone has too much pride they’ll probably end up being very harsh with people they perceive as having a lower status than them, because that’s the only way they could feel acceptable in their own eyes.
There is no such thing as a perfect person and you shouldn’t be afraid of standing out or putting yourself first. When you really care about somebody, you don’t need to convince them that they’re great – because by caring about them you automatically see it in them (that’s the best kind of flattery).
So there we go!