The benefits of being assertive are quite clear – you both get your message across and acknowledge the opinions of others all whilst standing your ground and making yourself heard. This makes it clear that being assertive is important in pretty much every area of life. So, the question that comes up is that if assertiveness is in fact so important, why isn’t everyone doing it? Why are some people more passive, while others choose the aggressive route?
There is hardly anyone who would argue with the fact that assertiveness gets the job done. The fact that there are still people who choose other ways points towards the fact that not everyone is capable of being assertive. The reasons vary from one person to another. However, don’t worry about others for now. Here are a few ways that will help YOU to be assertive and stand up for yourself.
Lack of confidence might just be the single most important reason behind people’s inability to assert themselves at the right moment. From the way you talk to the way you conduct yourself physically – your posture and eye contact, etc. – everything comes together and illustrates how confident you really are. Before you even get the chance to say a single word, how you stand and approach people already speak a thousand words.
If you are going to avoid eye contact, not stand straight up, and fail to address the person directly, what you are portraying is some serious lack of confidence that will take out any leftover assertiveness in what you have to say. You have to conduct yourself in a manner that portrays confidence. Everything from your movements to how you speak should complement what you are trying to say. Quivering hands or slumping shoulders are not going to help you be heard. Who would want to listen to a person who is not comfortable with what he or she is saying?
Assertiveness means putting your thoughts on the table in such a way that everyone notices them. Without confidence and decisiveness, this just isn’t possible. If you need to practice in front of the mirror or with someone, feel free to go ahead. Not everyone is carved the same way. A little weakness here and there can easily be eliminated through practice. The best thing is – you don’t need to be confident, you just have to appear to be confident. “Fake it till you make it,” as they say
Enunciate and Stress What You Are Saying
Having gotten your confidence mode on, the next stop is to use that confident body language to make sure that what comes out of your mouth is appropriate. Puffing yourself up full of confidence, only to then utter nonsense, will certainly not go over well. Being assertive means making yourself heard, but if you have nothing productive to say, what is the point?
One of the primary objectives that assertiveness helps to achieve is that it makes people listen to you. If that is indeed what you want, talk slow, enunciate, and avoid going into long tangential stories. Be concise, be to the point. If you are going on and on about something without coming to the main part, you can’t possibly blame anyone for losing interest. It is only natural.
Speaking at an adequate pace, appropriate to the setting or scenario, giving due importance to relevant details, speaking coherently so that everyone is able to understand, and backing up your claims, are characteristics that will help you showcase your assertiveness. Again, you need a balance. Speak at a speed that aids people in listening what you have to say, neither too fast, nor too slow. Consider your setting in terms of the length of your contributions. Are you at a dinner party with just a few guests? In this setting, a longer story might be appreciated, whereas at a cocktail party with hundreds of guests, a long story will make people feel like they’re being “held hostage,” and instead much shorter stories or jokes would be more appropriate. In any case, get to the point, explain the point and its importance, and get it over with. The irrelevant details can certainly wait to be told another day, when your mom (who loves you unconditionally no matter how drawn out your stories become) is around to listen.
This one goes without saying. Nobody likes a rude person. Through politeness, attention automatically follows. If you’re polite and friendly, the chances of your speech being considered are much higher. Who doesn’t love talking to a friendly individual?
Your task is to stand up for yourself, not to offend people. Yes you have to stress what you feel is right but, make no mistake, stressing doesn’t mean being excessively aggressive in your approach. Not only should you keep in check with your tone of voice, but also watch out for the vocabulary you use. If someone is taking interest in what you have to say, the last thing you need is to give them a reason to regret doing so.
Politeness goes a long way in creating a relationship of mutual trust and respect, something that helps you assert your views and achieve your objectives.
Don’t Be Too Apologetic
The only time you should actually apologize is when you have done something wrong. If you are in the right, or if the situation is neutral, then apologies will only make you seem weaker. It’s as if you are sorry just because you exist. Don’t give anyone a reason to think of you as weak. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong, so accept responsibility briefly then move on. If you’re not, assert that you are not. This is the key.
But then again, standing up for yourself doesn’t mean being pompous and condescending. Don’t go about refusing to apologize just because you think you will seem weaker. If you actually are wrong, there is nothing stronger than stepping up and admitting it.
Know What You Want
Having confidence but not knowing what you want is like having a car with no fuel. In short, it’s useless. If you aim to achieve something by being assertive, it is quite obvious that you need to know what that something you are aiming for is. What you don’t want is words like ‘um’ and ‘uh’ coming out of your mouth consistently once the audience has lent you their ears. Not only will you lose the attention you’ve gathered, but your credibility will also take a nosedive.
Don’t Try to Please Everyone Around You
The idea of everyone around you living in total harmony, with peace and love, is too idealistic to be considered pragmatic. The truth is, you cannot please all of the people all of the time. Trying too hard to make everyone happy and pleased with you will damage your assertiveness. You need to have principles to guide you through.
When you are trying too hard to please people, you let go of chances to speak what is on your mind. When you are too scared of the idea of upsetting people, your thoughts don’t translate into words, and you will be rather passive in your approach. This damages your assertiveness. If you are too scared of upsetting your boss by stating that your workload is too excessive, you are not standing up for yourself. Your personal health should be more important to you. A little conflict with your boss should not give you sleepless nights. No one is asking you to rush into your boss’ room and reach for the collar. This is a classic example of excessive aggressiveness. An assertive approach would be to put your case forward in a firm manner and stress the need for change, which will make your boss realize that it is in fact unfair to put so much work on your back. If you take the matter to your boss in a professional way that doesn’t offend him, you are good to go.
It is moments like these where you need to exercise adequate assertiveness, without falling victim to either of the two extremes.