30 Jan

Assertiveness is a social skill that relies heavily on effective communication while simultaneously respecting the thoughts and wishes of others.

We are assertive when we can clearly and respectfully communicate our wants, needs, positions, and boundaries to others. There’s no question of where they stand, no matter what the topic.

Individuals who are high in assertiveness don't shy away from defending their points of view or goals, or from trying to influence others to see their side. They are open to both compliments and constructive criticism. Assertiveness is not easy and people find it hard at times to express their opinions not wanting to upset others and avoiding confrontation. If the situation continues, this may result in accumulation of frustration and dissatisfaction with the interpersonal situation, which can lead to an aggressive outburst or “blow up”. Both passivity and aggression can have detrimental impacts on our relationships and the sense of self in it.

Assertiveness plays an important role as a skill when navigating the challenges of interpersonal negotiation. Staying true to oneself while respecting the other person’s opinion without the need to bend and compromise is a great skill that is worth practising for.

People can improve their assertiveness through practical exercises and experience; here are some tips worth considering: 

  • Belief in yourself and standing up for yourself is really important. At times our low self-esteem and inability to express our views and wishes can prevent us from telling others what we want. Worrying about the opinions of others can stand in the way of being honest with yourself and others. 
  • Learn how to say “no” and set limits. Asserting limits is an important way of looking after oneself while being there for others within our capacities. If you have a lot that you are dealing with already, and you can’t commit to additional requests and responsibilities, understanding one's own limitations is really important. Setting limits is not always easy but when practised can offer an empowering feeling of standing up for yourself and respecting your own needs. 
  • Start small, practising with daily interactions . If you’re having a hard time finding that assertive voice, begin with small things. Perhaps you still hear a rattling after you pick your car up from the mechanic, but you’re afraid to question his work. Say something. Begin to practice daily rituals of putting yourself first. 
  • Practice what you’re going to say in situations when you need to stand up for yourself for example, if you’re going in to ask for a raise, try role-playing with a partner or friend to sketch out the different scenarios, so you won’t be caught off guard and lose momentum when you’re in the moment. You can also write out what you want to say and rehearse it so you’re confident when you make your actual pitch. 
  • Remember your body language. Your words are only one part of how you’re communicating with others. Non-verbal communication such as your body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions provide 70% of your total communication and that is really important. Keep a neutral face expression (practice in front of a mirror if you need to). Standing up tall and making eye contact, are two key attributes of presenting as a confident person. 
  • Be clear and do not over-complicate things. Know what you want to say. Stay confident knowing what exactly you are going to say, there is no need to create new arguments. Do not leave room for misinterpretation. 
  • Use I - pronoun. When speaking assertively and expressing your own opinion use the pronoun “I” and “I feel” or “I think.”  Stay away from statements beginning with “you”, they often come across aggressive and blaming making the other person defensive
  • Leave negative emotions out of it. You might be navigating a difficult situation and harbouring negative feelings towards the opposing party but try to leave all of those emotions out of your message. Practise grounding and mindfulness to check in with your own feelings before you approach challenging conversations. Even if the other person becomes reactive, stay calm. Getting angry or defensive can lead to an aggressive response rather than positive outcome. 
  • Keep it positive. No one likes difficult conversations and as a result, things go unresolved which leads to stress and strained relationships. One way to stop procrastinating and deal with situations that require you to be assertive is to approach them with positive emotions. Approaching the situation from a position of curiosity and willingness to achieve a positive compromise, will often lead to letting the other person put their guard down and respond accordingly to your request and be more willing to meet halfway
  • Stand your ground. If you don’t get what you want the first time you ask, don’t give up. In assertiveness training, this technique is called a broken record. The person might not respond the way you hoped the first time, but they might simply need time to process what you want. Go back and repeat what it is you need until you get it but also be open to negotiate the outcome that could met the both of your needs halfway.
  • Understand the other point of view and be open to negotiate the difference of opinion. A key ingredient of assertiveness is the ability to say what you need while also recognizing the wishes of others. Assertive people are effective because they possess empathy and respect other opinions and ideas when negotiating. On the other hand, aggressive people demand their needs to be met with no regard for anyone else. Respecting the person you are communicating with often leads to a collaborative solution and a win-win scenario with both sides getting what they need. 


Website psychology Today:https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-be-assertive

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