Being assertive is an important communication skill that can help you express yourself more effectively. It helps you stand up for the way you feel while still respecting the rights and viewpoints of others. Being assertive helps boost your self-confidence and earn the respect of others. This can make interacting in social situations a lot less stressful and can even help with stress management in the workplace. It can stop you from taking on too much additional responsibility or feel unheard because you find it hard to say “no”.
Being an assertive communicator doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but it is a skill anyone can master with a bit of practice. Here’s why assertive communication is so important and how to practice it.
The Importance of Assertive Communication
Assertive communication is an effective and diplomatic communication style that is based on mutual respect. It shows that you respect yourself as well as the other person or people that are part of an interaction. It means being steadfast in your beliefs and interests and being able to express your thoughts and feelings while simultaneously respecting others. It also isn’t just about what you say. It’s also how you say it.
Communication should be direct and respectful as this gives you the best chance of getting your message across to others. Something to keep in mind is that states of mind affect communication, so it’s important that your tone isn’t aggressive. If your communication style is too aggressive, or too passive, your message won’t necessarily be communicated successfully, because people will get lost in your delivery and react to it rather than what you say.
Changing The Way You Communicate
Your communication type is based on your upbringing, life experience, and personality. We are often unaware of our communication styles and the things that have shaped them. This has led to the belief that we can’t change them, but this isn’t true. Being too passive can lead to stress, resentment, feeling victimized, doubting your own judgment, feelings of anger, etc. Changing your communication style can help you communicate in a more effective and healthier way.
How To Be More Assertive
Assess Your Communication Style
It is important that you understand your communication style before you make any changes to it. Take note of how you treat an interaction with others and how they treat you in that interaction. Do you voice your opinions or are you too shy? Are you quick to judge what people say? Do people seem like they’re scared to talk to you? It’s important that you’re really honest with yourself. Once you know how you communicate you can change it.
Practice What to Say
If you find it hard to know what to say in certain situations, you can benefit from practicing general scenarios you might encounter. If you’re a shy, or confrontational communicator, making “I” statements is important. Using accusatory statements like “you’re wrong”, can cause people to disengage with you in conversation and can be interpreted as quite aggressive. Keep your emotions neutral and don’t be aggressive. Practicing saying “no” is also important. If you struggle to say “no” in an outright manner, consider saying something like “No, I can’t do that right now.” Keep in mind that “no” is a complete sentence on its own and there is no need to justify it. If an explanation is necessary, keep it short and to the point.
You can start by writing your response out first and then practice saying it aloud on your own. If you need to, you can ask someone to role-play with you and give you feedback. This is a great way to practice how others hear what you say.
Communicating is about more than what you say. Your posture and body language say more than your words do. Acting confident even when you don’t feel that way can make people take you more seriously. Making regular eye contact and keeping your body posture upright is important to help people maintain a comfortable conversation with you. Try not to cross your arms and legs, as this indicates a closed-off and intimidated person. When you are uncrossed, it illustrates that you are open and want people to talk to you. Practice your resting facial expressions, too. Some people have a naturally angry, or intimidating resting face, so be aware of this.
Being assertive can take time and only comes with practice. You can’t change your communication style overnight, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t see an immediate change in the way you communicate or the way others communicate with you.