Do you lack assertiveness skills? Do you know of a situation where assertiveness skills would have come in handy? You’re not alone!
We’ve probably all had experience of a situation where assertiveness skills were useful. Perhaps you’ve put yourself out and ended up getting hurt because you didn’t want to appear rude. Maybe someone you know never gets to express their honest opinion, because, again, they are afraid of what people might think. However, there could be another way.
Learning effective assertiveness skills starts with communication. We should aim to say exactly what we want but in a respectful manner. Our assertive communication skills can either make or break the results of our interactions with others.
How can understanding communication styles help develop our assertiveness skills?
There are three main types of communication. These are passive, aggressive, and assertive. In every conversation, our communication style determines how the other person comes to understand what we mean. Unfortunately, we suffer if we don’t know which communication style to use. It can lead to embarrassment or offence because you have not clearly conveyed your point.
If you are too passive, then you most likely agree with what others tell you, follow the crowd. Aggressive communication, on the other hand, can prevent you from having solid friendships. Why? Because no one enjoys the company of someone who constantly judges, argues and disagrees. They are also seen as someone who doesn’t allow others to share their opinions.
Assertive communication is what we should all aim for. It’s the best of both worlds because you meet your needs and the needs of the other person. Everyone ends up happy, less stressed and you seem more trustworthy, all because you have improved communication successfully.
What’s the secret to better assertiveness skills? Here are five to help you on your way.
1. Assertiveness skills start with saying “no” more often
For assertive behaviour, you’ll have to let go of the need to please everyone and do things according to their expectations. When you do this, you are often left dissatisfied and become weaker the next time you’re about to try asking for something you want.
Assertive communication means being okay with saying exactly what you want but doing it in such a way that it doesn’t hurt the other person’s feelings.
This might mean rejecting things you decide are not a good fit for you, but then explaining exactly why you reject them. The word “because” is a powerful game-changer in communication. If you give strong reasons and say them with determination, no one will be upset that you gave them a negative answer.
2. Lower your tone
Self-control is key here. Your voice needs to be relaxed; you should sound (and feel) calm. This can take some time, just like any other new skill. Be patient and don’t annoy yourself if you end up raising your voice without realising or rushing a conversation because you become irritated.
Assertive behaviour also means not showing hesitation or harshness through your voice. Keep it friendly and calm. Speaking slowly and using a quieter voice is usually enough to bring balance back to the conversation.
3. Entertain a discussion – you might just find a (better) solution!
When you don’t get the answer you want for some time, it’s easier to just agree and walk away; that’s passive. Being assertive, on the other hand, means continuing— in a calm and respectful manner— until the issue is resolved.
It might require asking more questions, listening more carefully, or getting creative and exploring more options. Whatever it is, it’s worth your time as in the end both parties feel good and no one ends up hurt.
4. Watch out for body language
By nonverbal, we mean body language, eye contact, posture, listening cues, and reactions. All of these should be free from any sense of aggression or passiveness.The former (aggression) will cause the other person to go into defence mode, while the latter (passiveness) will make them feel ignored.
Keeping eye contact helps you stay focused. Also, it’s an easy way to let the other person know you care about what they are saying. How you direct your eyes and how long you keep contact can be even more important than what you say.
5. Listen, listen, listen!
The secret to effective communication and forming better relationships is to be mindful of what exactly the other person is trying to say. Try not to bring up issues from the past or let your mind wander as this show disrespect and can cause you to lose focus. Forget about the rest of the world, look at the person you’re communicating with at that moment, and listen actively to everything they are saying.
Developing your assertive communication skills can take some practice. Accept it as a challenge. Practice it with loved ones and see the benefit of its application, such as fewer arguments, a more positive and peaceful atmosphere at home, less stress, an increase in self-esteem and confidence, etc. Then, start applying these tactics to everyone you meet.