There are too many instances whereby we neglected ourselves just to please the people around us to avoid conflicts. While it is not a bad thing, you may have realized that over time, you lose your own voice of thinking, opinion, and need. You are stuck in the paradigm of going with the flow or be a people pleaser. And you know that it needs to be changed.
No company will value an employee who has no view or who is unable to communicate effectively. Assertiveness is the ability to ask for what you want, to express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights and beliefs of others.
Why Assertiveness Is Important
Being assertive can also help boost your self-esteem and earn others’ respect. This can help with stress management, especially if you tend to take on too many responsibilities because you have a hard time saying no.
Being assertive shows that you respect yourself because you’re willing to stand up for your interests and express your thoughts and feelings. It also demonstrates that you’re aware of others’ rights and willing to work on resolving conflicts.
People who are unable to assert themselves may experience sensitivity to criticism, extreme passivity, insecurity, anxiety, or even low self-esteem. They may be treated like emotional doormats whose needs always come second. In extreme cases, they may completely lose sight of what they need and want in life.
Of course, it’s not just what you say — your message — but also how you say it that’s important. Assertive communication is direct and respectful. Being assertive gives you the best chance of successfully delivering your message. If you communicate in a way that’s too passive or too aggressive, your message may get lost because people are too busy reacting to your delivery.
Some people seem to be naturally assertive. But if you’re not one of them, you can learn to be more assertive. And there is a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive.
Assertive vs Aggressive
Assertiveness is based on balance. It requires being forthright about your wants and needs, while still considering the rights, needs and wants of others. When you’re assertive, you are self-assured and draw power from this to get your point across firmly, fairly and with empathy.
Some of the assertive behaviour includes but not limited to:
- Being open in expressing wishes, thoughts and feelings and encouraging others to do likewise.
- Listening to the views of others and responding appropriately, whether in agreement with those views or not.
- Accepting responsibilities and being able to delegate to others.
- Regularly expressing appreciation of others for what they have done or are doing.
- Being able to admit to mistakes and apologise.
- Maintaining self-control.
- Behaving as an equal to others
Aggressive behavior is based on winning. You do what is in your own best interest without regard for the rights, needs, feelings, or desires of other people. When you’re aggressive, the power you use is selfish. You may come across as pushy or even bullying. You take what you want, often without asking. Aggression undercuts trust and mutual respect. Others may come to resent you, leading them to avoid or oppose you.
Being assertive is usually viewed as a healthier communication style. Those who can assert themselves communicate more confidently and clearly, enjoy more fulfilling relationships with others, and are more effective at work.
Learning to be More Assertive
People develop different styles of communication-based on their life experiences. Your style may be so ingrained that you’re not even aware of what it is. People tend to stick to the same communication style over time. But if you want to change your communication style, you can learn to communicate in healthier and more effective ways. Watch the following 1-hour webinar to understand more on the nature of self-esteem, confidence and assertiveness:
Here are the 5 tips to help you learn to be more assertive:
Tip 1: Value Yourself and Your Rights
To be more assertive, you need to gain a good understanding of yourself, as well as a strong belief in your inherent value and your value to your organization and team.
This self-belief is the basis of self-confidence and assertive behavior. It will help you to recognize that you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, give you the confidence to stick up for your rights and protect your boundaries, and to remain true to yourself, your wants and your needs.
Boundaries are the rules and limits you create for yourself that help you decide what you will and won’t allow. You don’t want people to walk all over you, but you don’t want people to think you are a bully, either. Setting boundaries will empower you to know when you need to say yes and when you want to say no.
Tip 2: Voice Your Needs and Wants Confidently and Positively
If you’re going to perform to your full potential, then you need to make sure that your priorities – your needs and wants – are met.
Don’t wait for someone else to recognize what you need. You might wait forever! Take the initiative and start to identify the things that you want now. Then, set goals so that you can achieve them. (Related: What is Proactive Thinking? How to Be Proactive?)
Once you’ve done this, you can tell your boss or your colleague exactly what it is that you need from them to help you to achieve these goals in a clear and confident way. And don’t forget to stick to your guns. Even if what you want isn’t possible right now, ask (politely, constructively and sensitively) whether you can revisit your request in six months’ time.
Find ways to make requests that avoid sacrificing others’ needs while standing up for yourself. Remember, you want people to help you, and asking for things in an overly aggressive or pushy way is likely to put them off doing this and may even damage your relationship.
Tip 3: Acknowledge That You Can’t Control Other People’s Behavior
Don’t make the mistake of accepting responsibility for how people react to your assertiveness. If they, for example, act angry or resentful toward you, try to avoid reacting to them in the same way. (Related: Understand the Psychology Behind Defusing and Resolving Workplace Anger)
Remember that you can only control yourself and your own behavior, so do your best to stay calm and measured if things get tense. As long as you are being respectful and not violating someone else’s needs, then you have the right to say or do what you want.
Tip 4: Be Open to Criticism and Compliments
Accept both positive and negative feedback graciously, humbly and positively.
If you don’t agree with criticism that you receive then you need to be prepared to say so, but without getting defensive or angry. The Feedback Matrix is a great tool that can help you to see past your emotional reactions to feedback, and instead use it to achieve significant, positive change.
Tip 5: Learn to Say “No”
Saying “No” is hard to do, especially when you’re not used to doing it, but it’s vital if you want to become more assertive.
Knowing your own limits and how much work you are able to take on will help you to manage your tasks more effectively, and to pinpoint any areas of your job that make you feel as though you’re being taken advantage of.
Remember that you can’t possibly do everything or please everyone, so it’s important that you protect your time and your workload by saying “no” when necessary. When you do have to say “no”, try to find a win-win solution that works for everyone. (Related: Getting to a Yes: Negotiate Like a Lawyer)
Being assertive means finding the right balance between passivity (not assertive enough) and aggression (angry or hostile behavior). It means having a strong sense of yourself and your value, and acknowledging that you deserve to get what you want. And it means standing up for yourself even in the most difficult situations.
You can learn to be more assertive over time by identifying your needs and wants, expressing them in a positive way, and learning to say “no” when you need to.
It likely won’t happen overnight but, by practicing it regularly, you will slowly build up the confidence and self-belief that you need to become assertive. You’ll also likely find that you become more productive, efficient and respected, too.