Being able to express yourself assertively is quite important if you want to succeed in life and feel that you are in control. In contrast, a passive behaviour may reduce your self-esteem and make you feel incapable of handling other people who might be aggressive towards you. In this article, the nature of assertive communication is explored and a number of guidelines on verbal and non-verbal assertiveness are presented.
Assertiveness is About Rights
Everyone has certain rights and should be able to express those rights. Ultimately, assertiveness is about one’s ability in express his rights. You have certain rights in just about every situation, be it at the workplace, home or elsewhere. Some of these rights include the following:
You have the right to own values, beliefs and opinions as you see fit.
You have the right to tell others how you want to be treated.
You have the right not to justify your actions or feelings to others.
You have the right to take the time you need before you express yourself as you intend to do so.
You have the right to say “No”, “I don’t know”, “I don’t understand” and “I don’t care”
You have the right to ask for help without feeling negative about yourself
You have the right to make mistakes
You have the right to change your mind
You have the right to make decisions subject to your emotions
It is when you don’t believe that you have these rights that you start to respond passively. If you allow other people’s opinions to affect you and become more important than your own, you are likely to become depressed, feel hurt, or even get angry with yourself on how poorly you responded.
How to Express Yourself Assertively Verbally
Assertive communication, in contrast with passive or aggressive communication, is about expressing yourself fairly and with reason. It is about holding your position and supporting yourself without being affected by emotional aggression. Use the following guidelines to express yourself more assertively:
Communicate in a calm way without attacking the other person
Appear confident and calm
Express your own feelings
Focus on the outcome and overall objectives rather than winning a debate
Say “Yes” when you need to and say “No” when you want to
Hold a positive attitude and avoid being negative
If you want to give feedback, make sure you deliver as constructive criticism as opposed to an attack
Use factual evidence to defend your position without exaggeration of any kind
Avoid attacking or defending personalities and instead focus on the real issue or concern
Be happy to defend yourself even if it provokes a conflict
Be confident that you can handle a conflict if it occurs
Use “I statement” to focus your statement on how you feel and what you need rather than blaming others
Use statements such as “I don’t” and “I won’t” rather than “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t” to show that you make the decisions and you are in control
How to Express Yourself Assertively Non-Verbally
In conjunction with your verbal stance, you should also use effective body language to complement your verbal assertiveness. Use the following guidelines:
Do not cross your arm or hold a defensive body language
Maintain eye contact. Do not look down or appear submissive.
Stand straight with your chin up. Stay at an even level with the other person.
Mirror the other person to increase the likelihood of establishing rapport. If the other person sits, sit as well.
Choose a facial expression that matches what you are saying. If you are angry, you should appear serious. Do not smile or laugh when you are angry about something as the other person would not take you seriously. As obvious as this sounds, many people don’t look as serious as they should when being assertive.
Do not put your hands on your hips as it appears aggressive
Do not use pointy fingers which are aggressive
Deliver your statements with a calm voice. Do not raise your voice; instead, focus on being fair when you explain yourself. Continue no matter how the other person sounds until the other person matches your voice.
Assertive communication is a skill that requires persistence and practice. You can master the art by attending Assertiveness Skills training. In addition, trainers can also use Assertiveness Skills Training Materials and courseware to set up courses on assertiveness and train others on this important behavior.