How To Improve Your Assertiveness Even If You Are Shy

Two business associates talking

Dr. Purushothaman
October 1, 2013

One of the worst things about being shy in this world is the feeling that results from not standing up for yourself when you know that your rights have been abused or violated. That's not to mention all of the lost opportunities that your shyness has prevented you from experiencing. What if there was a way to eliminate this shyness and the resultant bad feelings associated with not being assertive and standing up for your rights? Read on for ways to change your approach, outlook, and strategies to eliminate shyness and improve your assertiveness.

People's lack of assertiveness is primarily the result of 3 barriers they place between them and their assertiveness. These barriers are: their negative self-concept, poor communication skills, and their lack of skill in handling conflict situations.

There have been volumes written on the "negative self-concept." There is no question that it is the product of what others have told us about ourselves as well as our own observations of our actions and the resultant consequences of these actions. It takes many years to internalize and "believe" the judgments of others. Too often, we accept these judgments as "who we are" whether they are factual or not. In essence, we believe that we are a certain way henceforth we ARE that way.

So, how do you change your self-concept or self-image in order to reduce your shyness and improve your assertiveness? There are 2 activities that you can perform to change your self-image. One, you can reduce the number of times you say bad things to yourself about any weakness or fault you think that you have. Two, conversely, you can increase the number of times you say good things to yourself about any positive qualities you possess. I can't stress enough how this simple exercise can dramatically improve your self-image. This is the first step to overcoming your shyness and improving your assertiveness.

Poor communication skills are the next primary obstacle for those seeking to improve their assertiveness. The reason this is such a primary obstacle, especially for someone who is shy, is because verbal dialogue is between persons. This being the case, the shy person can get seriously de-railed from making his/her point effectively. Conversation can be objectionable and interruptible, not exactly the perfect "communication playground" for the shy person looking to be more assertive. However, there are exercises you can perform to increase the effectiveness of your communication skills. One particular exercise that I promote is what I call "script writing." In this exercise, you basically develop different conversational scenarios and in essence practice various responses to each scenario created. It is imperative that you perform this exercise with your viewpoint as well as that of the other party. This will help you in improving your communication skills because it allows you to develop the ability to see the "other person's side."

The final major obstacle to improving assertiveness is a lack of skill in handling conflict situations. In certain stressful situations, some people literally cannot control themselves or their emotions. They just lose it. There are ways to over time reduce this negative occurrence. The most effective way that I promote is what I call de-sensitizing. This is a systematic approach that is similar to behavior therapy. In this approach, what you would do is imagine a stressful event in your life. You would then make a hierarchy of scenes of this event, from least intimidating to most intimidating. In your mind, you would progress through each scene, giving yourself sufficient time to adjust, cope and relax in between scenes all the while building up to the crescendo of the final, most stressful and unnerving scene. When practiced with scenarios from your life, this exercise can produce monumental gains in handling conflict situations and thus improving your assertiveness

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