“The only healthy communication style is assertive communication.” ~Jim Rohn
There are many people, especially women, who confuse assertiveness and aggressiveness as one and the same, so they make sure they do not show assertiveness in their daily lives and instead come across as passive.
When you are being assertive, you are respectfully speaking up for yourself and what is important to you clearly and confidently.
On the other hand, when you are aggressive, you are attempting to exert your influence on another to get what you want in a disrespectful and pushy manner, often detrimental to the other person.
Some women might have been raised to set aside their needs and opinions in order to support and agree with others. Many women are very uncomfortable asserting themselves, thinking that by doing so, they are hurting the feelings of others, or fearing confrontation and rejection of their assertions. Since they don’t express their wants and desires, they end up being virtually invisible because no one knows what they really like or want.
Assertiveness is a skill that takes practice. It may always be easier for you to swallow your feelings, bite your tongue or give them the silent treatment, but assertiveness is a much better strategy. It works because it shows the respect you and others deserve.
Four Types of Assertions
1. Basic assertions are when you simply state your feelings, beliefs or opinions. These are normally ‘I feel’ or ‘I want’ remarks. These shouldn’t be difficult as long as you’re in touch with your needs or your feelings, and they are important enough to you to be voiced.
2. Empathetic assertions are usually in two parts, with the first expressing that you understand where the other person is coming from, followed by an explanation of your thoughts and feelings rights: For example:
‘I know you have been very busy, but I also want to feel our relationship is important to you. I want you to make more time for us.’
3. Escalating assertions are If the other person is not responding appropriately to you basic assertion, you have the right to become more emphatic. It could include some kind of ensueing action. For example:
‘If you don’t return my money, which I clearly stated was a loan, I’ll be taking legal action.’
4. I-Language assertions are three-part statements, and are useful for dealing with negative feelings. They can help you in effectively focusing and clarifying your feelings. It includes:
When you… (whatever it is you do)
The effects are… (explain how it effects you)
I’d prefer you… (explain what you want)
Practice these steps when you are needing to be assertive to get your point across or your wants expressed.
STEP 1: Start with making small requests
First, using a minimum number of words, be clear as to what you want so there is no confusion. Make a few small requests of others. For example, request that you be moved to a different table at a restaurant if you prefer one other than where the wait staff is directing you. Another example would be to ask the cashier for different denominations than you were given when you get change for a purchase.
Once you are comfortable with this, try stronger requests from co-workers, family and friends. Request assistance with chores you normally do yourself.
When at work, make requests of co-workers you would normally handle yourself.
Whenever possible, avoid using if, but, perhaps or maybe.
You’ll soon find you feel more confident and are able to voice your requests easily.
STEP 2: Learn to say “no”
The biggest reason people are afraid to say “no” is fear – fear of rejection, seeming selfish or hurting the feelings of the other person. Can you remember times that you wanted to say “no”, but didn’t have the confidence or courage?
Having the ability to say “no” clearly and confidently is a sure sign of a mentally healthy human being who is able to set boundaries.
It’s okay to say “no”! In fact, it is very important for your own mental health.
“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” – Warren Buffett
STEP 3: Quit feeling guilty
Do you cringe if you ask the waiter to take food back to the kitchen at a restaurant because it was cold or undercooked? You paid money for this food that is not prepared to your satisfaction. You can kindly ask the server to take it back to be prepared as you wish.
If you have to turn down a friend’s request for a ride to the airport or train depot when your schedule makes it impossible to do so, do you feel guilty?
Possibly, you were taught that putting others before yourself is the right thing to do and makes you a bad person if you didn’t.
Using up your own time, effort and energy for others all the time does not make you a spiritually enlightened person. You can end up doing harm to yourself physically, emotionally and even financially. Taking care of yourself and your needs first instead of putting the needs of everyone else makes it possible for you to give your best to others when really needed. Sometimes that means saying “no”.
What Else Can You Do?
If you have issues expressing yourself in a manner that is far from being assertive, there are so many resources online that can help you learn to do so. A couple of books worth reading are
“The Assertiveness Workbook: How to Express Your Ideas and Stand Up for Yourself at Work and in Relationships” by Randy J. Paterson
“When I Say No, I Feel Guilty” by Manuel J Smith
So, take some time this week to speak up for yourself and what you want. You are worth it and that’s important!
“We must teach our girls that if they speak their mind, they can create the world they want to see.”
Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.
To your abundance!