Being assertive: Reduce stress, communicate better / By Mayo Clinic staff (mayoclinic.com)
What is assertiveness?
Assertiveness is an approach to dealing with the people around you. It stems from:
- being at ease with yourself and who you are
- understanding respect and showing it.
Assertiveness can help control stress and anger and improve coping skills for mental illnesses. Recognize and learn assertive behavior and communication.
Being assertive is a core communication skill. Being assertive means that you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights of others. Think of it this way. Assertiveness is the sweet spot between being too aggressive and too passive. In addition, being assertive can also help boost self-esteem and earn others’ respect.
Some people appear naturally assertive. But if you tend to be more passive,you can learn to be more direct. Or if you tend to be aggressive, you can learn to tone down your communication style.
Why assertive communication makes sense
Because it’s based on mutual respect, assertiveness is an effective and diplomatic communication style. Being assertive shows that you respect yourself because you’re willing to stand up for your interests and express your thoughts and feeling It also demonstrates that your cognizant of the rights of others and willing to work on resolving conflicts.
Of course, it’s not just what you say — your message — but also how you say it that’s important. Assertive communication — which is direct and respectful — gives you the best chance of successfully delivering your message. On the other hand, if you communicate in a way that’s passive or aggressive, the content of your message may get lost because people are too busy reacting to your delivery.
Assertive vs. passive behavior
If your style is passive, you may seem to be shy or easygoing. You routinely say things such as, “I’ll just go with whatever the group decides.” You avoid all conflict. Why’s that a problem? Because the message you’re sending is that your thoughts and feelings aren’t as important as other people’s. In essence, you’re giving others the license to disregard your wants and needs. Consider the example you agree when a colleague asks you to take over a project even though your plate is full and the extra works means you’ll have to put in overtime and miss your daughter’s soccer game.
You may tell yourself that behaving passively simply keeps the peace and prevents conflicts. but what it really does is get in the way of authentic relationships. And worse, it may cause you internal conflict because your needs and those of your family always come second. This internal conflict may lead to:
- Seething anger
- Feelings of victimization
- Desire to exact revenge
Assertive vs. aggressive behavior
If your style is aggressive, you may come across as a bully who disregards the needs, feelings and opinions of others. You may appear self-righteous or superior. Very aggressive people humiliate and intimidate others, and may even be physically threatening.
You may think that being aggressive gets you what you want. however, it comes at a high cost. Aggression undercuts trust and mutual respect. Others may come to resent you, leading them to avoid or oppose you.
If you communicate in a passive-aggressive manner, you may say “yes” when you want to say “no.” You may be sarcastic or complain about others behind their backs. You may have developed a passive-aggressive style because you’re unable to be direct about your needs and feelings. What are the drawbacks of this style? Over time passive-aggressive behavior damages relationships and undercuts mutual respect.
The benefits of being assertive
Being assertive offers many powerful benefits. it helps you keep people from walking all over you, as the saying goes. On the flip side, it can also help you from steamrolling others.
Behaving assertively can help you:
- Gain self-confidence and self-esteem
- Understand and recognize your feelings
- Earn respect from others
- Improve communication
- Create win-win situations
- Improve your decision-making skills
- Create honest relationships
- Gain more job satisfaction
Some research suggest that being assertive also can help people cope better with many mental health problems, including depression, anorexia, bulimia, social anxiety disorder and schizophrenia.
Learning to more assertive
People develop different styles of communication based on their life experiences. Your style has probably become so ingrained that you’re not even aware of it. Although people tend to stick to the same communication style over time, you can learn to be more flexible in how you communicate.
Heare are some tips to help you become more assertive:
- Assess your style. Do you voice your opinions or remain silent? Do you say yes to additional work even when your plate is full? Are you quick to judge or blame? Do people seem to dread or fear talking to you?
- Use “I” statements.Using “I” statements lets other know what you’re thinking without sounding accusatory. For instance, say, “I disagree,” rather than, “You’re wrong.”
- Practice saying no. If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying, “No, I don’t do that now.” Don’t beat around the bush — be direct. If an explanation is appropriate, keep it brief.
- Rehearse what you want to say. If it’s challenging to say what you want or think, practice typical scenarios you encounter. For instance, if you want to ask for a raise, practice what you want to say. Say it out loud. It may help to write it out first. Consider le playing with a friend or colleague and ask for blunt feedback.
- Use body language. Communication isn’t just verbal. Act confident even if you aren’t feeling it. You may find that your body convinces your brain! Keep an upright posture but lean forward a bit. Make regular eye contact. Maintain a neutral or positive facial expression. Don’t wring your hands or use dramatic gestures. It can help to practice in front of a mirror.
- Keep emotions in check. Conflict is hard for most people. Maybe you get angry or frustrated, or maybe you feel like crying. Although these feelings are normal, they can get in the way of resolving conflict. If you feel too emotional going into a situation, wait a bit if possible. Then, work on remaining clam. Breathe slowly. Keep your voice even and firm.
- Start small At first, practice your new skills in situations that are low risk. For instance, try out your assertiveness on a partner or friend before tackling a difficult situation at work. Evaluate yourself afterward and tweak your approach as necessary.
When you need help being assertive
Remember, learning to be assertive takes time and practice. If you’ve spent years silencing yourself, becoming more assertive probably won’t happen overnight. Or if anger leads you to be too aggressive, you may need to learn some anger management techniques.
If despite your best efforts you’re not making progress toward becoming more assertive, consider formal assertiveness training. And if issues such as anger, stress, anxiety or fear are getting in your way, consider talking with a mental health provider. The payoff will be worth it. by becoming more assertive, you can begin to express your true feelings and needs more easily. You may even find you get more of what you want as a result.
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