Assertiveness

Assertiveness

If you're like most people you tend to be fairly indirect about expressing your feelings and needs. Perhaps as a child you were taught it was self-centered to talk about yourself. Maybe you're afraid to be direct, fearing people will be put off or you will run into conflict.

You blow up when someone disappoints you or you don't get your way. You don't want to let people treat you unfairly and you let them know it but with regret later on.

What is assertiveness?
It's a way of confronting the unpleasant or difficult without getting squashed or squashing others in the process. When you use assertiveness you can negotiate reasonable changes by stating directly what you think, feel and want. Assertiveness builds intimacy, solves interpersonal problems and increases honesty, requests and refusals in your relationships.

Of course, you can choose any number of alternatives to assertiveness. You can fake your feelings, suffer silently, retreat from others, manipulate them or demand your way. Ultimately these options are self-defeating and harmful to relationships.

How is Being Assertive different from Being Aggressive? Being aggressive means standing up for yourself in ways that violate the rights of others.

Aggressive behavior is typically punishing, hostile, blaming, and demanding. It can involve threats, name-calling, and even actual physical contact. It can also involve sarcasm, catty comments, gossip and "slips of the tongue."

What causes people to avoid being assertive?
Most people are not assertive for fear of displeasing others and of not being liked. However, although you may avoid some immediate unpleasantness by not being assertive, you could also jeopardize the relationship in the long run if you refuse to assert yourself and then feel taken advantage of over and over again.
How Assertive Are You?

Ask yourself the following questions.

1. Do you ask for help if you need it?
2. Do you express anger and annoyance appropriately?
3. Do you ask questions when you're confused?
4. Do you volunteer your opinions when you think or feel differently from others?
5. Do you speak up in class fairly frequently?
6. Are you able to say "no" when you don't want to do something?
7. Do you speak with a generally confident manner, communicating caring and strength?
8. Do you look at people when you're talking to them?

How to be effectively assertive:
1. Use assertive body language.
Face the other person, stand or sit straight, don't use dismissive gestures, be sure you have a pleasant, but serious facial expression, keep your voice calm and soft, not whiney or abrasive.

2. Use "I" statements.
Keep the focus on the problem you're having, not on accusing or blaming the other person. Example: "I'd like to be able to tell my stories without interruption." instead of "You're always interrupting my stories!"

3. Use facts, not judgments.
Example: "Your punctuation needs work and your formatting is inconsistent" instead of "This is sloppy work." or "Did you know that shirt has some spots?" instead of "You're not going out looking like THAT, are you?"

4. Express ownership of your thoughts, feeling, and opinions.
Example: "I get angry when he breaks his promises." instead of "He makes me angry." or "I believe the best policy is to…" instead of "The only sensible thing is to …"

5. Make clear, direct, requests.
Don't invite the person to say no. Example: "Will you please ... ?" instead of "Would you mind … ?" or "Why don't you … ?"
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