Why Being Assertive is Important and How to Develop It

Before you start, it’s important to understand what being assertive means. Psychologists define assertiveness as being able to express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view while respecting the rights and beliefs of others, while maintaining control of one’s emotions (APA.org). The basis of assertiveness is mutual respect and honesty. Assertive communicators are straightforward and know how to set and maintain healthy boundaries. Their relationships value and promote trust.

If you’re serious about living an authentic life and succeeding in reaching your goals, learning to be assertive is crucial. It’s one of the soft-skills that are needed to lead and survive in the workplace.

Think about how you feel about your life right now: Are you satisfied with your personal and professional situation? Are you conflict avoidant? Do you worry about what other people think of you? Do you tend to over-do and give to others but then get angry that you did?

If you’re not happy with where you are now, the good news is that assertiveness is a habit that can be learned just like any other. With practice and commitment, you can change your mindset and live a life more aligned with your true values and aspirations.

Try these tips for introducing a more assertive approach into your life:

  • Decide what your priorities are and stick to them.
  • Work out your individual boundaries i.e. what you will/will not accept from others or do for others
  • Develop a positive open posture and look people in the eye when you speak to them.
  • Use positive ‘I’ statements about how you’re feeling instead of blaming or finding fault with the other person. Be especially wary of feeling tempted to say words such as: ‘you always’ ‘you never’ ‘you should or you must’
  • Get comfortable with saying ‘no’ to things you don’t want to or can’t do. Keep it simple and non-emotive and don’t feel you need to add an excuse or explanation.
  • Only use ‘sorry’ when it’s appropriate for the situation. You don’t need to apologize for saying no.
  • Offer alternative suggestions to proposals you don’t like.
  • Look for compromises and negotiate on them
  • Be honest and direct about your feelings, thoughts, and intentions.
  • Consider writing a script for a situation that feels awkward. Rehearse being confident.

Try to keep your focus on the impact of the situation and finding a way to work together to find a mutually satisfying solution, which is where negotiation comes in to play; there is always a workable solution. Agreeing to disagree and learning to walk away from a situation will bring you inner peace.

Above all, being assertive means staying in your power, accepting that you have control over how you approach the situation and your feelings about it. Assertiveness won’t get you everything you want all the time, but you will feel in control and deal much better with situations that would have previously been stressful.

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