Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to say something but didn’t ? Can you recall situations where you wished you had behaved differently? For example:
- Said ‘yes’ to requests from your boss, colleagues, friends when really you would have liked to say ‘no’
- Felt like you have been taken advantaged of but didn’t say anything
- Received poor service but did not give any feedback
- Wished you had the courage to ask for what you want
- Relied on others to guess what you want
- Wanted to say how you felt but couldn’t
- Don’t say anything negative for the fear of being criticised by others
Failing to assert yourself will result in not getting the outcome that you want and will leave you feeling bad about yourself. Replaying the scene in your mind over and over and thinking, “why didn’t I say that?” or “if only I had said that” are common reflections in such cases. Such feelings can often lead to blame, anxiety and a loss of confidence and self esteem.
For many people, failing to assert one is about being fearful – of putting your needs and wants ahead of others, of upsetting or hurting other people’s feelings, of being criticised, of those in authority or that you might fail to get what you want so you don’t try.
The only way of getting rid of fear is going out and doing it. By confronting the challenges that are holding you back, you will be able to move on to become more assertive and confident.
What does being assertive mean?
We spend a significant amount of our time communicating with others. To be effective in our communications, we do not want to provoke or upset others; neither do we want to put ourselves down of feel unable to express our feelings, needs and wants. Standing up for what you believe in whilst showing respect for other people’s rights is a balance to be strived for. Behaving in this way means that you are neither submissive nor aggressive. It is about:
- Asking for what you want
- Requesting your needs, wants and feelings directly, honestly and openly
- Saying ‘no’ without feeling guilty
- Being confident to defend your position
- Being able to receive and give feedback constructively
What you can do to be more assertive
Take control and commit to change
Our past, upbringing, relationships and other external factors can influence how we think, feel and act. Recognise and acknowledge the influence or impact that this has had on you and make a commitment to move on. Learn from the past and commit to thinking, feeling and behaving differently.
Become self-aware and mindful by recognising your emotions, moods, feelings and take responsibility for them. Analyse your own feelings rather than the action or motives of other people.
Ask yourself ‘what are the consequences of not changing?’
The desire for change must come from within and be something that you are prepared to work towards. On a scale of 1-10, how much do you really want this? How much are you prepared to work for it? If you rate it less than 8, you are unlikely to have the commitment and motivation to pursue it.
Create a compelling vision of the ‘new’ you
Imagine that you are now assertive and confident in your communications. What does this ‘new’ you look like? Visualise it and create a mental picture of what being assertive will look like when you have achieved it. Imagine some possible scenarios: how are you feeling, what are you doing and saying, how are you saying it, what’s your language and posture like, who is there…?
Now write down some of the things that the ‘new’ you will be like, feel like and act like. This will help to crystallise your thinking and will enhance your focus and motivation. Keep adding to that vision – what benefits can you see and what difference will it make? The more benefits that you can articulate, the more compelling it becomes.
Keeping that vision in mind, begin to practise in a safe environment.
Use the help of a friend or trusted colleague and practise role-playing. Together, devise some typical scenarios and then take turns in playing the part and give each other feedback on performances. Practise maintaining eye contact, speaking calmly and clearly, demonstrate that you are listening and match your posture to the words that you are saying.
Once you have practised a few times, go out and do it for real!
Use a mirror
Your posture and body language gives out signals as how you are feeling. The aim is to look, feel and sound confident even though you may not be feeling that way!
Practising your posture and body movements in front of a mirror is a great way of enabling you to see how you come across to others. Standing upright at ease and looking calming in the eyes of the other person in a confident manner can put you in a very empowering position.
Responding assertively is about communicating your needs, wants and feelings in a way that is confident, responsible and respectful
More strategies and tips in Part 2, the next blog
How have you handled such situations in the past? What advice and tips can you share?