Being assertive is something that we all need to get to grips with at some point or another. It's all about being able to stand up for yourself, what's right, and what you believe in, and the ability to be assertive is of paramount importance in all areas of life: whether that is personally, professionally, emotionally or otherwise.
Due to the importance of this, a lot of people engage in something called assertiveness training.
What is assertiveness training?
Assertiveness training refers to strategies, techniques and practices that allow people to improve the way in which they approach situations that require a certain degree of assertiveness. Assertiveness training teaches assertive communication, and teaches people how to stand up for yourself, themselves, and those around them.
Techniques involved in assertiveness training include:
- The Fogging Technique
- Practicing Active Listening strategies
- Boosting confidence
- Upping self-esteem
- Positive and Negative Enquiry techniques
Expressing yourself and sticking up for your rights is empowering and something that most of us should do a lot more of. Here are 5 steps you can follow to help you be more assertive:
Step 1: Pick your battles
The first step to being assertive is working out what it is you actually want. Being assertive without an end-goal or simply all the time can be counterproductive. Spend some time thinking about what actually matters to you and focus your assertiveness towards achieving those things.
Step 2: Just say no
In the quest to be more assertive, the word “no” should be your best friend. Does a request conflict with your plans? No, I’ve already got plans. Workload already crammed? Sorry, I can’t do it. Just remember that it’s possible to be firm but also considerate.
Will some people be offended? Maybe, but don’t feel guilty about doing the right thing by you. It's all about looking after number one. Numero uno.
Step 3: Don't forget the importance of “I”
If you’re unhappy about someone's behaviour, shift the focus to how you feel by using the word "I" a lot more. For example, suppose your partner always arrives late. Instead of, "You're always late. You're selfish and inconsiderate.”, how about “I get very upset when you arrive late because I want to spend time with you."
Try not to make accusations or interpret the other person’s actions. That’ll just make them defensive.
Step 4: Being assertive is about you, not about “them”
Passive and aggressive people both think they’re responsible for how others feel or behave. An aggressive person assumes this responsibility by exerting their will through force. A passive person does it by submitting their will to the will of others even if it makes them unhappy.
Conversely, an assertive person recognises that they’re only responsible for how they behave and feel. Let others decide whether to be upset or offended. That’s their responsibility, not yours.
Step 5: You don’t have to justify your opinion/choices
When you make a decision or say something others don’t agree with, one way they’ll try to exert control is ask for justification. If you fail (in their eyes) to come up with a good enough reason, you’re supposed to go along with what they want. Some people feel obliged to explain or justify everything, even if it’s not asked for - essentially seeking permission to live their life the way they want. Don’t operate like that.
Follow these 5 steps and with a little bit of time and practice, you could be that person that people think of when they need something taken care of.