Powerful Habits That Can Help You Become More Assertive
If you’re shy or reserved, don’t fret. You can ask for what you need and get what you want, while still being polite. Here’s an easy guide to help you overcome your fear of confrontation, build self-confidence, and be more assertive.
By Adarsh Soni
You don’t like the idea of being vocally adamant for something, you run away from arguments, and have a constant fear that you’re still going to end up disappointing your peers. You spend most of your time trying to please others but end up feeling frustrated because you’re not getting what you really want. Does any of this sound familiar? Or perhaps it’s more compartmentalised—you have a perfectly healthy relationship with your family at home but as soon as you go to office, you tap into your submissive side and can’t seem to deny extra workload, or ask for a raise that you know that you deserve.
In a society that expects professionals to be assertive by default, some people find it hard to follow suit. But you must know that being assertive doesn’t directly translate to being more loud or forceful, instead, you need to focus on building your self confidence and finding your own voice. This will help you become more decisive, strong-willed, and self-assured.
But how can one be more assertive without being rude or pushy? We spoke to Dr C Manjula Rao, clinical psychologist, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad seeking answers. And here they are.
What Is Assertiveness?
The fact that assertiveness often gets mistaken for aggression makes it hard to truly identify assertive behaviour. Before moving forward, let’s separate the two thoughts to make things easier to understand.
When you’re assertive, you are assured within yourself and derive power from your self confidence to get your point across. “You are firm about what you want but you still care about how others feel. You empathise with their struggles,” says Dr Rao.
When you’re aggressive, you do what you want without any regard for what others think or want. “In this case, you get your power from a sense of selfishness and often appear as an unnecessarily dominant figure, or even a bully,” she adds.
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What are the benefits of being assertive?
Helps you form healthy boundaries: By communicating assertively, you can express your emotions without any inhibitions and use these feelings to set up healthy boundaries.
Helps build trust: People are more likely to trust you when they know you’ll give direct answers. “Vagueness caused due to passive communication can prove harmful to your relationships—be it professional or personal,” says Dr Rao.
Prevents stress: Passive communication prevents you from stating your needs and sticking to your boundaries. This usually leads to stress and you are left feeling anxious and burned out. This won’t happen if you’re clear about your wants and needs.
Helps prevent conflict: Expressing your opinion honestly helps you avoid passive- aggressiveness. “If you act assertively, there will be no room for resentment and bitterness,” says Dr Rao.
Strengthens your relationships: “When you feel comfortable asserting yourself in a healthy manner, you’re more likely to develop relationships with people who respect your needs and feel safe expressing their own thoughts,” she adds.
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How to be more assertive?
According to Dr Rao, assertiveness is a personality trait that people often acquire naturally. However, there are some easy ways to make it a part of your daily life. Here are some measures she recommends:
Learn how to value yourself: Before demanding respect from your peers, you must learn how to respect yourself. This is the basis of self-confidence and assertive behaviour. “It will help you recognise that you deserve to be treated with dignity and will give you the confidence to stick up for your rights,” says Dr Rao.
Voice your needs without hesitating: If you’re used to someone else taking the lead and telling you what’s good for you—it’s time to change that. “This step is more about taking initiative and identifying what you really want,” she says.
Know that you can’t control others: If you’ve been submissive or passive for a long time then the people around you might not be too thrilled about your newfound assertiveness. How they react is not in your hands but you must hold your ground.
Be open to criticism: Understand that people won’t react positively to everything that you do. If they offer valuable criticism, accept it and use it for your own benefit. “But if someone is trying to get a reaction out of you, prepare to take a stand for yourself without getting defensive or aggressive,” says Dr Rao.
Learn how to say No: This is the simplest yet most effective way of being more assertive. It’s hard to say no sometimes but remember that you can’t possibly do everything people ask for, so it’s important that you protect your time by saying “no” when necessary.
Make changes to the way you communicate: “Starting your statements with “I” helps you focus on your needs and feelings, rather than assuming those of others,” says Dr Rao. Similarly, use assertive verbs like “will” instead of “could”, “want” instead of “need,” and “choose to” instead of “have to”.
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