Assertiveness comes from believing that you are equal to others (not better or worse, just equal) and you can communicate assertively from this position of equality. Clear communication and body language can help but it is difficult to change the message you give out without first changing how you feel about yourself.
The tips below will help you to find your own sense of equality, confidence and assertiveness. They build on the tips we first published in June last year.
1. Be clear on your boundaries
Think about what is important to you and where your boundaries are. What is really important and what are you prepared to compromise on? If you focus at this level you will maintain your sense of self and be able to negotiate on the details. You will know when to dig your heels in and when it’s OK to let go.
2. Focus on win-win solutions
It is important to understand the other person and what their values are. In an equal interaction both views are equally valid. What is most important to the other person and where are their boundaries?
3. Demonstrate empathy
Always acknowledge the other person’s point of view and/or emotional state BEFORE stating your own views and frustrations. Phrases like “I know it is important to you to……..” or “I can see you are frustrated by……..” demonstrate how you value the other person and see them as equal to yourself.
4. Be clear about your own needs
Let the other person know what is important to you and the outcome you would suggest.
Be as clear and direct as possible. It is always worth saying what you want, you never know the other person might agree!
5. Stay centred
Stay connected to yourself and your feelings. A great way to do this is to take deep diaphragmatic breaths and be very aware of your feet planted firmly on the ground.
As you do this you will notice that you feel calmer, talk more slowly and have more time to think.
6. Stay calm
From a position of balance it is much easier to choose how you react to things. If you find yourself getting upset or frustrated take more deep breaths and think before you say anything. What is making you emotional? Remember it is very important for the other person to be honest in order to move the situation forward, to do this they may say things that make you uncomfortable.
7. Mind your (body) language
Stay aware of your body. Remember that what we say with our body is far more important than anything we say with our worlds. Assertive people tend to be on the same physical level as the other person (sitting if they are sitting, standing if they are standing etc.), have open body language and use slow deliberate gestures with their hands to support what they are saying.
8. Slow down
Assertive people tend to speak in a slow considered manner which also gives them more time to think. If you slow down you will not only come across more assertively but you will also be able to choose the right words for the situation. Try and avoid sentences like “You always…..” or “I understand that, but…..” opt instead for “I feel that….” or “I appreciate that……”.
9. Ask for time
While you are practising assertiveness take the time you need to make the right decision or say the right thing. If you cannot think of an answer or feel uncomfortable then ask for the time you need. Expressions like “Let me think that through….” or “Can I take some time to reflect on what you’ve said…”.
10. Be your own Coach
As you start to notice yourself becoming more assertive, give yourself encouraging feedback. It’s amazing how saying “Well done you….” or “You are doing well…” to ourselves makes a difference. If you struggle try telling yourself “It’s OK, you are doing the best you can”. Try giving yourself permission to just try something new and notice what happens.
Talking with a coach is also a great way to explore what assertiveness means for you. Please contact us if you’d like to explore further.