Standing Up for Yourself: It’s Called Assertiveness


Are you tired of feeling like you always have to comply with what other people want, even when it doesn’t align with your needs or desires? Learning how to be assertive can be a game-changer when asserting your preferences and creating healthier relationships. 

Assertive communication may not be simple to adopt. People-pleasers, for instance, find it hard to say “no” to other people and tend to disregard their needs as long as the other party’s needs are fulfilled. 

Some situations make it harder to express your true opinions. You can train yourself to be more assertive. Commonly, assertive training focuses on improving people’s first-person communication and non-verbal behaviors and expressing their emotions, thoughts, and preferences decently.

This article will help you learn the basics of assertive communication. Let’s start by discussing the concept of assertiveness, looking at some examples, and understanding how it benefits an individual.

What is assertiveness?

Assertiveness is a communication style that involves appropriately expressing one’s thoughts, feelings, and boundaries while respecting the rights of others and considering the potential consequences of such expression. This communication style encompasses both positive and negative expressions and is geared toward achieving personal and/or instrumental goals.

Some comparisons must be highlighted inside the minds of assertive and non-assertive people. Assertive people believe that the social world is based on mutual empathy and upholding common goal achievements. Hence, they believe that even though people can differ because of certain traits, everyone deserves the same respectful treatment (Vagos & Pereira, 2010)

Meanwhile, non-assertive people are quite the opposite. They perceive that the social world is cold. They also believe that the only way to maintain a relationship is by allowing domination and control over oneself or others.

Also, non-assertive people can be categorized as passive or aggressive. Passive communication involves accepting events or the actions of others without resistance, often at the expense of expressing one’s thoughts, feelings, and needs (Maloney & Moore, 2020).

 On the other hand, aggressive communication is characterized by personal attacks, blaming, or criticizing, which can be intimidating and threatening. Emotional outbursts often accompany this style of communication. The difference with assertive communication style is that aggressive people are more careless when it comes to considering the rights and needs of others.

How to be more assertive

This section will explore concrete examples of assertive behavior that can help you communicate more effectively and confidently.

Here are the six ways to saying “No” assertively, according to Dr. Trevor J. Powell:

The Direct ‘No’

If someone asks you to do something you’re uncomfortable with, simply say no without apologizing. For instance, if your boss asks you to work overtime and you have other commitments, you can say, “No, I won’t be able to work overtime today.”

The Reflecting ‘No’

This technique involves acknowledging the request and the feelings behind it before declining assertively. For example, if your friend invites you to a party, but you don’t feel like going, you can say, “I know you’re excited about the party, but I won’t be able to make it.”

The Reasoned ‘No’ 

With this technique, you provide a brief and genuine reason for why you cannot comply with the request. For instance, if your co-worker asks you to cover their shift, but you have a doctor’s appointment, you can say, “I’m sorry, I can’t cover your shift because I have a doctor’s appointment at that time.”

The Broken Record ‘No’

This technique involves calmly repeating your refusal without getting defensive or aggressive. For example, suppose your friend keeps insisting that you go to a party with them, but you’re not interested. In that case, you can calmly say, “I appreciate the invitation, but I won’t be able to make it,” several times without engaging in a debate or argument.

The Raincheck ‘No’

This technique allows you to say ‘no’ to a request in the present moment but leaves the possibility of saying ‘yes’ in the future. For example, if your cousin invites you to dinner, but you already have plans, you can say, “I can’t come to dinner tonight, but I’d love to schedule something for next week.”

The Enquiring ‘No’

This technique involves exploring alternative ways to meet the request while maintaining your boundaries. For instance, if your friend asks you to lend them money, but you’re not comfortable with it, you can say, “I’m not able to lend you money, but is there anything else I can do to help?”

Practicing verbal skills 

Assertive individuals utilize a communication style that involves a confident and calm tone, a smooth and consistent pace, and a warm and genuine timbre that is neither too high nor too low. They also adjust their volume accordingly based on the situation, avoiding being too loud or soft. Furthermore, assertive individuals incorporate certain phrases into their communication that reflect their self-assured and respectful demeanor:

Phrases that start with “I”

An assertive person would rephrase a statement like, “You constantly interrupt me” to “I feel frustrated when I am interrupted.” By framing the issue using “I” statements, the individual takes responsibility for their emotions and avoids attributing blame or making accusations toward the other party.

Collaborative language

An assertive person would say, “What are your thoughts on how we can handle this project?”. This encourages a collaborative atmosphere to foster trust among team members.

Phrases that express a strong interest or enthusiasm

An assertive person would say, “I would love to be involved in planning the event” to show interest and readiness to contribute.

Distinction between opinions and facts

For example, saying “My experience is different” instead of “You’re wrong,” signifies that the speaker acknowledges people may have different perspectives and avoids getting into an argument or power struggle.

Constructive criticism

For example, instead of saying “You should do it this way,” an assertive person might say “How about we try doing it this way?” This phrasing allows for flexibility and collaboration.

How does being assertive improve well-being?

After learning the concept of assertiveness and looking at the daily examples, this article will now show you some notable benefits of communicating assertively to benefit your well-being.

Better self-control

The more people find it difficult to express themselves, the more stressed they feel. By applying assertiveness in daily life, their needs are better addressed, granting them a sense of control. This allows them to have better psychological adjustments when they are in conflict situations.

Better regulation of negative emotions

The APA Dictionary states that a lack of assertiveness can lead to despair and anxiety. One study found that assertiveness is inversely related to depression. The more assertive people are, the less depressed they tend to be. 

Also, several studies have suggested that improving assertiveness skills can lead to better psychological well-being. A recent study by Abdelaziz, et al. (2020) found a significant positive correlation between assertiveness and psychological well-being. This study showed that individuals with better assertive communication skills were able to reduce the intensity of negative emotions, especially when exposed to stressful work environments.

Better self-confidence

Assertiveness is often perceived as a behavior that affects how individuals interact with others, but it is also closely associated with their feelings and emotions. 

According to one study, adolescents who experienced anxiety in expressing positive feelings were less likely to assert themselves in social situations. Hence, comfortably expressing their positive emotions should help them feel more confident.

Better health maintenance

Developing assertiveness skills can help individuals avoid engaging in health-risk behaviors, such as alcoholism and drug abuse. Research has shown that people may struggle with resisting peer pressure to engage in these behaviors, but assertiveness can be an effective tool for overcoming this pressure and helping people to live healthier.

In conclusion

Assertiveness is about communication with confidence and respect. You have learned the concept, now you can experiment with which “No” fits you best or which verbal skill you would like to practice. By developing assertiveness, you can be better at self-mastery and emotion regulation. Doing so allows you to become an effective communicator and a stronger advocate for yourself and others.

If you would like to see more resources on assertiveness, check out the Wellbeing Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Wellbeing Science Labs today.

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