Due to popular demand, I’m writing some articles over the next few weeks on assertiveness, confidence and self-esteem. This one is concerned with the art of being assertive without becoming aggressive. From my experience, the majority of people who want to be more assertive are scared to do so because they do not want to come across as aggressive. The most important thing to remember if you feel like this is that you are actually a really nice person and it’s really unlikely that some aggressive side of your character is going to appear. If you weren’t nice, you wouldn’t be bothered whether people took you as aggressive or not.
Below are 10 tips that can help you be more assertive:
- Meet the person at their level – standing, sitting etc.
- Speak at a similar volume to the other person, if you are trying to make a point, then it is ok to speak slightly louder – just don’t overdo it. If you are both shouting then it’s probably not going to be a great conversation – postpone it until you have both calmed down.
- If you are not clear about what you want to say or achieve by this conversation then politely request it be undertaken at a later time or date.
- If you can, spend some time thinking about a positive outcome for you both, before you meet with the person. Otherwise use no.3 above and use the time in between to do this. It is important not to spend too long thinking about all the possible outcomes, simply be open to the possibility of a positive outcome for both parties.
- If you need some extra confidence, then think about your body language: steepling is a great way to feel confident… press only the tips of your fingers together in a kind of prayer position – thumb to thumb, index finger to index finger etc. There are other variations of this that you will easily find in a google search.
- Feelings are really important – most people are capable of spotting when they are beginning to feel angry, so be aware of how you are feeling. If you notice yourself becoming angry, aggressive or even despondent, then remember you have the option to stop the conversation and continue at another time. Sometimes the clue is that your words don’t come out easily – like there is something stopping you explain yourself clearly. If you can relax and continue then that’s fantastic.
- Saying No – if you are asked to do something that is in the future, a quick way to know your true answer is to consider what you would say if it was happening now (supposing you have the time free). For other questions or requests, remember that there is no benefit in doing something for someone if you do not have the time or skills to complete it. People respect you far more for saying a polite “I’d love to help you but I really don’t have time right now, if I get done here I’ll come and help”, than they do if you say Yes all the time and then don’t have time to deliver on your promises. Remember that people take the line of least resistance, if they find someone who will always say yes, then that person goes top of the list for everything. Think of people you know who do that and then consider what your feelings about them are… Do you want people to think that way of you?
- Find someone who you see as Assertive and then begin to think about what it is they do that makes them come across as assertive. How do they sound, what do they say, how do they stand, etc. If appropriate, ask them what they think about it.
- Start small and gain experience – maybe you could simply ask someone who you would not normally if they can get you a coffee from the machine etc. Small triumphs along the way are really helpful, especially if you don’t want to jump in at the deep end and go and ask your boss for a raise just yet!
- Celebrate how far you have come – becoming assertive takes time and balance, so celebrate the achievements and the journey you have undertaken to date. Continue this process and don’t be afraid to make mistakes – if necessary you can apologise! Often the truth will help you gain the person’s trust and respect, so tell them you are learning to be assertive and any feedback is much appreciated – good or bad. You may even find you make allies in people you wouldn’t have normally turned to for help.
Ultimately, this takes time, as does any process of change. I have seen and helped many people become more assertive and find the courage to say no, when appropriate. It’s worth the hard work to feel happier about yourself and know that you can meet any situation with the right balance of assertiveness and confidence.