Tips to Improve your Assertiveness

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Tips to Improve your Assertiveness
Raza Usmani, ICT Consultant, Pakistan, Member
Do you recognize the feeling: "When I say NO, I feel guilty..."?
According to Revelle College, UC San Diego,
“One of the most common problems in communication is caused by trying to read people's minds or expecting them to read yours. If you want people to respond to your ideas and needs, you have to be able to say what they are, and say it in a way that will make others want to respond appropriately”.

Assertiveness is the ability to present one’s opinion positively, deal with conflicts sensibly and rationally when they occur while balancing one’s own needs with the needs of others.

Below I share some ideas and techniques to improve your assertiveness skills and also help others to express themselves in a more assertive way.:
  1. The very first and most important in all is: Remain calm under pressure.
  2. Develop personal strategies to cope with stressful situations (instead of accepting all tasks and projects irrespective of priorities and workload).
  3. Understand your own limitations and openly discuss problems and do not adopt body language or a voice level that conveys aggressiveness or submissiveness.
  4. Manage the magnitude of work and ask for help where needed. Do not accept inappropriate workload without even asking for assistance.
  5. Don't be obsessive about your own views and opinions and don't defend these to the end without considering others.
  6. Present your ideas directly and sensitively.
  7. Do not withdraw from situations when facing opposition or accept the point of views of others without questioning.
  8. Adjust your body language and voice, carefully choosing words, to meet the needs of the situation.
  9. Learn to say ‘NO’ and to refuse opportunities without feeling you are offending the other person.
I would appreciate your views on assertiveness...

Some Good Definitions of Assertive Communication / Assertiveness
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Assertive communication means to be able to express your opinion freely and without hesitating about what others might think. It is a particular mode of communication in the form of behavior characterized by a confident affirmation or declaration of a statement or a point of view of a person without being aggressive in anyway.

Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. In the field of psychology and psychotherapy, it is a learnable skill and mode of communication.

Assertiveness is a form of behavior characterized by a confident declaration or affirmation of a statement without need of proof; this affirms the person's rights or point of view without either aggressively threatening the rights of another (assuming a position of dominance) or submissively permitting another to ignore or deny one's rights or point of view.

How to Ask for Something Assertively
  • Be clear about what you want before you ask for it.
  • Avoid apologizing (like saying: "I'm sorry to ask you this, but...")
  • Be confident. Don't use tentative phrases like "Could you possibly...?"
  • Keep it short, simple and to the point.
  • Sound positive and expect to get "yes" for an answer.

To be Assertive, be Brief
Javier Elenes, Business Consultant, Mexico, Member
My tip is JUST SAY WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY, but say it in a short sentence - just like the subject in a memo.
I remember giving this tip to a Human Resources Director who was not communicating well and had the tendency to speak as if he was lecturing. We were in a Quartely Results meeting and when he began to speak he babled and started by saying something like "I don't know how to tell what I want to tell you..”. I asked him to just tell me what you want to tell me in a short way like the subject of a memo.

Fundamental Personal Rights and Assertiveness
Roozbehkh, Entrepreneur, Australia, Member
Before focusing too much and techniques on how to be assertive, I recommend to answer this question for yourself: what are my essential rights? What are the things that I should be able to express without having to explain to others?
Here are some examples of such fundamental personal rights:
  • I have the right to choose and decide as long as I save the same right for others and I am responsible for my choices.
  • My feelings and emotions are no one's business as I have no business to judge others’ emotions.
  • I have the right to make mistakes as long as it is responsible and doesn't harm others.
  • I have the right to plan my time.
  • I have the right to ask people to do something as long as it is not manipulative, forceful and saves the right for them to say no.
  • I have the right to ask questions if I can't understand something and not accept anything until I fully understand the consequences.

Clarifying the True Meaning of Assertiveness
Armando Martinez Merino, Manager, Mexico, Member
We should try to treat assertiveness objectively, as it often seems to be confused with condescension.
This approach avoids touching the extremes, especially those that eventually border on submission. It offers a serene but balanced vision.

Assertiveness: Knowing You are not your Feelings
Ivy Balopi, Entrepreneur, Botswana, Member
Assertiveness is also the ability to differentiate the ‘matter’ from the person. Being assertive is accepting that you are ‘enough’ and others are equally ‘enough’ and what ever is the ‘matter’ should not add or subtract from anyone of you.

Appreciating Individual Opinions on Assertive Communication!
Rasheedah shuaibu, Student (Other), Nigeria, Member
Thanks for bringing up this interesting and educative topic for discussion.. I must say I have learned a lot from people's opinions on assertive communication!

Be Assertive Without being Perceived as Arrogant
Henry Osehimolen, Management Consultant, Nigeria, Member
Sometimes the line between assertiveness and arrogance is fine, due to the wrong body language. In an attempt to hold your ground over an issue conscious effort should be applied to avoid a misrepresentation of your stance not to be perceived as being confrontational.

More Tips on Assertiveness
Roozbehkh, Entrepreneur, Australia, Member
  1. Use active sentences instead of passive sentences: instead of saying to your employee "these must finished by the evening", say "please finish these by the evening".
  2. Know when someone is trying to manipulate you to something. Sometimes you should only repeat a simple request or reject something plainly, specially when the long term relationship is less important. For example, if someone is trying to sell you something that you don't need and you probably won't have to deal with him or her in the future a "No thank you" is all you have to say and if necessary repeat. Don't try to explain the reasons as some people will use it against you.
  3. Eye contact: we know this is important. If your are shy, try using the @triangle technique.
  4. Before rejecting an important thing, (briefly) express sympathy: “I understand your situation... But I can't give you the money.”
  5. Practice simple and direct sentences. We tend to use unnecessary words when trying to hide an unpleasant meaning in a sentence.

Triangle Technique for Eye Contact
Jaap de Jonge, Editor, Netherlands
Eye contact can portray warmth, trustworthiness, and self-confidence. But too much eye contact may lead to some levels of discomfort on behalf of both the sender and the recipient. In order to avoid this, you might try the triangle technique for eye contact:
  • Draw an imaginary inverted triangle ( ▽ ) on the other person’s face connecting his/her eyes and mouth.
  • During the conversation, change your gaze every 5 to 10 seconds from one point on the triangle to another.

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