Five Tips to Improve Assertiveness

     Assertive behavior can be tricky. There's a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive. Many people get them confused. Assertiveness is about voicing your wants, rights, and needs while being considerate of others' wants, rights, and needs. You must balance these issues. Plus, when you are assertive, you draw your strength from within yourself in order to get your point across. Aggressive behaviors, on the other hand, are selfish, seek to take power from others, and disregard others' rights and needs.
     Being assertive has great benefits. By understanding who you are, and the values you hold, as well as the skills you can offer to others, you become more self-confident. By treating others with fairness and respect, you will receive those in return. You are willing to compromise without giving up your values or forcing someone else to give up theirs.Therefore, you are a better problem-solver. This leads to being a better "doer." You will get things done because you aren't stuck on problems or problematic behaviors. Assertive people also tend to be less stressed and anxious because they can stand their ground when things don't go as planned.
     So how do you become more assertive? The trick is to find the balance between being passive and being aggressive. Here are five tips to help you become a more assertive person:
     1. Understand Yourself - Know what values you hold in high esteem, and which you are willing or not willing to compromise. Know your skill sets and the values you bring to the table. Know what your rights, needs, and wants are so you can get them met. You must be willing to voice your rights, needs, and wants. Don't expect others to read your mind. Also, consider others and their values - ask if you don't know! Always remember, you are worth it - being treated with dignity and respect - and so are the others on your team.
     2. Express Yourself in a Positive Way and Accept Others' Behaviors - It's important to say what is on your mind in a constructive and empathetic way. Stand up for those things in which you believe, and be willing to challenge others. Anger is okay, so long as you remember to control your emotions and behaviors, and to stay respectful. You can only control your reactions, not the behaviors others exhibit, so focus on that when things get heated. Stay calm, respectful, and in control.
     3. Be Open to Criticism - Not everyone is going to agree with you, and that's okay. Be open to their criticisms, ideas, and compliments. If you disagree, remain respectful and polite when replying. Be gracious when others compliment your work, and give sincere compliments when they do their parts.
    4. Say "No" - This is probably one of the toughest parts of assertiveness. You need to know your limits and how much you can handle. You can't please everyone, and the more you take on, the less quality your work will become. Learn to manage your tasks by setting limits and sticking to them. 
     5. Use Assertiveness Techniques - First, always be empathetic - consider the other person's rights, wants, and needs, and the reason they are approaching you. Use "I" statements to take responsibility for your statements and behaviors, and to avoid blaming others. Be willing to ask for more time. Express and clarify expectations. Be willing to pursue a matter. On that note, be willing to repeat "No" when others keep coming to you for more (especially if you've been a people-pleaser prior to these skills). 

     Change won't come overnight. Being assertive is a moment-to-moment choice, although it does come easier the more you practice. Work on building your confidence and positive self-esteem. And always remember: YOU ARE WORTH IT.

(Adapted from How To Be Assertive on Mindtools,


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