Being assertive is something you may normally consider confident people do naturally. If you are trying to improve your confidence, then assertiveness training could really help you. Learning to act and speak in a more assertive way could help you overcome several obstacles in your life such as shyness, low self esteem and a lack of confidence.
What is assertiveness exactly?
Some mistakenly think that being assertive means being pushy or selfish in order to get your own way but this is not true and is an extremely misguided view. Assertive behaviour is positive and will bring you results in your dealings with others. Not being assertive is one way to cultivate low confidence, self esteem and worse. If you are an assertive person you will be confident to stand up and be counted, you will put your opinion forward and stand by it. You will not be quiet and go ignored. Normally because of the perceived risk involved in expressing yourself openly like this rather than keeping quiet means you need a certain level of confidence. If you want to conquer shyness or become more effective socially you need to be more assertive. Simply put, assertiveness is asking for what you want or speaking up for yourself when you feel strongly that you have something to say.
Why is being assertive important to you?
- Relationships – expressing your feelings and being able to ask what you want means you will be happier in your relationships and this is more likely to make for a happier partner.
- Career – those who are passive at work are often undervalued and ignored for promotion. It is those who put themselves forward and ask for responsibility that are given it. Being more assertive will bring you better opportunities and more job satisfaction. For example, when giving a presentation a certain level of confidence is needed but if you are passive and avoid opportunities to speak in public, you will be overlooked or ignored.
- Family – it is important to compromise whether you are a son, daughter or parent but it is also important to be assertive in decisions where you need to state what you want. Women are especially in need of being more assertive or the demands on them can be unbearable.
- Friendships – any friendship should be on an equal footing. When one person starts to demand too much of the other it is time to reassess that friendship. Being assertive and telling your friend honestly what you think is very important and being passive can make you very unhappy.
- Success and ambitions – if you set yourself any goal you will need to be assertive with others who may try to dissuade you or stand in your way. Again, being assertive just means declaring your intention to do something and claiming your right to be what you want to be.
- Self esteem – if you are passive and feel that you have not spoken up for yourself in any situation, not only may you lose out but you will feel terrible inside. This feeling may even cause you to lose confidence and if it continues could even lead to depression.
Assertiveness is a positive quality! Beware though, some will tell you being assertive is being selfish. Not so. As long as your assertiveness does not hurt anyone else and as long as you state your wishes calmly and confidently you are not acting selfishly. You have a right to be yourself and do what you feel is right for you. Selfishness is when you don’t care about others, only yourself. What being assertive is all about is respect for yourself and this will also reflect outwards as you begin to respect others as having equal rights as you.
How to be more assertive
One of the most important milestones in becoming more assertive is to learn to say no. People are often misguided into thinking that saying no may come off as selfish or rude. There are certain situations in which it is not only okay to say no, but it is necessary. Sometimes, you have to stand your ground, and make the boundaries clear, and you do not have to be aggressive or rude to do that. It can be as simple as saying something like “I’m sorry but I won’t be able to join you, I’ve had a really long day and I need some time to recharge”.
Being assertive can be challenging, particularly if you are the type of person who likes to please others. I refer to this as the guilt factor, which I believe is the main difference between the more assertive among us and those who are not assertive. When being assertive or saying no, those who face the guilt factor may think to themselves things like “I’m such a bad friend” or “I’m so lazy, I really should get out”. Those who have overcome the guilt factor on the other hand are able to say, without doubting themselves, that what they are doing is justified for their own well being, for instance “I deserve to have a bit of alone time for self-reflection”. See the difference? By replacing negative thoughts based around guilt with positive mantra which acknowledges your self worth and your own needs as well as others, you can pave the way to a more balanced and assertive lifestyle rather than one which is based on pleasing everyone else but yourself.
Recommended resources and further reading
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There are some excellent books and courses out there that can help you become more assertive and really take control of your life. If you are interested in becoming more assertive and reaping the benefits that you will find as a result then I highly suggest that you get this excellent self-hypnosis program which will transform your life for the better:
Below are some of my favourite books and articles on assertiveness. If you are interested in learning more, check them out.
The Assertiveness Workbook (Randy J. Patterson) – effective, cognitive behavioral techniques to help you become more assertive. Learn how to set and maintain personal boundaries without becoming inaccessible!
Your Perfect Right – Assertiveness and Equality in Your Life and Relationships (Robert E. Alberti) – assertiveness training book to help you develop more effective self-expression with detailed procedures, examples, and exercises.