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5 Ways to Be More Assertive
There’s a fine distinction between aggression and assertiveness. Aggression implies a pushy quality or semblance of hostility; assertion is asking for what you want – and what is your due – in a respectful manner. In asserting yourself, you show others where you stand on an issue, in a reasonable and calm manner. You try to influence, not coerce. You have a degree of confidence, but are not overbearing.
If you have a little trouble making that distinction – or if you are more often than not passive and find yourself stifling your own ideas and shelving your own needs when met with opposition – then perhaps it is time to consider how to be just a little more assertive.
1. Believe in yourself. The first step in becoming more assertive is to believe that you have something that no one else has. Every person has something to contribute – a talent, an insight, a perspective. Yours is no less valuable than another person’s. Once you recognize this, it will be easier for you to speak up for yourself. Extend the courtesy of listening to other people and being considerate of their needs; but ensure that they also give you the same courtesy and consideration.
2. Stop apologizing. While you are responsible for your actions, you are not responsible for other people’s reactions – it is not your duty to appease them. When working on something, every person must do their part. It is not always up to you; you needn’t assume their responsibility as well as yours. If something goes wrong, do not automatically assume the fault is yours. The first question is: did you do your part? If so, then you have nothing to apologize for. If you failed to do your part, then that is the only time that you should apologize – but when you do, do it once. Do not dwell on it. Do not blow it out of proportion. Do not castigate yourself unduly. Move immediately towards problem-solving. Show that you may have made the mistake, with good reason, but you also have the solution or back-up plan in place.
3. Use active rather than passive language. If you disagree with someone, do not start off with an apology, or saying “I’m sorry, but…” State your opinion matter-of-factly. “With all due respect, I disagree because…” is being assertive. You are using the active voice; you are coming from the “I.” Always begin from a place of equality – remember: your opinion and personal insight is just as valuable as the other person’s. No matter the difference in background or position, this other person is not “better” than you.
4. Accept credit when credit is due you. Know how to graciously accept thanks or compliments. Do not try to minimize what you have done, out of a sense of modesty. Do not say, “It was nothing,” because that statement diminishes both the act and the appreciation of the act. “It was only…” or “It was just…” are statements that also diminish you. It will reinforce the notion that you and your contribution need not be valued. Instead, you may say “Thank you, I am glad to be of help.” Be mindful as well of others’ contributions and learn to show reciprocal appreciation.
5. Meditate. It is easy to lose perspective, to lose confidence in oneself, or to be overwhelmed by challenges. It is easy to lose sight of one’s purpose and motivations. Meditation will help you stay calm, and be absolutely clear as to what you want and what you intend to do. You cannot repeat the same patterns and expect a new result – meditation will help you track your actions and alter your patterns. You realize: “This is what is. This is what was. This is what can be.” It will help you focus, keep you centered, and help you become open to possibilities.