UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you might find it really helpful to learn about assertive communication. Read on…
We’ve developed some information to help you learn about your communication style and the importance of being assertive in your interactions. If you feel like you need to talk to someone about your struggles with developing an assertive mindset, feel free to set up an appointment Counseling Services. We can help by being a listening ear and support you through this process.
Assertiveness is the ability to honestly express your opinions, feelings, attitudes, and rights, without undue anxiety, in a way that doesn't infringe on the rights of others.
If you don't know how to be assertive, you might experience -
Most people find it easier to be assertive in some situations than in others. This makes perfect sense. It's a lot easier to hold your ground with a stranger than with someone you love who might get angry if you express your true feelings. But the more important the relationship is to you, the more important it is to be assertive. Assertive behaviors lead to increased respect from others, their willingness to see you as a person who respects him/herself, a worthwhile person, a more lovable person!
Before you decide to act assertively in a given situation, you have to decide if you can live with the consequences. Although assertive behavior usually will result in a positive response, some people might react negatively to it. For example, if your boss is completely unreasonable and is known to go ballistic if anyone dares question his orders, even non-aggressive, respectful, assertive behavior might set him off and you could lose your job. If that's your situation, then you may decide you can't afford to be assertive, and learn other stress management techniques.
If you're planning to try assertive behavior, remember that the other person is used to your behaving in a certain way, and may be thrown for a loop or thoroughly confused when you change your communication style. Why not tell the other person up front what you're trying to do? It helps to choose a peaceful moment for this. Then you might say something like:
"I need to tell you something and I'd like you to hear me out before you comment. I've noticed lately that after we've been working on a project together, I find myself feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. I've been thinking about it and I've realized that I often go along with your ideas, without insisting on considering some of my ideas as well, because I'm afraid of upsetting you. From now on I'm going to try something different. When I start to get those frustrated feelings, I'm going to ask that we stop before making a final decision and be sure we have considered all the options. I know that will be a change for you, but I really think it's fair and I know I'll do a better job and feel better about myself if I can tell you about my ideas." How can anyone argue with that statement?
One of the most common problems in communications 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 nicely. Do you remember the self-efficacy part from the beginning of this piece? The belief that if you do something in a particular way, you will be effective? Even if you don't believe that now, but you muster your courage and try some of these techniques in situations that are not hugely threatening, the results will probably be so encouraging that you will begin to believe in your effectiveness. If it's really scary to think about being assertive, try it first with people you don't know. Think of someone you know who is assertive and pretend you are that person. Once you become comfortable with assertive behaviors in less threatening situations, you can crank it up a notch and use it all the time. When assertiveness becomes a habit, you will wonder how you ever got along before you started using it. The nicest thing about all of this is that after you've become truly assertive, you probably won't need to use these techniques very much. As people practice assertive communication, you can almost see that little spark of self-respect glimmer, flicker, take hold, and burst into flame. People can sense it when you respect yourself, and they will treat you with respect. And that is the ultimate goal of assertive communication.
This handout was created by Vivian Barnette, Ph.D., University of Iowa
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Page updated Summer 2017 by Mark Huttemier, MA, LPC. Mark is a Personal Counselor in Student Health and Counseling at University of Wisconsin – River Falls