How can you be assertive without being aggressive? How can you preserve relationships with people without being too passive or submissive? A hard balance to strike! Some of us are too aggressive others are too submissive. Getting the balance right is not easy.
To the passive, assertiveness feels like being aggressive. You feel ashamed, guilty, flustered and upset. To the aggressive, just being moderately assertive feels like someone is takiing advantage of them.
How to think differently about assertiveness? We think of being assertive as expressing OUR needs, but we can reframe assertiveness as helping others meet their needs in a way that also meets ours. Fostering joint ownership of an issue is MUCH less adversarial and confrontational than focusing in a one-sided manner on our own needs.
Tips for enhancing your assertiveness
- You may think you're assertive just because you rant and rave at times.
- But maybe you give in a lot, kidding yourself that you're just being reasonable.
- So how can you say "no" to your boss or others without incurring their wrath?
- Say "Yes, but"... and find a way to help others get what they want without you doing it!
- Or...you negotiate priorities. Which crisis do they want handled first?
- A flat "no" is always confrontational even if not expressed aggressively
- Try saying ''Let me see how I can help you.'' Then advise them how to do it instead of taking it on yourself. Or suggest someone else.
- Being assertive just means speaking firmly about how you feel about a situation.
- It's less confrontational to refer to YOUR feelings rather than the other's behaviour.
- Arguing may be be experienced by the other party as an attack even if you speak gently.
- You can be assertive by asking questions - statements are more confrontational.
- To make a point, ask questions to lead the other party to your conclusions
- Emphasize areas of agreement before disussing differences to defuse conflict.
- Assertiveness...getting the words and the balance just right takes a lot of practice.
- Practice works best with frequent feedback from someone you trust.
- Be assertive to keep yourself from sliding into burnout due to excessive stress.
- The benefit for you is control over your priorities rather than being driven by demands you feel unable to manage.