Becoming More Assertive

KSL Television ~ Studio 5� 

Do you ever feel like a doormat – that you just canââ?¬Ë?t stand up for yourself? Do you find yourself saying “Yes,” when you really mean “Heck, No!” Not knowing how to be assertive can cause you to feel depressed, manipulated, helpless, hopeless, and resentful. And that is certainly no way to live.

We can all think of at least one person within the last week with whom being honest with was a near-impossible task – perhaps a spouse, boss, in-law, or child. We were either passive – where we avoided saying what we wanted in order to avoid conflict at all costs; or we were aggressive – where all the bottled feelings came bursting out,Ã? bringing allÃ? communication to a screeching hault.

We often confuse assertion with aggression. But they are not one in the same. AssertivenessÃ? is win-win; aggressiveness is win-lose. (“I win, you lose…and so doesÃ? anybody else whoÃ? standsÃ? in my way!”) When we become more assertive (not aggressive) our communication at home, work, and school improves and we command a greater respect from others. There is a lot of truth to the saying that “we teach others how to treat us.” The more important the relationship is to you, the more important it is to be assertive. Afterall, assertiveness is really just another word for “truth.”

I’ve listed a few things to help us out with becoming more assertive and command more of that respect:

Sometimes we just need to change our “tude.” Assertiveness is an attitude – it’s a way of relating to the world, backed by effective communication skills. We need to have the attitude that we are of worth and have a right to enjoy life, while equally valuing others’ opinions and rights to life enjoyment. Have the attitude that conflict is welcome – that you can negotiate and give-and-take. Maintain a positive, optimistic outlook.

We say a lot even when we say nothing; it’s all in the non-verbal communication.Ã? The way we hold ourselves impacts how we are perceived and treated. Assertive people usually stand upright but relaxed, looking others calmly in the eyes, with open hands. In front of a mirror, try different types of posturing and body language as you imagine being the passive victim (with hunched shoulders and poor eye contact), the aggressor (with clenched fists and jaw, and glaring eye contact), and the assertive individual. The next time you talk to someone, try to watch yourself: Where are you looking? What is your body position? Is your voice clear and confident?

Communication is an important part of assertiveness – it’s the content and delivery that matters. Be honest with yourself about your own feelings and use “I” statements, versus “everyone” or “we.” Stay with the issue at hand without getting side-tracked or bringing in other situations you’re upset about. Listen to the other person’s point of view and objections to make certain that your message is clear.Ã? Keep in mindÃ? the 5 C’s: Be calm, cool, clear, considerate, and clarify your point so your message cannot be misunderstood, and ask the other party for clarification, as well.

It’s proven that being assertive can actually make us more happy. Psychologists at Wake Forests University led the study claiming that simply behaving in a bold manner can make you happy. Their research supports the idea that any extrovert behavior has a positive impact on your mood. Now, it’s certainly not the only way to happiness but it is a much neglected way of achieving a positive self-image. Every single student in the study reported being happier when he or she acted extroverted versus introverted; i.e., singing aloud, freestyle dancing, or mustering up the courage to approach someone they found attractive. The moods of the students were boosted for some time after the event or action. Make a concerted effort to be more extrovert; sing in the car or shower, dance to some music or approach others to initiate a conversation. Practice being more talkative or assertive – voice your opinion or ask more questions.

We have many interests. But there is a big difference between being interested in and being committed to something.Ã? For example, I claim to really be interested in a 6:00 AM exercise program, but IÃ? often fail to get up and follow through.Ã? Ã? It finally occured to me that I more even more committed to getting my rest than I am to exercise. So if I’m up past midngiht working on a deadline, I prefer sleep over exercise in that 6 o’clock hour. Commitment provokes action (sleeping in) and action produces a result (more sleep/no exercise). I either need to shift my commitment from sleep to fitness or find a new time of day where this commitment rings true for me. Below are four quick questionsÃ? to rate your level of commitment, whether it beÃ? exercising or writing a book. Just fill in the blank with your desired goal and see if it holds water:

1) I chose to ______ over other things.

2) I find a way to _____ when obstacles arise.

3) I ____ even when others don’t support or value it.

4) I feel something is missing if I can’t _____.

Bottom line: You will produce the result you are committed to producing. If you don’t like the result you are getting, then you must take a rigorous and honest look at the real commitments leading to that end result. Be assertive with yourself and others!