“If you don’t communicate assertively, you will forever be at the mercy of others.” – Brian Tracy
Growing up, I struggled with speaking up for myself and often found myself accommodating others to avoid conflict. It wasn’t until I realized the power of assertive communication that I was able to confidently express myself and stand up for what I wanted.
Do not be accommodating, attacking, or avoiding in your conversations. Be direct: When you communicate assertively, you’re not being a pushover, nor are you being aggressive or passive. Instead, you’re being clear and direct about what you want to say. This means avoiding apologizing or using weak language, but also not attacking the other person or avoiding the conversation altogether.
On saying no…assertively: Many of us have a hard time saying “no” because we don’t want to disappoint others or be seen as unhelpful. But saying “no” can actually be a sign of assertiveness, because it shows that you have boundaries and priorities. To say “no” assertively, you can be polite and acknowledge the importance of the person asking, admit your own shortcomings in being able to meet their request, state your current priorities, and detail if needed. It’s important not to backtrack, as it will appear contradictory.
Create and learn rules to use when asserting yourself: Rules are a great way to help you assert yourself more effectively. They can be personal rules that you create for yourself, such as “I have a rule that I never drink alcohol and never go to bars,” or they can be rules that you follow in certain situations, such as “I don’t do work meetings after 5pm or on weekends” or “I don’t eat meals before 1pm.” By having these rules in place, you can feel more confident in asserting yourself and explaining why you can’t or won’t do something.
Come prepared with alternatives: If you can’t or won’t do something, it’s helpful to have alternatives ready to suggest. This shows that you’re willing to work towards a solution, even if it’s not the one that the other person initially suggested. For example, if someone asks you to attend a meeting on a day you can’t make it, you can suggest a different day or propose a phone call instead.
Practice, practice, practice: Like any skill, assertive communication takes practice. Start small by asserting yourself in low-risk situations, and gradually work your way up to more challenging conversations. This could mean speaking up in a meeting or setting boundaries with a friend or family member. Over time, you’ll become more comfortable with asserting yourself, and it will become a natural part of your communication style.
By using these tips, you can improve your assertive communication skills and become more confident in expressing yourself and standing up for what you believe in.
Interested in improving your communication skills? Check out my 12-week accountability coaching program to learn more.