How To Be More Assertive - Mark Bowden - Complete Guide

How To Be More Assertive

News

Jan 11
how to be more assertive
Reading Time: 12 minutes

Being assertive means standing up for yourself and being direct about your wants, needs, feelings, and beliefs. Being assertive is not the same thing as being rude. In fact, assertiveness is a communication skill that allows you to impose your will in a way that’s respectful of the views and beliefs of others.

Assertive people are self-confident, and they can usually better at maintaining good relationships with those around them, whether they’re interacting with family, friends, or coworkers.

In the following article, I’m going to explain how you can become more assertive and how hypnosis can improve this communication skill.

Assertiveness – The Balance Between Being Passive Or Aggressive

Assertiveness means being present in your relationships. Assertive people are able to communicate their wants and needs to other people while still welcoming the others’ wants and needs at the same time.

Being assertive is starkly different from being passive or aggressive. Passive people support others in their wants and needs but fail to impose their own thoughts and wishes.

On the other hand, aggressive people push everyone else over to impose their wishes. This often makes them come off as being rude. Both passive and aggressive people are emotionally drained at times, the passive ones because they fail to impose their views, the aggressive ones because they always have to fight other people to impose theirs.

Assertiveness teaches us to advocate for ourselves in proactive and positive ways. Being assertive means being clear, direct, and honest about what you want without hurting the feelings of those around you.

being more assertive will help you at work

Assertive people can express their views in a professional way even when they’re under a lot of stress

The Difference Between Assertiveness, Passivity, And Aggressiveness

The best way to explain the difference between assertiveness, passivity, and aggressiveness is putting all of them into context.

Let’s say your boss makes some nasty comments over your performance review. Passive people would swallow their feelings and become resentful, which will damage their self-confidence in the long run, along with boosting their stress and anxiety.

Aggressive people would stand up for themselves, but they might do a poor job of it. They might accuse one of their coworkers for the weak performance, or they might even throw some hard words at their boss, endangering their position. Being aggressive is also a sure way of boosting your anxiety and stress levels.

Now, some people are passive-aggressive, so they might give their boss the silent treatment or avoid their bosses to express their disapproval.

Assertive people will face their boss and explain their position in a diplomatic and professional way, without throwing one of their coworkers under the bus or being disrespectful towards their boss. Thanks to their assertiveness, they can maintain good relationships with their peers and be certain they will have a job in the following days.

Why People Aren’t Assertive

You might be wondering why some people are assertive while others are not. Well, this is actually a difficult question to answer because a lot of factors contribute to assertiveness.

One of the most important factors we have to take into consideration is stress. Stress triggers the primitive response of “fight or flight” in our amygdala, which naturally pushes us toward aggression or avoidance. The stress response pushes us away from calm, so it’s difficult for some of us to overcome our natural instincts and be assertive.

The individual’s belief system also plays an important role in determining his or her assertiveness. In some cultures, being submissive is a given, and people are expected to be submissive when interacting with an elder or a boss.

Our behavior is similarly important. People who see themselves as being nice are more likely to go along with what others want without trying to impose their own views. These people will often give up on their dreams and wishes only to satisfy those around them without examining their decisions clearly and rationally.

The individual’s self-confidence is also a factor. Those who are less confident in their own strengths find it difficult to express their opinions and are known to change their views quickly when they’re confronted. Fortunately, self-confidence is a teachable skill, just like assertiveness.

Last, but not least, the individual’s gender also plays a part in his or her capacity to be assertive. Unfortunately, even in Western societies, some women might have been thought to put aside their needs and opinions when interacting with others ever since they were young. This can seriously damage their capacity of being assertive.

On the other hand, many men are taught to react aggressively when they disagree with someone. They will often raise their voices, trying to intimidate those around them. Many of them strongly believe their opinions are superior, and will not agree with the opinions of others, no matter how good they are.

Of course, the opposites apply as well. Some men will not stand up for themselves because they’re afraid they might come off as jerks, and some women will stand their ground even when they’re proven wrong just because they don’t want to be passive in their relationships.

How To Become More Assertive

As I said at the beginning of the article, assertiveness is a communication skill all of us can master. Let’s check out some of the best techniques that can improve your assertiveness.

1.     Control Your Stress Response

Our primal “fight or flight” response to stress can severely damage our ability to stay calm and formulate diplomatic, concise thoughts. That’s why we should try to improve our ability to withstand stress.

As you can imagine, learning to withstand stress is not something most people can master quickly. However, there are some great ways of doing it efficiently.

  • Mindfulness MeditationStress reduction through mindfulness meditation has been studied by researchers around the world for decades. The techniques applied in mindfulness meditation allow us to develop a sense of detached observation of our behavior. Not only that, but meditation helps us grow more aware of our consciousness, which is a powerful cognitive coping strategy towards stress.
  • Hypnosis – Hypnosis is a complementary therapy that can induce relaxation and improve our wellbeing. When we’re in a hypnotic state, we’re more prone to suggestions and we can identify the source of our stress. Not only that, but we can also learn how to avoid and manage stress during the hypnotic trance, skills we can use afterward to stay calm in stressful situations. Hypnosis is a powerful tool for those who want to overcome anxiety.
  • Physical Activity Physical activity reduces stress. Some scientists believe that exercise puts a lot of stress on our bodies, training our brains to become more resilient to it over time. But physical activity also makes us happier. Happy people have a higher stress threshold, so they are capable of making better decisions in tight situations.
exercise lowers your stress and helps you become more assertive

People who exercise on a regular basis handle stress better

2.     Improve Your Self-Confidence

Both passive and aggressive people often have a low self-esteem and could benefit greatly from improving their self-confidence. Passive people lack the confidence to impose their opinion in front of others. Aggressive people lack the confidence to sustain their cause with arguments, and they turn to shouting and even cursing when things don’t go their way.

A lack of self-confidence prevents us from being assertive. And it makes sense if you think about it. Humans are social creatures that live in complex communities, so we naturally want people to like us.

If we can become more confident in ourselves, we can become more assertive, so we can hold our ground in an argument without being ignored or making those around us feel bad. The great thing about having a high self-esteem and being confident in your own strengths is that you end up not caring about the feelings of others as much as you used to.

3.     Start Small

You shouldn’t expect to master assertiveness without some practice. And of course, trying to become assertive in crucial situations is not recommended, at least when you’re just starting out. Not being prepared and trying to be assertive might make you seem rude, or it might damage your self-confidence if you don’t manage to impose your opinion.

It would be better to start small. That means you should practice your assertiveness in mildly tense situations and work your way up. For example, you could make it clear to a restaurant hostess you want to be seated next to the window, not the door, without coming off as a jerk. These small victories will prep you for more important confrontations.

4.     Set Boundaries

If you want to become less of a pushover, it would be a good idea to establish some boundaries. These boundaries are limits you create for yourself as a guide for your actions. If you’re permissive, you’re allowing people to walk all over you. One of the first boundaries you set should stop this kind of behavior.

Boundaries should be non-negotiable and unalterable. Think hard about what matters to you in life. What are you committed to? It doesn’t really matter if your answer is family, career, health, faith, or hobbies. What’s important here is to identify what matters most to you, so you know what you should protect.

Setting boundaries around the things that matter most to you should prevent you from doing anything you don’t want when it comes to them, thus protecting them. Compromising the things you love most will slowly but surely make you resentful in the long run.

5.     Assume Responsibility

Passive people shy away from responsibilities, so they will expect for someone else to fix their problems. If you want to become more assertive, you should understand your problems and responsibilities both. Rise up to the occasion and take action if you want to change something in your life.

People often wait for a big event to change their lives, but the reality is, small steps are more often than not more effective than leaps. It doesn’t matter how small your steps are, as long as they’re pointing in the right direction.

6.     Do Not Assume People Are Mind Readers

Passive people are often angry that those around you cannot recognize what they need or want. Well, humans are not capable of reading minds, at least not at the moment. So, if you want those around you to know what you want or feel, you have to tell them yourself.

Being angry at someone because he or she couldn’t guess what’s in your mind is childish and selfish. Speak up if something is bothering you. Bring up sensible topics if you want to resolve them. What you think or want might not be as obvious for those around you as you would think.

7.     You’re Not In Charge Of How Others Think Or Feel

Aggressive people try to convince others they are not rude, but that’s not for them to decide. If you often lash out at people when you’re stressed or shout during a conversation, people will think you are rude and selfish. You cannot control that, no matter how hard you would want to.

What you can do, however, is changing your attitude. Most of us believe people don’t change. Saying you’re a changed man or woman doesn’t mean anything to anyone around you. Proving you’re a changed person and keeping your calm during an argument will speak volumes about you.

On the other hand, you shouldn’t care too much about how people feel and behave. Passive people will often take it upon themselves to make others happy, even if that means they’re miserable themselves.

Making people happy is not your responsibility. Everyone is his or her own master. You don’t have to worry about how your decisions will affect those around you every time you make one. People do not think about you and your decisions as much as you think.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should become an inconsiderate jerk. It means you should prioritize the opinions that favor you over those that favor others.

saying no is a good way of being assertive

Saying no when you mean it will help you become more assertive

8.     Say No When You Think No

Most people have problems saying “No”. We wrongly believe that saying no will make us seem selfish. But it won’t. You shouldn’t let people coerce you into doing something you don’t want to. Saying “No” is a valid option. You don’t have to please everyone around you. If you believe what you’re about to do is not in your best interest, refuse to do it.

Most passive people feel obliged to say yes when someone asks for a favor. This might be news to you, but granting favor after favor is stressful and time-consuming. You shouldn’t jump on board just because someone asked for a favor.

It’s perfectly reasonable to say you need to think about it before deciding. Ask yourself if helping that person is worth the stress and effort, and decide only when you reach a conclusion.

9.     Have Courage

This is one of the most significant obstacles you have to overcome if you want to be more assertive. You have to be courageous. You might be wondering why.

Well, you might be self-confident, and you might value the opinion of other people. But you’re not expressing your thoughts or feelings because you’re afraid you might hurt those around you if you refuse to do what they want or if you express your point of view.

Honestly, tough conversations are scary. You never know how a conversation might lead to another, and what’s going to happen at the end of your discussion. How is your conversation partner respond to your newfound opinion? How will the conversation affect your relationship?

Well, this uncertainty might prevent you from speaking on your behalf. You might be so scared of holding your ground that you let others step over you. But that’s not the way to go.

Courage is the only way to overcome fear. Honesty and integrity require courage. And most of all, character requires courage. You have to be courageous if you want to be more assertive. You have to be willing to express your convictions, even if your voice might tremble.

10. Control Your Emotions

Standing up for yourself can be an emotional moment. You might feel the heat rising in your cheeks, your pulse accelerating, and you might feel the need to lash out or shout. Well, if that happens, you’re not assertive, you’re aggressive.

If you want to become more assertive, you have to learn how to control your emotions. Keep your anger, fear, and anxiety in check and explain your position with rational arguments.

11. Be Open To Feedback

Being assertive and standing your ground will not go unnoticed. People will see the shift in your behavior, and they will respond differently to it. Some might criticize your assertiveness and opinions, while others might complement them.

You should accept the feedback graciously, whether it’s positive or negative. Keep in mind that some people’s comments might be hurtful or outright mean. If you’ve been passive for a long time, people might not accept your behavior, so they might get defensive or angry.

Don’t rise to the bait. Keep your calm and calmly press the point of your opinions again, if necessary.

12. Saying Nothing Is An Option

Humans tend to agree with the majority. Disagreeing with many people at the same time is not in our nature. In fact, a study conducted by psychologist Solomon Asch proved that people are so afraid of being different that they will conform with the opinion of the majority despite being able to see the proof themselves.

Since arguing with multiple people at once and breaking the conformity is not within our nature, you don’t have to do it. However, you shouldn’t agree with other people just because many of them claim the same thing. In this situation, saying nothing might be the most assertive position you can adopt.

13. Work On Your Empathy

Being empathetic with those around you will allow you to recognize and understand how others view the situation. This can be extremely helpful, as it will allow you to take their view into consideration. Understanding how the other person is thinking allows you to formulate better arguments in your defense.

Here are a few easy tricks that can improve your empathy:

  • Listen – People are usually not attentive listeners. Whenever we talk to someone, our minds process the information in an attempt to find the right answer. That’s why many of us fail to grasp the depth of the conversation while we’re having it. Actively listening to those around you and checking in with them to see how they are doing will improve your empathy.
  • Read – Literature, especially books that explore personal relationships and emotions, can help you improve your empathy.
  • Cultivate Your Curiosity – We can learn something new every day. All the people around us can be our sources of inspiration. Ask yourself what your new coworker could teach you, and engage him or her in conversation. Keep in mind that curious people ask meaningful questions, so do your best to listen properly (see above)
  • Spend Time With A Pet – The great thing about interacting with an animal is that you develop a sense of empathy towards it. Animals communicate their needs and demands in a nonverbal way, so you have to empathize with them to understand them. Spending time around pets makes you more compassionate and can improve your empathy.
spending time around pets will help you become more assertive

Spending time around pets will help you become more empathetic

How Hypnosis Can Help With Assertiveness

You might be wondering how hypnosis can help you become more assertive. Well, we are more susceptible to suggestions when we are in a hypnotic state. Hypnosis helps by:

  • Allowing you to identify your subconscious fears and helping you overcome them
  • Helps you overcome stress and remain calm in stressful situations
  • Helps you build your self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Gives you the courage to speak your mind and stand your ground when you have to
  • Helps you improve the way you act and present yourself in a crucial situation