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  • Traci Kanaan

The Art of Assertiveness


No! There. I said it. “NO.”


I hate saying “No.” I hate the feeling of disappointing someone I care about. I hate the feeling that I might be letting others down because I can’t jump right in and help out. I hate being put on the spot and the feeling of being pressured to do something I just don’t have time to do. But you know what I hate worse? Weaseling out of something I shouldn’t have accepted in the first place, because I knew damn well that I didn’t care enough about it and/or didn’t have the time to do it!


We are bombarded by people asking us to do stuff for them all day long. We get direct and indirect messages from advertisers and marketers to buy their products. Telemarketers call non-stop to get our opinion or to sell us that “car warranty.” We are asked by friends, family, and acquaintances to help move an appliance, pick them up from work, or take them shopping. We get emails from spammers with promises of being reunited with that long lost millionaire uncle who would love to leave us his fortune…if only we could share our banking information with them. After receiving hundreds of requests every day, we then experience internal conflict within because we were told from an early age that we aren’t supposed to say “no” because if we do we are being “selfish.” The truth is, being more assertive, setting healthy boundaries, and saying “NO” are the best things you can to do stay focused on what’s important to YOU and YOUR HAPPINESS.


Assertiveness is an art, it is a skill to be learned so that everyone can say “No” without sounding like a total jerk. Learning to be more assertive can help you to stop behaving so passively that people walk all over you, and it can also teach you to not become too aggressive, which makes you appear hostile or bullying. Finding the sweet spot of assertiveness without aggressiveness can help you to get more of what you want, share your views and ideas with others, and be taken seriously in your personal and professional life will make all the difference. Here are some strategies you can start practicing right now that can help you learn to be more assertive.


Recognize Assertiveness


If you want to be more assertive, be sure you know what that is and looks like. Learn to recognize this trait in other people. Take mental notes when you see others in your life exercising their assertiveness appropriately. Having healthy confidence to stand up for yourself and what you believe in while respecting others can be tricky to pull off well, and paying attention when you see others doing it can help model for you how to accomplish this in your own life.


Accept Differences of Perspective or Opinion


The point of assertiveness is not to force everyone to agree with you but to simply make yourself heard. And being assertive also does not mean dismissing other’s points of view. If you want to be respected and for people to listen to you, then you must do the same for them. Do not allow your differences of opinion or ideas to make you angry or upset. Listening to others’ ideas is vital to being assertive, as it shows you have respect for their differences, too.


Remain Calm


When you first start exercising your assertiveness, it feels exciting, which can lead to being energetic, which can appear to be aggression. Staying calm and keeping your cool when you are being assertive is important. This keeps you in check and allows the other person to remain calm, as well. When you start to feel like your energy level is getting too high, and you are becoming more aggressive, try deep breathing, and focus on listening and making eye contact. Be present in the conversation. When your voice and mind are calm, your words and actions will also be calm, too. This projects confidence and assertiveness.


Be an Active Listener


It is crucial that you learn to listen just as much as you learn how to talk. Listen to understand the other person’s point of view or idea. Never interrupt someone when they are talking. Pause before responding to give yourself time to think about what was said. In short, listen to them in the same way you want them to listen to you. The better listener you are, the more assertive your response can be.


Use “I” Messages


When communicating assertively, you can avoid sounding overly hostile by using what are called “I” messages or statements. These are sentences that start with “I feel” or “I think” to indicate your perspective. Avoid using statements that talk about “always” or “never” concerning how other people act or think, as this will place them on the defensive and create friction.


Say What You Need


Being assertive is about communicating your ideas or needs to others. People can’t read your mind, so if you have something to say, say it. If you need something, ask for it. If something is bothering you, speak up. These are all required for being assertive, so start being honest with other people about what you need.


Like any other communication skill, learning to be more assertive takes practice and time. Be patient with yourself as you learn this new skill. Practicing these techniques, though, will help you to learn to express yourself more assertively so you can get more of what you need out of life.

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