Finally in today’s post I am going to share some everyday assertiveness tips that you might find useful. You might want to read up the introductory post here before continuing.
By the way, someone asked me after my introductory post what the difference is between being aggressive and being assertive. I must acknowledge that there is a thin line between aggressiveness and assertiveness. However two key differences when communicating or pushing back is in your tone of voice and body language. Assertive speaking often involves the use of "I" statements. For example "I feel upset when you take my book and don’t put it back where you found it," rather than, "You make me feel upset when you take my book and don’t put it back where you found it". When being assertive, there is no room for sarcasm or attack.
There are so many assertiveness tips out there but I have selected a few. All, some or none might be applicable to you.
Recognise that people are responsible for their own behaviour: have u ever been upset when a friend or loved one comes to you for advice and they go right ahead to do the exact opposite of what you advised them to do?! It can be very frustrating right? We can’t force our loved ones to do what we tell them and the earlier we realise this, the better for us. Sometimes we take the blame when people take the wrong step after we’ve warned/cajoled/begged them not too and the consequence is very grave. As much as we empathise with them, which is the best we can do, every man is responsible for his own behaviour.
Also speaking about behaviour, a common example that comes to mind is when people break up. The person who initiates the break up feels guilty and wants to rescue their ex from their pain. Unfortunately breaking up comes with pain and in as much as you were the one that initiative the break up, the way the ex deals with the pain is their responsibility and not yours. I know this sounds harsh but it is the truth. If we take it upon ourselves to be responsible for how they deal with their pain we would feel obliged to do anything for them even at the expense of our happiness and maybe another relationship. You keep wondering what the ex is thinking, u feel bad when you hear what they have said about you somewhere…and you can’t move on. That is definitely not a place where you want to be. The best you can do is pray that God will help them deal with their pain and move on with your life. We can’t play God.
Recognise that people are different and are entitled to their own point of view: We’ve just had a recent example of this on some blogs where people have had different opinions about an issue. This is bound to happen as people form opinions based on their background, religion, experiences, values etc. We should learn to listen to other people’s POV even if we do not agree as more often than not there is more than one different position for any given situation. By listening to what others have to say we might just learn something new and add to our knowledge base. Also we should be respectful when expressing our point of view.
Let other people know exactly what you want without making unclear requests: wouldn’t life be easier if people could know what we are thinking and we didn’t have to tell them. I for one will find it a relief. Sometimes we think if we drop hints the other person will get the message but this would most likely lead to uncertainty and expectations not being met. By communicating exactly what we want/need we leave no room for guessing games and this gives the other person a chance to respond suitably. For example, your friend wants you to pick up a book from the library on your way back from work because it is close to your place of work but you have a prior engagement you need to attend to and you know getting the book will delay your meeting. Instead of saying “Ok I will try to get the book” simply say something like “I would have loved to help but unfortunately that will mean I might run late for my meeting. Please could you make alternative arrangements to get the book”. That way your friend is not expecting you to get the book and depending on how urgent she needs it, will make other arrangements to get it. Remember you rejected the request and not the person.
Another example that comes to mind is when people get invited to an outing; they say they will try to make the outing knowing they have no plans to attend. People say that is being diplomatic but that is simply just a lie. I believe it is better to politely decline with your reasons so that way you are setting the person’s expectation at that point.
Don’t keep quiet when you have strong feelings about an issue: There are some issues not worth arguing over and sometimes the more mature thing to do is keeping quiet. Silence they say is golden. However when it comes to your health, your safety, your core values, or you know the price of keeping silence will result into anger or resentment it is better to speak up than suffer in silence. For example, your partner typical stays out late and this is a behaviour you cannot stand. This is not the time to keep quiet and hope he/she gets the message someday. This is the time to speak up, communicate how you feel about his/her staying out late and probably both of you can come to an understanding.
Take time out if you need to contain your anger: Have you noticed sometimes you find yourself getting angry during a conversation? At this point it is better to take a break from the discussion than continue. We can hardly communicate effectively when our judgement is clouded with emotions. When we feel much better we can come back and present our position more effectively. This is different from cutting off another person emotionally, which is a destructive tactic that some of us tend to do.
Think through your arguments before presenting them: Because we sometime think our opinion makes more sense than the other person we might tend to get lost in the trivial details that we forget the main points of our arguments. If we want to effectively get our point across we should think through the issues and get down to the core points. The other person might be much more willing to listen if your ideas are presented in an organised and consistent way.
So that's it for tips. I hope they made sense. Please feel free to share other assertiveness tips. Meanwhile I might be going on an assertiveness course at work, if it gets approved. Will let you know what I learn on the course. :)