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Simple Ways to Develop Assertive Communication

Jessica Pontis, LCSW

Everyone wants to have a voice, but sometimes we struggle to connect with our strength and speak our truth.  We all wish to be assertive when it comes to standing up for ourselves and what we believe in, though struggle to find the words or are concerned about the perception of others.  To be assertive is to show confidence and appropriate forcefulness in situations where our beliefs, opinions, or desires differ from that of others.  

Am I Assertive or Aggressive? Simple Ways to Develop Assertive Communication

Assertiveness comes from a place of conflict resolution and diplomacy and is based on mutual respect.  When we are assertive, we consider the beliefs and rights of the other and work to find a respectable and satisfactory middle ground.  This means that it’s not only what you say that’s important, but how you communicate your message as well.  The Mayo Clinic provides insight as to why delivery makes a difference is assertive communication, “Assertive communication is direct and respectful.  Being assertive gives you the best chance of successfully delivering your message.  If you communicate in a way that’s too passive or aggressive, your message may get lost because people are too busy reacting to your delivery” (Mayo Clinic, 2020).

While there are absolutely times when standing our ground means putting diplomacy on the backburner (like in the face of oppression, discrimination, and prejudice), in instances where reaching a compromise is in the best interest of the parties involved, practicing assertive communication can make the difference between getting what you want and settling for the short end of the stick.   Here are some easy tips that could improve assertiveness while limiting the risk of becoming passive or aggressive. 

Be clear in letting others know what you want.

While things may be so much easier if others could read our minds, it is unfortunately not realistic to expect everyone to know exactly what we want without being clear and honest.  The first step in conflict resolution is clear communication of wants and expectations.  Speaking your truth in terms of what you are seeking to get out of the experience is the first step in creating a space where you feel assertive in your requests.  

Align all styles of communication, as they connect with one another.

Verbal communication is important but is in reality is only a small part of the way in which we connect with one another.  When wanting to maintain an assertive stance, be considerate of your body language and tone of voice as well.  Assertiveness is connected to much more than just the words we say.  Having strong posture in the moment creates an air of confidence and strength, and tone mirrors this as well.  Speaking firmly and with conviction carries impact, making the words we speak resonate on a deeper level.  

Understand differences

As mentioned, assertiveness comes from a place of mutual respect, and it is important to allow others to share their point of view.  To be dismissive is to be aggressive, to be open to the thoughts of others is to be assertive.  Accepting differing opinions and allowing for a space of openness prevents anger or resentments from building within a space of conflict resolution.  

Connect with your body sensations.

In spaces of conflict it’s easy to become excited or tense, and often these feelings carry us into a space of disconnection.  In moments where you want to be assertive, check in with your body.  Is your heart racing?  Do you feel your body temperature increasing?  If you find that anxiety or tension exist within you as you practice assertiveness, try and ease any discomfort you feel in the body, and the mind will follow.  

Set boundaries when needed.

Boundaries set the stage for how others can expect to treat you.  They are the rules and limits you create for yourself to keep yourself safe.  It’s important to take into consideration the beliefs and desires of another person, but it’s appropriate to advocate for yourself when that is not being reciprocated.  If you spoken down too, patronized, unheard, invalidated, abused and all the like set clear and firm boundaries that it is not appropriate to be spoken to in such a manor.  If you’re interested in learning more about assertiveness, or you feel that you would like to engage with someone to walk with you on this journey reach out to one of the licensed therapists with Symmetry Counseling.  You can reach out to us online at www.symmetrycounseling.com, or by calling us at (312) 578-9990 to set up an appointment.   

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