Learning to be Assertive is Tough but Doable
Learn to express yourself respectfully
It's difficult for people to be assertive. There's a fine line between being pushy or a pushover but it's important to know that being assertive is neither of these. What you want to do is express the way you feel about a certain topic respectfully but with confidence. It's hard to stand your ground and say what you really feel but it's a good way to get things off your chest.
It’s tough in the beginning
You can't plan the situations you end up in. You can plan responses just in case. For most people, their boss comes up to them unexpectedly, ask them something, they panic and just say yes. Be prepared for these situations with some go to phrases. “Let me get back to you on that.”, “I have plans”, and “I have a scheduling conflict” are a few that you can use in these situations.
If you use a phrase that implies you will respond later such as “let me get back to you on that”, make sure you get back in touch with them. If not, the person you were talking to will feel like you just blew them off.
Remember that you do not have to explain your decision. Your feelings are yours alone. Don't feel guilty when doing this. You may feel bad about telling someone no, or that you are putting down someone's idea. This should not be the case.
You are only expressing your opinion or the way you feel about the situation. Never feel bad about either and acknowledge your own worth. You need to believe in your worth because if you don't, no one will.
There're a few things you can do to help you become more assertive. The first thing is to practice positive talk. It's hard to be assertive in a situation when you're feeling down. In these cases have a few phrases to say yourself to get you in the right mindset. “I deserve this”, “I can do this”, “this is what's best for me” are examples of a few. Hyping yourself up this way will help give you the confidence to be assertive.
Breathing exercises can help calm the body and brain, helping you keep yourself grounded. Situations where you try to be assertive can be stressful. Before having the conversation find a quiet place and try a breathing exercise.
Inhale through your nose, hold for five seconds, released through your mouth, and repeat. For some it takes three to four times to relax and others are relaxed after the first breath.
Body language can give off an assertive message while making you feel confident and powerful. When you're trying to be assertive in a conversation, remember to stand up straight, keep your shoulders back, and make eye contact with who you're talking to. This will give off the impression that you believe in what you are saying.
Most importantly, you want to practice all these strategies. It helps to have a close friend to practice with and make sure that they're someone you can trust. Write down what you'd like to say to your boss about being overworked and then practice saying it to your friend.
When you're done, ask them for feedback on how they felt while you were saying it. Check yourself as well in terms of body language, if you are too aggressive, to shy, or if you felt your voice was too low or loud.
Plan how you will put this into action
Always keep in mind that assertiveness and aggression are two different things. When you are being assertive, you want to say what you need or what you're requesting and respectful manner while staying within personal boundaries. This is why it's important to set actionable boundaries.
You may also want to start small. The first time you put these techniques into action might be a little difficult for you, but the more you do it the more experience you will get and the more comfortable you will feel.
Start by speaking up in small situations such as a staff meeting involving four or five people. You can also say that you can't do something when your spouse asks you. A great way to practice being assertive is to ask for a certain table at a restaurant.
Don't feel like you have to do this alone. There're therapists that can help you achieve your goals. Those who are not assertive because they are stressed or suffer from anxiety can find it hard to ask for help. Therapists are trained to find what is causing your problem and can offer tools for solving them. Don't be scared to ask for help when you need it.
It's difficult to be assertive because if you push too far you're being aggressive and it you don't push far enough you are being passive. Remember to clearly state what you want and to do it respectfully. It may take some time for you to get used to being assertive because it's new and it may feel uncomfortable.
Remember to breathe and remind yourself that you can do this. Keep practicing and know you're worth. Don't be afraid to get help. Some are two prideful to ask for help or believe that they don't deserve it and that's simply not true. Know that you are and little by little you will become more assertive.