How to Become More Assertive

5 steps to get your voice heard and respected

Assertiveness can be a highly valuable quality. Learning to properly express oneself is crucial for healthy relationships and careers. But assertiveness is often difficult for some, especially those with low levels of confidence. Some people don't really understand what assertiveness is, or what kinds of things they can say without overstepping their boundaries. Thankfully, for those of us who aren't naturally assertive, the qualities and skills needed to properly communicate assertively in this modern world can be learned, practiced and eventually perfected.

Step 1: Learn about why it might be hard to be assertive

Assertiveness does not come naturally to everyone. Many behavior patterns come from things learned in childhood. According to Educational psychologist Michele Borba, Ed.D., if one or both parents were poor role models of assertiveness, or if they told their children they should always give preference to other, and not to express how they really feel, then, as adults, those individuals will probably struggle with asserting themselves.

Step 2: Learn the differences between assertiveness, passivity and aggression

Assertive behavior is making sure you are heard; making sure your thoughts, wants, needs and opinions are considered like everyone else's. It is not aggressive, demanding behavior that favors oneself above others. But neither is it passive behavior, which favors others and belittles oneself. Rather, assertiveness is a proper balance of respect for others and respect for self.

Step 3: See yourself as an equal

If you expect others to listen to you, you must first believe that you are every bit as important as they are. There, of course, should be a level of respect for those in positions of authority, but just because they hold superior positions does not mean they are superior people. If you have something to say, you have a right to say it! No one is above hearing a respectfully presented suggestion or a request, even from a subordinate.

Step 4: Don't fear disapproval

Don't keep quiet just because you're scared you'll disturb the peace. How many times has someone said something you disliked or disagreed with? Whether you said something about it or not, your disapproval of the other person's statement did not prevent them from happily going on about their day. Likewise, if you say something others might disapprove of, who cares if they do? Even if they completely disagree with your statement, at least they'll know where you stand, and will likely respect you for voicing your opinion.

Step 5: Communicate clearly

With assertive communication, there's no need to apologize for how you feel. Don't say, "I'm sorry, but..." before you say something. At the same time, don't put others on the defensive by accusing: "You always..."

According to clinical psychologist Larry Alan Nadig, Ph.D., who has practiced marriage and family therapy for 30 years, you should let others know what you think by stating "I feel like..." Others cannot refute "I feel" statements because only you know how you really feel.

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