Assertiveness and confidence go hand in hand, and it is rather difficult to be confident without having a few practised assertiveness skills up your sleeve. In fact, if you don’t learn assertiveness, you may find that your confidence is eaten away as you allow other people to violate your rights and take advantage of you. Here I will share some great assertiveness statements and techniques that will have you feeling powerful and confident in no time.
If the mere thought of being assertive makes you shake in your boots, don’t forget to remind yourself that by learning assertive skills, you are learning to take care of yourself and take back your power. I also encourage you to remind yourself that your ideas and opinions are as important as everyone else’s. As with confidence, the foundations of assertiveness start with an inner attitude of valuing yourself just as much as you value others.
So, what does being assertive really mean? First of all let me explain what being assertive is not.
It is not being passive.
A passive person allows other people to take control of their life and make decisions for them. They easily give their power away to others and don’t often realize that they do have personal power.
It is not being aggressive.
Being assertive is not about showing hostile, aggressive behaviour, which could include threatening other people or demanding things always go your way. Assertive behaviour does include standing up for your rights, but not in a way that violates the rights of other people.
It is not being passive-aggressive.
The passive-aggressive person can be hard to spot, because they use covert ways to control other people. If you have struggled with confidence for a long time, you may have used passive–aggressive behaviour to get your own way, because it is a technique born from fear of confrontation, hidden anger and an inability to deal straight with people.
So, what is assertive behaviour?
For me, assertiveness is simply a communication style that allows me to clearly state how I wish to be treated by other people. Being assertive allows me to act in my own best interests and express my personal rights as a human being, without violating the rights of another human being. It allows me to place value on my own desires and to clearly ask for what I want. This includes requesting that other people treat me with respect.
When I am acting assertively, I also get that warm fuzzy feeling knowing that I am taking care of myself by listening to my body and honouring my needs and my emotions. This could mean feeling comfortable in declining other people’s requests, pulling them up on their poor behaviour or simply saying ‘no’ if something doesn’t work for me or I don’t want to do something. It is about looking after my happiness and wellbeing and making sure that I place sufficient value on my life, my time and myself.
I acknowledge that it takes courage to be assertive — but believe me, some conversations need to be had and it is far better to speak up than hide your head in the sand hoping that things will just smooth over. Yes, it may feel scary at first, but in time you will find that being assertive is a better option than saying nothing and feeling awful or angry about something later on. Think back to a time when you were passive and swallowed your emotions or didn’t speak up for yourself — how did it feel? Not good!
Please be aware that assertive behaviour doesn’t mean that you will always get what you want — however, it is fair to say that it will bring you less of what you do not want. For me, one of the greatest gifts in being assertive is that with practice, it leaves you feeling empowered and confident in the knowledge that you have taken steps to speak up and take care of yourself. It’s like sending a message to the world that, Hey, I count and what I want is important!
Assertive behaviour allows you to express yourself with confidence in a clear, open and reasonable way, without undermining the rights of yourself or others. It is a skill that can be used at home, work, with friends or even complete strangers.
Here are some different ways being assertive can assist you in specific areas of your life:
- Relationships: clearly expressing your feelings and being able to ask for what you want leads to healthier relationships, whether they are romantic or platonic.
- Career: Learning to be more assertive will open you up to get what you want in your career and increased job satisfaction. If you are passive at work, the chances are you are undervalued and may also miss out on career advancement or promotion opportunities. Look at your own career — isn’t it those who put themselves forward and who speak up get handed those great opportunities?
- Family: there are times when it is important to be assertive when dealing with family members, such as when asking them to do things for you or when making decisions. Of course, there will also be times when you need to have the courage to say ‘no’ to your family’s requests.
- Future success: If you set yourself to change or focus on a goal, assertiveness is a useful tool in life because there will always be people who will try to dissuade you or stand in
Fearing that people will react angrily to assertiveness is a common fear on the journey to confidence. Okay, this may be true for a few people but please don’t assume that everyone is going to get upset or be unreasonable at your assertive behaviour. Remember, assertiveness is only asking to be treated as an equal, so if people don’t accept this, are they the type of people you want to hang out with anyway? The reality is, most people will simply accept your point of view — you may be surprised how easily. Take a minute to think about those you know who are assertive. Do you think they are selfish? The chances are in fact that you respect them even more for being assertive, and this is true for you as well. People are more likely to think highly of you and respect you more for being assertive, because they will know exactly where they stand with you.
When you are building up your assertiveness skills, I find that it is a good idea to have a handful of statements ready to use for those rabbit-in-the-headlights moments. These are particularly useful for people who may find it difficult to say ‘no’ to other people’s requests and often feel put on the spot and agree to do something they don’t want to do. I recommend practising a few of these statements and have them ready for when you need them. Try these for a start:
- Thank you for the offer, but that doesn’t interest me right now.
- Thanks for asking, but I can’t do that today.
- Thanks, but that isn’t a priority for me at the moment.
- Thanks, but I have other plans — have fun!
- I would like to help, but this doesn’t work for me right now.
- I will pass on this one.
- Thank you for thinking of me but I can’t make it this time.
- I’ll think about it and get back to you.
- I’m not sure about that. I will take some time to think about it and get back to you.
Keeping Cool, Calm and Courageous
I know, easier said than done sometimes, but staying calm in any form of conflict always gives you an advantage. When you are upset or anxious, it is easy to fly off the handle, especially if you have been taken by surprise. However, the moment you start shouting or yelling insults, everything starts to go downhill and you may find yourself further and further away from what you really want. If you do find yourself getting angry (or of course if someone starts getting angry or shouting at you), then I highly recommend taking a few deep breaths and physically removing yourself from the situation you are in. This could mean walking into another room or taking a brief walk until you have calmed down. This is an act of self-care, and remember that you can always go back and discuss any outstanding issues at a later date, when emotions are less fiery.
If someone else gets heated up and angry, a great assertive statement for you to use is, ‘I am not going to continue this conversation until you calm down,’ or ‘I can see you are upset, so I am going to leave this conversation until you are ready to speak calmly.’ Again, this takes courage but always remember that you don’t have to allow someone else to dump their bad mood on you — you can always take back your power and remove yourself from the situation. Again, this is a good act of self-care and valuing yourself.
Lisa Phillips is the author of The Confidence Coach (Exisle Publishing, 2015) RRP $24.99 available from theconfidencecoachbook.com
Lisa is one of Australia’s most inspiring empowerment experts. She founded her ‘Amazing Coaching’ business in 2001. Her own popular ‘Spiritual and Irritable’ radio show continues to attract both national and international self-development guests. Lisa’s vast experience in the corporate world gives her a balanced view of both self-development and business. Lisa is regularly asked to speak at large events in both the private and public sector. With her warm sense of humour and genuine, open style, Lisa inspires people to trigger lasting change in their lives, while enjoying themselves at the same time!