Have you ever ‘had to’ bail on a family get together or date because your boss needed someone to cover a shift and you thought, “If I don’t do this, nobody else will…”?
Ever been kept up all night by a neighbor’s barking dog, but chose to complain about it vaguely on social media rather than speak to your neighbor directly?
Perhaps you have told the waiter at an expensive restaurant that your food was “good”, “delicious”, or “fine” when it was really over-cooked because you did not want to inconvenience anyone?
Maybe your friend suggests the same (awful) restaurant every time you get together and you always appease him/her just to be ‘nice’…
These are all scenarios where just a little bit of assertiveness would go an incredibly long way. Many people do not take the initiative to be more assertive because they fear coming across as ‘rude’, ‘mean’, or ‘unkind’. In reality, it is entirely possible to be both assertive and kind at the same time. They are not mutually exclusive attitudes in life! In order to change your attitude towards being assertive, you must first realize that assertive does not equal aggressive and that a passive attitude is not, in fact, the most positive attitude one can have.
When you go through life with an incredibly passive attitude, you are essentially allowing people to walk all over you-constantly! It is natural for this to leave you feeling run down and fed up. Eventually you may feel resentful towards your coworkers, boss, friends, family, significant other or even yourself because you are consistently feeling slighted! Unfortunately, though, you are quite often only making yourself feel this way by not standing up for yourself or speaking your piece- even if you have a perfectly good opportunity to do so.
By definition, being assertive means to be self-assured and confident. It also means to stand up for your needs and the needs of others without being hostile, violent, or otherwise aggressive. Being more assertive can lead to more success in both your professional and personal life. The trick is knowing how to balance the newfound freedom you’ll find in being more assertive with knowing when to choose your battles.
Being more assertive requires you to be direct and honest with others, to be able to say ‘no’ when your plate is full, to speak up when something is bothering you, to avoid beating around the bush, and to remember that other people cannot read your mind- all while maintaining a civil and calm demeanor. If that sounds a little intimidating or difficult to balance, maybe these tips on being assertive, not arrogant can help:
Balance stating your own needs with being an active listener, so that you can also be aware of the needs of others.
Be sure to stay humble and modest. This will make the message that even though you know what you want and need/aren’t afraid to ask for it, you also aren’t completely and utterly wrapped up in yourself.
Always treat people as individuals. For example, if you are making a complaint to a retail rep about a product, be sure to call them by name. Additionally, allow them to try to help you sort the situation out before demanding to speak with his or her manager.
Sometimes people who have not yet learned the art of becoming assertive or who have problems with their own self-worth will be intimidated by your new mannerisms. Don’t allow any of their negative criticisms to weevil their way into your heart and affect your newfound confidence. Instead, reestablish your point one last time and choose to walk away instead of reverting to less effective communication strategies.
Seek compromise if there truly is a solution that truly will satisfy both your own needs and your coworker’s wants, boss’s expectations, spouse’s needs, etc.
Always be genuine! This is a surefire way to make your own needs clear but avoid being perceived as ‘arrogant’ or ‘aggressive’.
Always be polite and as tactful as possible (for the very same reason)!
Above all, remember that being assertive doesn’t make you ‘mean’ or any other negative adjective. You deserve to have your point of view heard, and you are completely capable of sharing it in a competent and confident manner!