To stand in the power of your individuality, you have to believe in your own worth. You have to respect your own feelings and needs, and be willing to stand up for yourself.
Assertiveness is about pushing the value you have for yourself outwards. It’s about self-respect and self-determination. But it’s also about being fair-minded and reasonable.
When you are assertive, you are able to focus on an intention while expressing yourself in ways that are neither passive nor aggressive. You stand up for yourself, but you also respect others in the process. You are willing to negotiate and compromise. You aim to reach mutual agreement.
The best way to do this is to understand the other person, and to establish what their perspective is. You then communicate to them in a way that shows you understand.
Let’s say your neighbour is having a birthday party and the loud music is going on late into the night. You knock on the door:
“Look mate, I understand you’re really excited as it’s your birthday, but…”
(You then tell them how you feel and explain clearly what it is you want. And you ask them to agree.)
“I’m not happy with the music being this loud at 3am, and I’d prefer that you turn it down. Can you do that for me?”
Many people find communicating assertively challenging because they have an aversion to confrontation. But you are not here to please everyone. And if you never stand up for yourself, you will get pushed around in this world, and you’ll end up feeling weak.
You are responsible for valuing and respecting your own feelings and needs. Your time, money, effort, health, peace, privacy — it all has value.
The key to assertiveness is to be calm but firm, soft yet strong. So, you don’t act wimpy and reel off a sob story, and you don’t act aggressively by shouting demands. You don’t emotionally manipulate people through guilt or intimidation.
Assertiveness is not about controlling people and bending them to your will. It’s not about declaring superiority and dominating people. It’s not a power trip for the ego.
Being assertive is stating what you want in a firm but respectful way. And if you can get the balance right, people are much more likely to reason with you and respect you. It becomes a negotiation rather than a confrontation.
Here are some further examples:
- “I appreciate your reasons for doing it this way, but I’m not comfortable with how you’ve done this section. I’d like you to redo this part of the presentation. Can you see what I mean?”
- “I know you’re busy, but I don’t like having to cover for you at my own expense. I’d like to discuss our roles and get clear about our responsibilities. Can you agree?”
- “I do understand there are uncertainties, but I’m not entirely comfortable to proceed. Before we go any further, I would like you to confirm you will cover these costs. I’m sure you can appreciate my position, can’t you?”
- “I know you believe in these vaccines, but I really do feel strongly against them. I’d like you to accept my choice and stop hassling me about it. Can you do that for me?”
- “I appreciate you’re feeling down today, but I feel you’ve not been respectful of my time by coming here without calling me first. In future, I want you to call me to make arrangements. Is that okay?”
- “I realise you want to express your views, but I don’t like being frequently interrupted. I would prefer that you allow me to finish what I’m saying. Do you think that’s reasonable?”
- “I can see you’re busy tonight, but the food was not up to standard, and we don’t want to pay. Can you arrange this with the manager?”
If you decide to be assertive, start by showing the person you have some understanding of their point of view. Then, tell them what you’re not comfortable with, and state clearly and succinctly what you want. And ask them if they can agree. Repeat the process if necessary.
Be prepared to discuss the matter and negotiate. But only compromise to an extent you are willing to accept. If the other person is not willing to come to a reasonable agreement, it is best to walk away and avoid arguing and falling into conflict.
By holding your ground in a calm and consistent way, you retain your dignity and your power. But if you get pulled into drama by being defensive and overly emotional, you will be weakened by the situation. It’s not to say your emotions aren’t valid. But assertiveness is most effective when you keep your cool.
It’s wise to exercise tolerance, patience and flexibility in this world. And you have to decide when to be assertive or when to let things be. Either way, remember, you are the source of your emotions — you can control how you react.
If you recognise you’re not comfortable with something, try not to churn up emotions by dwelling on the issue. Bottling up grievances is not going to help you. Ask yourself, is it really a problem?
For example, could you put some earplugs in and accept the neighbour is having a late night party? Or why not grab a bottle of wine and go join the party?
But perhaps you have kids that need to sleep, and your cat is climbing the walls. Okay, what are you going to do?
Will you do nothing and sit there in an agonising submission? Will you go round there and start aggressively shouting? Or will you take a deep breath, compose yourself, and go be assertive and communicate what you want?
There will be times in life when you will feel the need to stand up for yourself. Self-respect and assertiveness are linked. By being assertive, you honour your own worth — you establish self-respect, confidence and inner power.