Assertiveness is a big issue in relationships. Many people, however, are not aware hot to communicate and interact in an assertive way. Today I will give help you to solve this problem.
How To Be Assertive In Practice
Now you will learn how to practise assertiveness. Here are four steps to follow:
1. Practise With a Friend
Before you address the person who has done something wrong to you, practise assertiveness with a friend. Here is how to do it:
Talk in an assertive way in front of a mirror first. Then do the same with a friend. Pay attention to your body language as well as to the words you say. You can even record yourself or make a video and analyse your performance later.
2. Figure Out Appropriate Ways Of Asserting Yourself
Do it for each specific situation that concerns you. Discuss the problem situation with helpful people, e.g. a friend, a parent, a supervisor, a counsellor or someone else.
Carefully note how others respond to situations similar to yours. Observe them and consider if they are being unassertive, assertive or aggressive.
3. Learn and Use Proven Assertive Techniques
Here are some particular steps to follow while practising assertiveness
a) Describe the Challenging Situation
Describe (to the other person involved) the challenging situation as you see it. Be very specific about time and actions, never make general accusations like “you’re always unkind… upset… busy.” Be objective and never suggest that the other person is a total jerk. Focus on his/her behaviour, not on his/her apparent motives.
b) Describe Your Feelings
Describe your feelings. Use an “I” statement which shows you take responsibility for your feelings. Be firm and strong, look at them, be confident, never get emotional. Focus on positive feelings related to your goals if you can, instead of your resentment of the other person.
Sometimes it is helpful to explain why you feel as you do, so your statement becomes “I feel ______ because ______.”
c) Describe the Action You Expect From the Other Party
Describe the changes you would like made. Remember to be specific about what action they should stop and what they should start. Be sure the requested changes are reasonable, considering the other person’s needs too. Always be willing to make changes yourself in return.
d) Describe the Consequences
In some cases, you may already have explicit consequences in mind if the other person makes the desired changes and if he/she does not. If so, these consequences should also be clearly described. Never make dire threats if they cannot or will not do what you requested.
4. Practice Giving Assertive Responses
Using the responses you have just learned, ask your friend to role-play the problem situations. If that is not possible, simply imagine interacting assertively.
Make a list of the situations which require assertive behaviour. Mark them from the easiest to the most difficult. Do it in writing.
Then start to practise in real life but at first, choose easy to handle situations and then work up to more challenging ones in the future.
Notice Your Challenges
If your friend plays the role realistically, you will quickly discover that you need to do more than simply rehearse the assertive responses. You will realize that no matter how calm and tactful you are, sometimes personal assault to the other person will still bother you.
The other person may not be aggressive because you have been tactful. However, realize that strong reactions are possible, such as:
- getting mad and calling you names,
- counter-attacking and criticizing you,
- seeking revenge,
- becoming threatening or ill,
- suddenly being contrite and overly apologetic or submissive.
Your friend who helps you by role-playing can act out the more likely reactions. In most cases, simply explaining your behaviour and standing your ground will handle the situation. But there are additional techniques might be needed if standing your ground does not work. See the paragraph below.
Additional Techniques Of Assertive Responses
In most interactions, it is not just one person assertively asking for changes, but more often two people wanting to express their feelings, opinions or wishes (and possibly get their way). Therefore, each of you must take turns being assertive and then listen with empathy. It is good communication if it results in satisfactory compromises.
Broken record is another technique to try when confronting especially difficult situations or people. You calmly and firmly repeat a short, clear statement over and over until the other person gets the message. For example:
- “I want you to be home by midnight,”
- “I want you to respect my decision,”
- “I want you to let me tell what I want to say without interrupting,”
- “I don’t like the product and I want my money back,”
- “No, I don’t want to go drinking, I want to study.”
Repeat the same statement in exactly the same way until the other person “gets off your back.” Do it despite the excuses, diversions, or arguments given by them.
5. Practise Being Assertive In Real Situations
Start with the easier, less stressful situations in order to build some confidence. Make adjustments in your approach as needed.
Look for the ways of sharpening your assertiveness skills. Here are the example situations:
- Ask a friend to lend you a piece of clothing, a record album or a book.
- Ask a department store manager to reduce the price of a soiled or slightly damaged article,
- Ask a shop assistant to exchange the purchase or demonstrate a product.
- Ask an instructor to help you understand a point, find extra reading.
- Ask a stranger for directions,
- Ask a stranger for change for a euro,
- Ask a stranger for a pen or pencil.
- Ask the stranger for a lighter if you are a smoker.
Apart from learning assertive communication, remember to practice speaking and making small talk. Here are some examples:
- Call up a city official when you see something unreasonable or inefficient.
- Praise others when they have done well.
- Give compliments to friends and strangers.
- Tell friends or co-workers experiences you have had, and on and on.
Always keep a diary of your interactions. After some time you will notice the progress.
In a Nutshell
Today you have learnt how to practise assertive responses. Practise them with your friend first, role-playing the situations from your life. Describe your feelings, explain the problem and demand taking or stopping some action. Then use assertive responses in the real life. Good luck