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Assertiveness Means Learning to Speak Clearly About Your Needs

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“Every time we speak, we choose and use one of four basic communication styles: assertive, aggressive, passive and passive-aggressive.”
— Jim Rohn

“Never allow a person to tell you no who
doesn’t have the power to say yes.”

— Eleanor Roosevelt

“Assertiveness is not what you do, it’s who you are!”

— Shakti Gawain

      “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” 

— Eleanor Roosevelt

From Finding Time – An Assertiveness Bill of Rights:

By Paula Eder

1.  Finding time becomes easier and more rewarding as you develop assertive skills. Your life becomes more productive, simpler, and more fulfilling, too. Use these basic principles to help you take charge of your time.

2.  You have the right to decide how you use your time. Your life matters. The more responsibility you take for how you use your time, the more you enjoy your freedom of choice.

3.  You have the right to plan your time and follow your plan. Your priorities matter. Your plans will help you channel your energies.

4.  You have the right to set boundaries. Your projects matter. You can protect your time from needless interruptions by respectfully asking for space and negotiating as needed.

5.  You have the right to say no to requests. Your focus matters. You can empathize without jumping in to help. This safeguards your time. Furthermore, it demonstrates your respect of others’ ability to meet their own challenges.

6.  You have the right to weigh options before committing your time to a project. Your decision-making process is important. Instead of allowing yourself to be put on the spot, you can say, “I will get back to you once I review my schedule.”

7.  You have the right to ask others to prioritize, when time is limited. Respect your limits. When others’ requests exceed the time available, simply notify them. They can decide what comes first.

8.  You have the right to say no to perfectionism and yes to “good enough”. Your ability to balance your life is a priceless gift. Done is better than perfect. Valuing your overall productivity helps maintain your flow.

9.  You have the right to delegate and ask for assistance when you are short on time. You value your support system. At work and at home, ask for the help that you need.

10. You have the right to change how you use your time. You direct your life. When your needs change, renegotiate your “time contracts” with others. When you proceed by choice, not resentful obligation, everyone benefits.

11. You have the right to set aside time for your pleasure and your personal projects. You deserve to take good care of yourself. Your pleasure and productivity increase when you dedicate time to restoring yourself.

From Dan O’Neil: “10 Top Tips for Being Assertive Without Being Aggressive”:

From my experience, the majority of people who want to be more assertive are scared to do so because they do not want to come across as aggressive. The most important thing to remember if you feel like this is that you are actually a really nice person and it’s really unlikely that some aggressive side of your character is going to appear. If you weren’t nice, you wouldn’t be bothered whether people took you as aggressive or not.

Below are 10 tips that can help you be more assertive:

  1. Meet the person at their level – standing, sitting etc.
  2. Speak at a similar volume to the other person, if you are trying to make a point, then it is ok to speak slightly louder – just don’t overdo it. If you are both shouting then it’s probably not going to be a great conversation – postpone it until you have both calmed down.
  3. If you are not clear about what you want to say or achieve by this conversation then politely request it be undertaken at a later time or date.
  4. If you can, spend some time thinking about a positive outcome for you both, before you meet with the person. Otherwise use no.3 above and use the time in between to do this. It is important not to spend too long thinking about all the possible outcomes, simply be open to the possibility of a positive outcome for both parties.
  5. If you need some extra confidence, then think about your body language: steepling is a great way to feel confident… press only the tips of your fingers together in a kind of prayer position – thumb to thumb, index finger to index finger etc. There are other variations of this that you will easily find in a google search.
  6. Feelings are really important – most people are capable of spotting when they are beginning to feel angry, so be aware of how you are feeling. If you notice yourself becoming angry, aggressive or even despondent, then remember you have the option to stop the conversation and continue at another time. Sometimes the clue is that your words don’t come out easily – like there is something stopping you explain yourself clearly. If you can relax and continue then that’s fantastic.
  7. Saying No – if you are asked to do something that is in the future, a quick way to know your true answer is to consider what you would say if it was happening now (supposing you have the time free). For other questions or requests, remember that there is no benefit in doing something for someone if you do not have the time or skills to complete it. People respect you far more for saying a polite “I’d love to help you but I really don’t have time right now, if I get done here I’ll come and help”, than they do if you say Yes all the time and then don’t have time to deliver on your promises. Remember that people take the line of least resistance, if they find someone who will always say yes, then that person goes top of the list for everything. Think of people you know who do that and then consider what your feelings about them are… Do you want people to think that way of you?
  8. Find someone who you see as Assertive and then begin to think about what it is they do that makes them come across as assertive. How do they sound, what do they say, how do they stand, etc. If appropriate, ask them what they think about it.
  9. Start small and gain experience – maybe you could simply ask someone who you would not normally if they can get you a coffee from the machine etc. Small triumphs along the way are really helpful, especially if you don’t want to jump in at the deep end and go and ask your boss for a raise just yet!
  10. Celebrate how far you have come – becoming assertive takes time and balance, so celebrate the achievements and the journey you have undertaken to date. Continue this process and don’t be afraid to make mistakes – if necessary you can apologise! Often the truth will help you gain the person’s trust and respect, so tell them you are learning to be assertive and any feedback is much appreciated – good or bad. You may even find you make allies in people you wouldn’t have normally turned to for help.

Ultimately, this takes time, as does any process of change. I have seen and helped many people become more assertive and find the courage to say no, when appropriate. It’s worth the hard work to feel happier about yourself and know that you can meet any situation with the right balance of assertiveness and confidence.

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