Picture the scene: You’re up to your armpits with work – You’ve got e-mails to see to, calls to make and your coffee has long gone cold. Then your colleague asks you to help out with a project and won’t take no for an answer. What then? Well, then you be assertive!

If – like many people – you have no clue how to put your foot down without being rude, no need to stress. Most problems in relationships are caused by bad communication skills. It is important to communicate correctly in order to get what you want.

There are 4 different communication styles:

  1. Aggressive
  2. Passive
  3. Passive-aggressive
  4. Assertive

People who communicate in an aggressive way shout, threaten and blame others. No-one really listens to them. As soon as we are blamed or attacked we build a “wall” around us, do not listen anymore and try to counter-attack.

A passive communication style will make you feel like others take advantage of you. Passive people are scared to say what they think. Often, they don’t actually know what they want, so others might use or manipulate them.

If you are passive-aggressive you also do not say what you really want or think but rather make cynical remarks or talk in a sarcastic, negative way. Those remarks often have nothing to do with the actual cause of your feeling upset.

The above mentioned communication styles are not beneficial for building good relationships. We communicate to achieve a certain outcome, so it is important to find a communication style that will allow you to achieve the outcome you want.

Aim for assertive
We need to communicate in a way that we feel is respectful of ourselves and others. Being assertive means just that. Let’s get to work and look how you can become more assertive:

  1. Before an important conversation, think about your desired outcome. What do you want to achieve? Know what you want!
  2. When you say “no” don’t make it sound like “maybe”.
  3. Your body language has to match your verbal language. Don’t say “no” but have a smile on your face and sound as if the other person can convince you to change your mind.
  4. Challenge your own irrational thoughts and negative feelings. Why do you feel guilty, saying “no”? Why do you keep on thinking “I should have…” or “I could have…”? Concentrate on the positives.
  5. Be clear and to the point. Take responsibility for getting your message across and make sure your message is understood the way you intend it.
  6. Try not to be hasty when making decisions or committing to something. You can always say, “I will come back to you on that one”.
  7. Don’t blame others and avoid the “you” word. (I.e “You did this…” or “You are wrong…”) Rather use statements like: “I feel…” and “I get the impression that…”.
  8. Sometimes we cannot agree. Be prepared to negotiate a compromise that suits both parties. Make sure that you do not sacrifice your rights.
  9. Believe that you are worthy, that you have rights and that you matter!

Being assertive has many beneficial outcomes for you. It will allow you to feel confident, improve your self-esteem, give and receive compliments and criticism, establish healthy relationships, take responsibility for your emotions and reduce stress.It takes practise to become more assertive. First, try it out with people who are your friends and easy to talk to. Small successes will strengthen your new communication style. The more you practise, the more it will become a part of you. Always remind yourself that you deserve to get what you want by respecting yourself and others.

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