There are 3 basic communication styles. If you’re passive, you find it difficult to express your feelings and needs. If you’re aggressive, you tend to put your own interests ahead of others. If you’re assertive, you know how to advocate for yourself while respecting those around you.
As you might expect, the assertive style is likely to make you happier and more successful. The trouble is that it can be difficult to distinguish between being aggressive and being assertive in some situations.
While childhood experiences play a big role in how you relate to others, you can develop new communication skills at any age if you’re willing to practice. Discover the secret to becoming assertive.
- Check your ego. Aggression makes it difficult to see beyond your own desires. Try letting someone else win for a change. Practice being content with what you have instead of grasping for more.
- Focus on solutions. Work towards the common good rather than thinking exclusively about your own interests. You’ll probably receive more cooperation.
- Take responsibility. When you’re tempted to blame others, remember that you are accountable for your decisions. Review your options and prepare to take decisive action.
- Consider consequences. Acting on impulse can be hazardous to your wellbeing. Slow down and think through how your actions are likely to affect your future.
- Develop compassion. Empathizing with others helps to keep assertiveness from turning into aggression. Imagine how you feel when someone you love is struggling, and then try to extend that concern to a wider circle.
- Be tactful and direct. Aggressive personalities tend to use too much force. You can still pursue what you want through collaboration rather than domination.
- Ask for input. Build trust by letting others know that you care about their opinions and preferences. Welcome constructive criticism and advice.
- Listen closely. Practice your listening skills by being attentive and resisting the urge to interrupt. Be open to perspectives that are different from your own.
- Make eye contact. Body language counts too. Face others when you’re talking without staring or invading their space. Stand up straight and relax your face.
- Cultivate connections. Assertiveness comes more naturally when you feel like you’re among friends. Look for the positive qualities in others. Try to be helpful and generous.
- Stay calm. You’ll appear more assertive if you have a peaceful demeanor. Start a daily meditation practice. Pause and take a few deep breaths when you’re dealing with stressful events.
- Address issues promptly. Resolve conflicts before they grow bigger. For example, asking your partner to pitch in with the chores early in your marriage could prevent nagging or screaming matches later on.
- Rehearse your part. If assertiveness is relatively new for you, it’s natural that you may revert to your old habits, especially under stress. Visualize yourself responding differently or role play with a friend who wants to support you in making positive changes.
- Start small. Similarly, you can hone your skills in settings where you have less at stake before you move on to bigger challenges. Practice asking a close friend to be more punctual before confronting your boss about unpaid overtime.
- Seek counseling. Assertiveness training or other talk and behavior therapies can provide insights and teach you new skills. Anger management sessions may help you address the effects of aggressive or passive behavior that you learned as a child.
Valuing yourself and others encourages assertiveness rather than aggression. When you can stand up for your rights without violating the rights of others, you’re more likely to reach your goals and enjoy satisfying relationships.