Learning how to be an assertive woman is sometimes a bit more complicated than it may seem.
Assertiveness for women can be a delicate balance.
If you're “too assertive”, people tend to think you're aggressive, threatening or a b*tch. If you're not assertive enough, people perceive you as a pushover and a doormat.
And it's unfortunate, but people often take advantage of those they perceive as weaker or at a disadvantage.
If you're viewed as a pushover and people pleaser, whether in business or your personal life, it can be increadibly difficult to navigate your way through.
By cultivating assertive behavior, we learn to respect our needs while retaining compassion and respect for the needs of others.
Assertiveness affords us a measure of confidence and self-respect, as well as the respect of others which certainly makes it a desireable trait.
It's an essential skill for anyone who desires success, and for women in particular, it's a skill that takes a certain amount of finesse.
Follow these steps as we outline them here to learn valuable assertiveness techniques and tips for building confidence.
How To Be Assertive
What does it mean to be an assertive person?
When wondering how to be assertive, it's important to consider exactly what assertiveness is and what it is not.
Assertiveness is based on balance.
Honing an assertive personality requires you to be forthright about your wants and needs, while still respecting the rights, needs, and wants of others.
When you're assertive, you speak directly, confidently and express a presence through eye contact, body language and other non-verbal queues that is self-assured.
In doing so, you communicate with others in a manner that is perceived to be direct, firm, fair and powerful.
However, it is important to note that assertiveness is not the same as aggression.
Though aggression sometimes masquerades as confidence or assuredness, aggressive individuals tend to ignore or discount the needs of others entirely in favor of their own.
This can greatly upset individuals with whom they interact, and rightfully so.
Unlike aggression, assertiveness and assertive communication affirms your own needs and their importance, while you are still considerate of both sides of a situation when interacting with other individuals.
What are some examples of assertive behavior?
There are many types of assertiveness, from assertive speech to body language to a quiet internal self-confidence. Some assertive examples are:
Speaking calmly and firmly during a conversation
Using eye contact
Using assertive statements to authoritatively and clearly express your viewpoint
Being firm/repetitive if someone is pushing the issue
Now that we’ve taken a look at assertiveness meaning, try the following assertiveness and self-confidence tips to grow your assertiveness skills:
10 Ways to be More Assertive
1.Make Assertive Statements
What is an assertive statement?
An assertive statement is declarative. It is firm and asserts your position in an unapologetic way.
The simplest assertive statements are simply “Yes” and “No”.
Assertive statements often focus on the “I” voice and how you feel or think about a certain topic.
“I” statements also allow us to open up conversations, both at the workplace and at home.
“I” statements assert how you feel without placing blame on another person.
In doing so, you accurately detail your feelings without treading into aggressive territory.
Words or phrases that assertive statements don’t contain: maybe, I think, I should, I would like.
Just like any other skill, assertiveness grows over time as you practice.
You can start building confidence by committing to be more assertive with those in your personal life.
If this seems too daunting, you can start practicing by talking to yourself in the mirror or writing down some assertive statements, just to get used to the language of being assertive.
3. Agree to Disagree
Many of us have a deeply imbedded desire for non-confrontation.
Unfortunately, this desire often makes it difficult, if not impossible, to stand up for ourselves.
Getting comfortable with respectful disagreement is an important step in building your assertiveness toolkit.
The fact of the matter is that disagreement is a natural part of life.
You are worthy of having your own opinions and thoughts, and they do not need to constantly affirm the thoughts of others.
Disagreements do not have to become arguments as long as you are willing to leave some things unsettled and simply state your opinion in a respectful but firm manner.
4. Listen Actively
A huge part of assertiveness that people often miss is the importance of listening actively to the person on the other side of the conversation.
Assertiveness is about framing your needs and desires within the whole context of the situation.
If you completely ignore what the other person has to say, your assertive standpoint will not be as well received.
5. Aim for Open and Honest Communication
In all aspects of life, it is important to establish open, honest communication that is essential to the health of a relationship.
Whether it is a significant other, best friend, child, or even a boss, it is important to establish that honesty of emotion.
One way to do this is to assert your own feelings in a positive and consistent way.
You can also directly ask for honesty and openness from those in your life, and that they meet you with the same honesty.
6. Learn to Say No
Saying “No” can be extremely difficult — especially if you've been taught to always “be polite”, not hurt the feelings of others and to put their priorities above your own, or that being a “people pleaser” is the way to make friends or get ahead.
In order to start being able to say “No”, you have to respect (and value) your own wishes.
As an example, if someone in your life is continually asking you to take part in a fundraising effort that you have no time for or interest in, it can feel like a big deal to refuse your help.
However, by being genuine about your feelings, you are simply respecting yourself and the other person.
Instead of trudging through something you don’t want to do or flaking on plans at a later date, an upfront “No” shows self-respect, an understanding of your own limits, and ultimately respect for the other person.
7. Express Your Needs
Use “I” statements to express your needs whether:
At work (i.e. “I am uncomfortable working at my desk with the air conditioning on me all day.”)
At home (i.e “I feel frustrated that I had to do most of the housework this week. I need more help from you so that I can recharge from work at night.”)
Or with friends (i.e. “I cannot come to the cookout because I have an upcoming deadline.”)
Using “I” statements to express your needs allows those around you to understand what is going on in your head.
Expressing your needs doesn’t make you weak, it makes you good at communicating and standing up for yourself.
8. Value Yourself
At the core of assertiveness, there is the understanding that your needs are as valid and important as the needs of others.
Especially if you are a nurturing, empathetic person, it can be hard to remember that taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of others.
If you don’t value yourself and your own time, health, space, and energy, then it's impossible to be truly assertive and to commit to pursue what you want in life.
The first step toward true assertiveness is to value yourself like you would a dear friend.
Beginning to genuinely value yourself is one of the best ways to start building self-esteem.
9. Use Scripting
If you have an important situation coming up where you're hoping to be more assertive, such as a conversation about job advancement, or confronting a family member about past behaviors, you can try “scripting” the conversation ahead of time.
And yes, it sounds corny, but just trust me, it can actually help.
You of course won’t need to memorize a dialog word-for-word, but taking some time to think about and possibly write out what you might want to say, can help you build the confidence to go for it.
It will also offer you the security of feeling prepared.
Try using the following outline to build your conversation:
Event: Tell the other person how you see the situation or problem.
Feelings: Tell the other person, clearly, how you feel about the situation.
Needs: Tell the other person what you need from them
Consequences: Describe the impact of your request.
10. Practice Composure
It can be difficult to stay calm in the most important of situations.
Whether you have a tendency towards aggressiveness or passivity, both of these ends of the spectrum come from letting emotions control you and the situation.
In the beginning when faced with a potentially adverse situation or emotionally charged encounter, try giving yourself adequate time to construct an assertive response.
If something particularly emotionally triggering occurs, you can tell the other person you need time to think it over.
This will prevent you slipping into overemotional and less effective communication, and give yourself a chance to advocate in an assertive and productive manner.
In the End, Assertiveness Allows Us to Demonstrate Self-Confidence and Assuredness.
Being assertive is truly an act of respect towards yourself.
Assertiveness is empowering, and so helps us to be less anxious and stressed, more assured and confident.
If you are looking for additional resources on how to become more assertive, check out the following titles:
The Assertiveness Workbook, by Randy J. Paterson
Your Perfect Right: Assertiveness and Equality in Your Life and Relationships, by Robert E. Alberti and Michael L. Emmons
Assertiveness: How to Stand Up for Yourself and Still Win the Respect of Others, by Judy Murphy
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Kimberly Clay is the founder and creative force behind What She Say. She’s a business professional, writer and editor who’s been creating and managing digital content for nearly twenty years. Her work is now focused in the areas of self-improvement and personal development, and she is passionate about helping other individuals, especially women, to find a path for living their best life.