Do you let people walk all over you and treat you like a doormat? Do you cower when challenges arise or opportunities come calling? You can extricate yourself from this passive existence by learning to be assertive.
Unlike aggression, assertiveness is a positive quality that enables you to stand by your convictions, maximize opportunities, and resist being intimidated, disparaged and sidelined by others. It enables and empowers you to face difficulties with confidence, skill and grace. As you become more assertive, you will develop a deeper respect for other people’s opinions and feelings.
Are you ready to pick yourself up from the floor, dust yourself off and take an active role in your life?
Cultivate these 4 aspects of being assertive –
1. Own your opinions and feelings. One of the admirable qualities in someone who is assertive is their conviction that their opinions and feelings are valid. The bonus to this attribute is that they hold this same conviction about other people’s opinions and feelings. People who are assertive always seem to know exactly what they want. They know what they believe. They know how they feel about issues and are not afraid to speak up for themselves.
Before you learn to show your feelings though, you need to acknowledge them. Of course, this can be very difficult if you are used to repressing your emotions, letting people run roughshod over you and reacting in ways that give other people what they want to see and hear. Then later on, you feel uncomfortable and resent yourself for not speaking out, standing up and being assertive.
Often, timid people choose the back desk, fearing what people will think or say, if they sit up front. They may know the answers to questions posed at a meeting or in a workshop, but they won’t stand or raise their hands. It’s no wonder then that they usually get passed over for promotion. If you want to change that story, you need to know what you want and be confident enough to ask for it. You should sit up front, raise our hands, stand up, speak out and do all that with confidence, sophistication and without putting down anyone.
2. Watch your body language. Appropriate body language is an important aspect of assertive behaviour. Good posture and eye contact are crucial to convey self-confidence and genuine interest in what others have to say. Slouching signals that you are unsure of yourself. Not maintaining eye contact might say that you are untrustworthy, weak or afraid of rejection. Keep an eye on your body language to ensure that it is always appropriate and genuine.
3. Stay calm. It is difficult to maintain all the other aspects of assertiveness if you are unable to stay calm. Shouting, swearing, waving and pounding your fist is manipulative and borders on abuse. If you feel yourself losing control, take time-out to calm yourself and return to the situation, intent on reaching a resolution in a calm and supportive manner.
4. Compromise. Life, relationships and dreams do not always manifest themselves exactly as you envision them. Being assertive won’t help you to get everything we want. However, it is a stabilising component in any personal and professional relationship. It is not only important to know what you want but also what and how much you are willing to compromise to get it.
Some people misread assertiveness, mistaking it for aggression. They may even resent you. Don’t allow that to stop you from strengthening this characteristic and using it to improve yourself, your relationships and career. Lean on your assertiveness to take advantage of opportunities that will help to make your dreams a reality.
(This piece was published in the Wright Words of Wisdom column in Trinidad Guardian’s Womanwise Magazine on Sunday 9th September 2012)