Being assertive: Reduce stress, communicate better
In preparing for a talk on assertive communication, I gathered some really great information. Although I changed wording most of this information came from research at the Mayo Clinic!
Assertiveness can help control stress and anger and improve coping skills.
Being assertive is a core communication skill. Being assertive means that you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view, while also respecting the rights of others. Think of it this way: Assertiveness is the sweet spot between being too aggressive and too passive. In addition, being assertive can also help boost self-esteem and earn others’ respect.
Some people appear naturally assertive. But if you tend to be more passive, you can learn to be more direct. Or if you tend to be aggressive, you can learn to tone down your communication style.
Why assertive communication makes sense
Because it’s based on mutual respect, assertiveness is an effective and diplomatic communication style. Being assertive shows that you respect yourself because you’re willing to stand up for your interests and express your thoughts and feelings. It also demonstrates that you’re cognizant of the rights of others and willing to work on resolving conflicts.
Of course, it’s not just what you say — your message — but also how you say it that’s important. Assertive communication — which is direct and respectful — gives you the best chance of successfully delivering your message. On the other hand, if you communicate in a way that’s passive or aggressive, the content of your message may get lost because people are too busy reacting to your delivery.
Assertive vs. passive behavior
If your style is passive, you may seem to be shy or easygoing. You routinely say things such as, “I’ll just go with whatever the group decides.” You avoid all conflict. Why’s that a problem? Because the message you’re sending is that your thoughts and feelings aren’t as important as other people’s. In essence, you’re giving others the license to disregard your wants and needs. Consider this example: You agree when a colleague asks you to take over a project even though your plate is full and the extra works means you’ll have to put in overtime and miss your daughter’s soccer game.
You may tell yourself that behaving passively simply keeps the peace and prevents conflicts. But what it really does is get in the way of authentic relationships. And worse, it may cause you internal conflict because your needs and those of your family always come second. This internal conflict may lead to:
- Seething anger
- Feelings of victimization
- Desire to exact revenge
Assertive vs. aggressive behavior
If your style is aggressive, you may come across as a bully who disregards the needs, feelings and opinions of others. You may appear self-righteous or superior. Very aggressive people humiliate and intimidate others, and may even be physically threatening.
You may think that being aggressive gets you what you want. However, it comes at a high cost. Aggression undercuts trust and mutual respect. Others may come to resent you, leading them to avoid or oppose you.
If you communicate in a passive-aggressive manner, you may say “yes” when you want to say “no.” You may be sarcastic or complain about others behind their backs. You may have developed a passive-aggressive style because you’re unable to be direct about your needs and feelings. What are the drawbacks of this style? Over time passive-aggressive behavior damages relationships and undercuts mutual respect.
The benefits of being assertive
Being assertive offers many powerful benefits. It helps you keep people from walking all over you, as the saying goes. On the flip side, it can also help you from steamrolling others.
Behaving assertively can help you:
- Gain self-confidence and self-esteem
- Understand and recognize your feelings
- Earn respect from others
- Improve communication
- Create win-win situations
- Improve your decision-making skills
- Create honest relationships
- Gain more job satisfaction
Some research suggests that being assertive also can help people cope better with many mental health problems, including depression, anorexia, bulimia, social anxiety disorder and schizophrenia.
If you need help in working on your assertiveness, give us a call at CrossRoads Professional Counseling or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to help you.