Developing Personal Assertiveness

Individuals with a balanced level of personal assertiveness are often seen as self-confident, knowledgeable, team players and leaders.  They also have a higher level of self-esteem.  Assertiveness and self-esteem are related to one another.  Individuals with low self esteem are more likely to tend to come across to others as aggressive (excessive assertiveness) or passive (insufficient assertiveness).  One way, therefore, is to work on your self-esteem as a way to developing the proper level of assertiveness.  Assertiveness is a behavior that others observe in you and you feel in yourself through your self-esteem.  You can work on your assertiveness individually and there are some good books and assertiveness training seminars available.

This is not about changing who you are but only about balancing how you assert yourself with others and feel about yourself.

Here are ten additional strategies that you can practice daily to effectively reach a comfortable balance.

Raising your level of assertiveness

  1. Accept the challenge to change your behaviors so that you are more comfortable about asserting yourself
  2. Recognize and accept that changes will take you out of your comfort zone
  3. Take an inventory of those situations that you later regret not having spoken up about and use those to develop a set of goals for change
  4. Observe how your peers assert themselves and thoughtfully choose behaviors that you see as well accepted by others
  5. Take one small step at a time with one minor addition to your assertiveness menu each day.  For example, instead of doing things exactly the same at the start of every day assert yourself to yourself to do something special occasionally – a flavored coffee instead of regular.  Scale up to larger decisions as you become more comfortable.
  6. When offered a choice, make a decision rather than just going with the flow.  Speak up if you want Chinese takeout instead of hamburgers.  Be willing to accept the consensus but and least make yourself heard.
  7. In meetings and discussions offer your ideas and point of view at the appropriate time.  You may have to change your body language or speak up to let people know that you have something to say now.
  8. When you agree with what someone is saying, say so at the appropriate moment instead of being quiet
  9. After your associates become accustomed to you agreeing take the opportunity to disagree when appropriate.  Be brief and to the point, “I hear and respect what you are saying and I think otherwise because ___.”
  10. Work up to your more daunting goals and take them on with the same methods.  You’ll know you are making progress when your inner voice stops saying, “I wish I had just spoken up.”

Reducing your level of aggressiveness to achieve balanced assertiveness

  1. Self-awareness is the first challenge – listen to what people are saying when you are making your points and watch their body language.  If people move away from you that is a sign of perceived aggression
  2. Watch your tone of voice and your body language in addition to your words.  Signs of aggression include: loud voice, tone of voice (sarcastic, angry, belligerent, etc.), moving into someone’s space, standing up, moving forward, hand gestures, and more
  3. Develop a willingness to take the time to understand what others are saying
  4. Quickly and sincerely apologize if you become aggressive.  Recognize that it takes a strong self-esteem to be willing to apologize so see your apology as a character building practice.
  5. Practice being open to what others have to say on a subject
  6. Be silent and listen instead of rushing to make your point known on every topic.  Practice good listening skills.
  7. Pick your battles carefully.  Not everything in life has to be done your way.  In fact very little has to be done your way.  Go with the flow unless it is really, really important.
  8. Instead of rushing in to challenge what others are saying ask for clarification
  9. Wait to contribute in meetings toward the middle of the discussion rather than at the very beginning
  10. Acknowledge and build on what others have already contributed.  Acknowledgement is critical so do not forget to do that
  11. Resist the temptation to be first, loudest and most correct.  Give the last word to others and pat yourself on the back for being more of a team player.
  12. Be consistent so the people around you can learn to trust the new you
  13. You’ll know you are being successful when you are more comfortable with other’s opinions and are easier to get along with.  In addition, you should feel more self-assured without that old aggressive behavior.

Making a change for good

Please understand that any intentional changes in behavior such as these take practice and repetition to become a comfortable and automatic part of your normal behavior.  Further, it is very important to understand that others will not necessarily see your efforts at positive change because you have already taught them by your past behaviors what to expect from them.  Give them time to grow with you and become accustomed to the new you.  You may even wish to have a few close friends and/or associates whom you trust help you by being observers and reporters for you.  They can give you feedback, counsel and support.

Above all, be your own best cheerleader.  Celebrate even the smallest victories and build on each success.  Give yourself time and accept any setbacks as a natural part of the process of change and growth.  Most personal growth occurs outside your comfort zone.

Assertiveness Part 1