“Assertiveness” is a word that unfortunately can have some negative connotations. Some might equate being assertive with being pushy, bossy, or controlling. But in reality, assertiveness is a communication skill that can help us express our feelings and needs and ultimately grow closer in our relationships. The truth is that assertiveness is extremely important in having the life we want. Here are some strategies to help you be more assertive:
1) Tune In
Our feelings and thoughts can act as cues to tell us when we need to assert ourselves. I’ve found that feeling resentful toward someone or something is a sign that I need to set a new boundary, make a change, or reach out for help. Loneliness, sadness, and other uncomfortable emotions can likewise be signs of an unmet need. So instead of denying those feelings, tune in and acknowledge them, and you may find that you need to act assertively.
2) Speak Up
Once you’ve recognized the need to assert yourself, it’s time to actually do it! Exercise the courage needed to have those sometimes uncomfortable conversations, and make your own needs a priority. One woman I know acted assertively by telling two family members that she wouldn’t be part of a fight they were having. When the situations calls for it, speak up to let others know where you stand.
3) Back It Up
In order to be truly assertive, you must be willing to back up what you say with action. Stating your needs or your beliefs is one thing, but if you really value yourself and your own stance, you’ll support your statements with what you do. If you’ve set a boundary or a rule, have the courage to stick to it.
4) Look Around
And finally, it’s important to be mindful of the needs of others in your sphere of influence. Be aware of other people’s experiences, look outside yourself, and identify any problems or unmet needs that you may be able to help solve. By being observant and appropriately assertive, you may be able to benefit someone else as well.
For more advice on relationships and assertiveness, check out Julie’s book, “The Burnout Cure: An Emotional Survival Guide for Overwhelmed Women.”
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