That Skill Called Assertiveness

Being passive or not speaking up for oneself can often leave us feeling frustrated and dissatisfied

 Most of us know that assertiveness is an essential skill to get what we want or need in everyday life. But it is also a vital component in building and sustaining healthy relationships, be it at work or at the personal front.

We often fail to communicate our needs and desires clearly in relationships because we don’t want to rock the boat. Instead we choose to either be passive and silent, or aggressive and angry when we don’t get what we want. This might avoid discord in the short term but in the long run, this can lead to fights because of unmet expectations.

What works better is to communicate how you feel in a clear, firm and respectful manner. Here are some ways that you can improve assertive communication in personal and professional relationships:

  •  Voice It Out: Clearly express what you want or need in words instead of dropping hints or through indirect messages. For example, if you would rather celebrate an important day with a fancy dinner, say it in so many words instead of using passive statements, such as “I’m OK with anything”.

Why it’s important: We often expect other people to magically know what we want or need, and then feel disappointed when they don’t understand us. This can lead to feelings of hurt and anger.

  •  Saying No: Practice saying no to situations that don’t work for you. This could mean saying no to taking on assignments that you don’t have time for, refusing favours you’re not comfortable doing or even declining invitations to social gatherings you don’t enjoy.

Why it’s important: When we continue to do things we’d rather not, it can lead to feelings of frustration and resentment. These can build up over time and surface later when we least expect them, resulting in outbursts or breakdowns.

  •  Negotiate: Figure out a way to get what you want without depriving the other person out of what he/she wants. In other words, create what is called a win-win situation. For example, if one person wants to go on a vacation to the beach and other to the mountains, look at the possibility of taking this vacation to the beach and plan the next holiday to the mountains (or vice versa).

Why it’s important: When we are able to negotiate and reach a middle ground, both parties feel at least a partial sense of satisfaction. If the situation is resolved completely in favour of one person, the other person might feel cheated or resentful.

  •  Bigger Picture: Be open to sometimes letting go of things you want now for a longer-term benefit. If agreeing with the other person for now will make him/her more receptive to something you want later, then it might be worth backing down for the present moment.

Why it’s important: Not all situations can be win-win ones. Realistically, there will be times when you won’t get what you want even though you express your needs assertively. Knowing when to let go can prevent unnecessary arguments and conflict.

Learning to communicate in an assertive manner can take time and practice. But once implemented, the benefits of assertiveness in relationships is well worth the effort.