Some people appear to be naturally more assertive than others. This may be as a result of their higher levels of self confidence. It's possible to increase your own assertiveness yourself both on a personal and a professional level.
It can be daunting to start behaving more assertively but you'll find that it has many benefits. When you act in an assertive way it can help you command respect which could improve your relationships, both at home and at work.
Assertiveness is often defined as the ability to stand up for your rights in a way that does not infringe the rights of others. An assertive person values themselves, seeks respectful communication with others, yet at the same time is able to set boundaries and protect themselves from exploitation, attack and hostility.
At certain times you may find it difficult to communicate honestly, directly and openly with other people. There are two extreme ways of relating to others: being passive or being aggressive.
Lack of assertiveness can affect your relationships and quality of life as you fail to communicate effectively and often can end up not getting what you want. Family life, career prospects and stress levels can all suffer through lack of assertiveness.
Not expressing yourself honestly (whether it's because you don’t allow yourself to or because someone else prevents you from doing so) can lead to emotional difficulties. Relationships can become strained because you can’t communicate your needs clearly and explain the effects of other people’s actions on you. You may then become resentful at the lack of control in your life which may lead to depression, anxiety, anger or stress.
There are a number of ways in which you can begin to assert yourself, helping to improve your quality of life.
An important part of assertiveness is displaying open, secure body language. The way that you hold yourself has an impact on how you're perceived and treated.
Passive body language would be a stance of hunched shoulders and lack of eye contact. An aggressive stance would be one with clenched fists, glaring eyes and intrusive body language.
Assertive body language includes:
Clear communication is an important part of being assertive. This is where you show:
It isn’t just the content of what you say that's important, but also the way you put it across.
Most adult educational institutions offer courses in assertiveness training. These groups tend to vary in approach and so it's a good idea to find out how experienced the teacher is beforehand.
If you've tried to improve your assertiveness but still find that you behave in a passive or aggressive way, you may find it useful to talk to a trained counsellor or psychotherapist. Past experiences may have a negative influence on how you behave and so it may help to talk through these.
If you can boost your self-esteem, this should automatically make you more assertive. By giving yourself a treat, you can do wonders for your self-esteem.
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