How to Be More Assertive in 5 Steps

Alex Boswell

Some techniques to help you communicate effectively

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Throughout my life, I’ve displayed submissiveness about myself. I cared a little too much about what other people thought of me and perhaps pandered to their perspectives on their world. I wouldn’t raise my opinions because I feared people would judge them unworthy, and I was reluctant to stand up for myself or others. Being a victim of bullying can have that effect on people.

What’s surprising, is when I look back on my life at the moments I was assertive instead, the moments I carried a confident swagger and articulated my viewpoint clearly. I remember those moments well.

Like the time I stood up to my high school bully when I was walking home from an after-school activity, during which she unsuccessfully tried to steal my bag. She confronted me with one of her minions on my route when I was alone, but I stood my ground and sashayed away from her.

The next day, she approached me in the food area and asked to borrow money from me because “we’re friends now.” She did not get money from me.

Assertive behavior is something I’ve learned, part of it comes as you age, I think, but it is something I’ve had to learn too consciously.

The point of being assertive is communicating with impact. Doing so can help to improve different areas of your life; such as personal relationships, work, mental health as well as self-esteem.

So without further ado, here are five techniques I’ve learned which you can use to become more assertive in your daily life too.

#1 Present Your Ideas Well

Sometimes you feel like your ideas might not be good enough, or that you’re not important enough to have ideas worth sharing. These feelings are relatively common, I think, and it takes a little self-psyching to overcome them.

If you’re in the idea generation stage, don’t be afraid to voice a solution, talking about ideas out loud often helps sieve out the ones that don’t turn out so great.

However, it is a prerequisite to think about your ideas thoroughly before any formal presentation of them (be that a work presentation or a solution to a personal problem). It’s important because if you present your ideas poorly, the people you’re trying to convince will think the opinions are flawed too.

It can be helpful to ask yourself some questions to help you determine whether it will be possible to persuade others to be agreeable to your suggestion. Questions like:

  • How confident am I that my idea is the right avenue to pursue?
  • What is the benefit to the person(s) receiving my idea?
  • Do I have evidence to back up my perspective?

Answering these questions will resolve any niggling doubts, but also helps you to present your idea with clarity. This clarity, as well as thinking about your ideas from multiple perspectives, will support your aim in becoming more assertive.

#2 Build Rapport

Building rapport is an essential element of effective communication, and by extension in demonstrating assertiveness. When you connect well with others, they are more likely to be agreeable to you.

Potentially the best way of achieving this is to look for areas of mutual interest. If you’ve ever been in a customer-facing job role, you can probably remember a time when you had a customer who was a little icy at first. But then they warmed up to you when you talked about something you both found interesting (even better when it related to your product or service).

People are generally more attracted to those who represent their actual or ideal selves, and you can use this concept to influence those around you positively.

Think about things like whether or not they have the same opinions as you about something, or how you can build upon their point of view without threatening to deny their perspective.

#3 Negotiate Agreements

Being assertive doesn’t mean forcing your opinion on everyone around you for the sake of it. I’m also sure at some point you’ve come across someone (probably online somewhere) that would just repeat the same thing over and over again — which in the end, doesn’t help anyone because you don’t get anywhere.

There’s a magic word we’re looking for here — compromise. Being assertive here means being able to focus on essential elements of your perspective while taking into consideration what the other person’s most significant bits are to come up with an agreeable solution.

A critical factor in this position is the ability to suggest ideas that support the other person’s views as well as your own in a positive way. You can help by emphasizing what benefits they may have from forming an agreement about something and asking them how they feel about your suggestions.

#4 Don’t Just Talk, Listen

As a neat follow on to being able to come up with compromises, you also need the skill of actively listening to the other person’s response when you ask them how they feel.

I can’t understate the importance of good listening skills enough.

You might think it’s a bit odd for good listening to be a part of how assertive you are, but assertiveness isn’t just talking about yourself or your opinions. It’s also about your willingness to let other people contribute their ideas to the pool too.

The reason for this is that people will respect you more when you take the time to listen to them and their ideas. In the case of negotiating, you’re more likely to find an agreement when you’ve actively listened to the needs of the other person.

#5 Use Confident Body Language

You’ll find a lot of advice out there about how the way you use your body can change the way other people perceive you. In the case of being assertive, your body language must match up with the impact your words are trying to convey.

I do find a lot of people struggle with this point because they don’t believe they are confident enough to pull it off. But have you ever heard of the phrase “fake it ’til you make it”?

There are a few tricks you can use to help you convey a more powerful position using your body; some are more obvious than others.

For example:

  • If you fold your arms in front of you when you’re talking, it’s known to create a psychological and emotional barrier between you and the other person. You see this a lot in interview situations, and it can make you seem closed-off.
  • Try to look directly into the other person’s eyes now and then. Doing this helps you to come across more personable and relatable — but don’t overdo it.
  • Posture is also quite significant in terms of the perception of you, especially if you’re seated. Again, I’ve read about this one a lot in interview literature. If you’re slouchy, it’ll make you seem uninterested in what the other person is saying. Try to keep a relaxed posture or physically leaning towards the speaker a little to show active engagement.

I think assertiveness is generally quite a misunderstood characteristic. For example, I’ve met people who believe assertiveness is the same as aggression, which I’m hoping after reading this article you don’t agree.

Becoming an assertive person grants you an air of authority in your working specialty, or even as someone people come to for personal advice. It’s the ability to communicate effectively with other people in a positive manner and with impact.

Your level of assertiveness will also often determine how well other people remember you in day-to-day life, from my general observations.

I hope by reading this, you will now have a more detailed understanding of what it means to be assertive, why it is essential, and how you can go about improving this quality within yourself.

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