It's Powerful To Live Bravely By Being Assertive Yet Kind

Terri Kozlowski
It takes courage to be assertive with others, but it's a key component of effective communication and helps you gain self-confidence.~ Terri Kozlowski

Are you able to be firm with others? Do you understand what assertiveness entails? I define assertiveness as the ability to express your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and rights honestly without causing yourself undue concern. It means you can assert your truths by expressing your opinions, emotions, and beliefs in an open, honest, and acceptable manner, while always respecting other people's views, feelings, and beliefs.

I’m sure your parents taught you that you should try to please others or defer to their needs. Or that it wasn’t nice to put your wishes ahead of others. Your egoic mind doesn’t want to "make waves," so if someone says or does something you don't like, you should just be quiet, let it go, and try to avoid that person in the future. These non-assertive behaviors were taught to you as a child so you would conform and be “acceptable” to others.

The issue with being passive is you feel you have no sense of control over your life. You become resentful and frustrated that you give in to others, and yet don’t feel that others reciprocate.

Most people find it easier to be forceful with a stranger than with someone you care about who can become annoyed if you reveal your true feelings. However, the more important the relationship is to you, the more firm you should be. Assertive behaviors earn you respect from others, as well as their readiness to regard you as dignified, worthwhile, and authentic.

Being passive is letting others decide for you. To be aggressive is to decide for others. To be assertive is to decide for yourself. And to trust that there is enough, that you are enough. ~ Edith Eva Eger

Are You Too Nice?

Everyone likes nice people. But do you hide the truth from someone so you don’t hurt their feelings? Is that being kind, or keeping you from having to deal with their reaction to the truth they may not like? Hmmm. Maybe being too agreeable is the ego’s way of being sure you are acceptable instead of authentic. You want others to like you, but it’s more important to have genuine concern and interest in an honest relationship built on truth.

Have you considered that nice people don’t live a life they want, but that it's chosen by the people in their lives and what they want to do? Isn’t that what is happening when you always go along with the crowd? And if this is the case, then doesn’t it mean that the relationship isn’t authentic because you aren’t sharing your desires? Don’t allow being nice to in the way of your authenticity, and your uniqueness, to conform to what the egoic mind thinks you should do so others like you.

You will end up disliking those people for whom you have sacrificed your authenticity because of the resentment that will build. So being agreeable so you aren’t causing conflict and so others like you differ from being kind because you are genuinely a compassionate person. Being authentic implies that you dare to share the truth with others to help them grow, even if it means they won’t like what you say.

The practice of assertiveness: being authentic in our dealings with others; treating our values and persons with decent respect in social contexts; refusing to fake the reality of who we are or what we esteem in order to avoid disapproval; the willingness to stand up for ourselves and our ideas in appropriate ways in appropriate contexts. ~ Nathaniel Branden

Fear, Unawareness, And Aggression

I believe the primary reason people are not assertive is because of a lack of self-confidence, which comes out as fear and unawareness.

Fear of conflict. Many people don’t like confrontation. Maybe you lack confidence in speaking your truth, or you are fearful that if you do, you will harm your relationship. Or the concern that sharing your feelings will cause angst for the other. But avoidance of your feelings or dealing with issues within a relationship solves nothing and most likely will make things worse.

Unawareness of how to have a difficult conversation. You know words have power, so choosing the right words for an honest conversation can be difficult for some. Especially if there is a lack of confidence in how to express your feelings.

Sometimes insecure people tend to become aggressive instead of assertive as a form of self-protection. Aggression comes across as dominating, like in dysfunctional relationships. Aggressive people say anything they want, regardless of the consequences of the havoc they may cause. They are unconcerned about the other person and only care about themselves. You might imagine aggressive people as two-year-olds throwing temper tantrums or bullies who employ intimidation tactics to further their own goals.

The basic difference between being assertive and being aggressive is how our words and behavior affect the rights and well-being of others. ~ Sharon Anthony Bower

The Benefits Of Being Assertive

Assertiveness is a key aspect of good communication because you can express yourself effectively and advocate your viewpoint while respecting other people's perspectives. You gain the respect of others for being your authentic self. Although people like those who are nice, they disrespect push-overs for their lack of determination. When you’re able to respect others’ beliefs and viewpoints, you become an effective communicator because they see your willingness to look for beneficial solutions for all involved, not just yourself.

As you gain assertiveness skills, it also increases your self-confidence. You learn to say no, which helps reduce stress since you won’t be taking on more responsibilities than you can handle. Others cannot take advantage of you because you are direct but kind by setting personal boundaries.

This self-empowerment helps you see more clearly how healthy and honest your relationships are. This helps you feel more in control of your life because you aren’t taking on things you don’t want to do to please someone and avoid a conflict. Instead, you say yes to those things you want to do and respond from a place of love, not fear.

When you are assertive, you can lower your stress and develop your coping skills. You now see challenges as opportunities to grow instead of threats before you. Also, when you see potential obstacles, you can ask your tribe for help or share your concerns as an aid to support you instead of being afraid of how others view you.

Once you have major success with assertiveness, you learn that it's a much healthier path than being a doormat to insensitive folks. You gain respect for yourself, have more time for your priorities, and develop authentic and healthier relationships. ~ Doreen Virtue

Eight Ways To Become More Assertive

I believe you can learn to communicate in healthier and more effective ways by becoming more assertive. Here are eight ways you can build your assertiveness muscles.

1. Build Your Self-Confidence.

The first step for making any change is awareness, so recognize that it’s up to you to build confidence and believe in yourself. Examine what beliefs you have that limit your growth. With awareness, you can alter your perceptions. Do this by reframing the stories you tell yourself by looking at the situation from another perspective. Your self-talk reflects how you feel about yourself. Are you talking to yourself lovingly as you would talk to a close friend, or is your self-talk demeaning, abusive, and disrespectful? If your inner monologue is harmful, change it so you’re not continually beating down your self-confidence.

2. Learn To Say No.

I was a people pleaser for years because I thought to have friends I needed to keep them happy, despite the harm it was doing to me. I said “yes” to giving more of myself to someone who deserved no more of me because of their horrible behavior toward me. I needed to forgive myself and learn to say “no.” When you say “yes” to something, and do not want to do the task, then you feel resentment. Most people will procrastinate in doing the task that was committed to, instead of asserting themselves and clearly stating the complete sentence; no. Learning to say no, so that when you say yes, there is no resentment, is how you know you are understanding the concept of setting personal boundaries.

There’s boldness in being assertive; there’s strength and confidence. ~ Bryan Cranston

3. Assertiveness Is Just The Facts.

Many times, you allow your emotions to impart judgments about someone’s character instead of being clear and direct with factual statements about behaviors. When you judge, it shows how you perceive the world. So, when you approach new experiences, take a deep breath and be open and curious. Take the time to ask questions and get more information instead of getting defensive. Then clearly state the facts about specific actions calmly and wait for a response.

4. Speak In The First Person.

Assertiveness uses the pronoun I, not you. It’s sharing how you feel and think from a place of confidence. You are sharing from your perspective. It’s the difference between saying, “You always get your way,” to “I feel like my way isn’t given consideration.” The first way is aggressive and accusatory, which causes the other person to get defensive. The second is assertive and allows the other person to see your perspective.

Every time we speak, we choose and use one of four basic communication styles: assertive, aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive. ~ Jim Rohn

5. Assertive Body Language.

Studies have shown that up to 55% of our communication is non-verbal. Your body language, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, posture, tone of voice, muscle tension or relaxation, and breathing tell others more than the words spoken. You want to face the person and make direct eye contact with an upright posture and a neutral but pleasant facial expression to show your confidence. Your tone should be calm. Through these non-verbal ways, you tell others how you authentically feel, and even the ego can’t suppress these cues.

6. Empathize With Others.

Empathy is about the other person. It’s about allowing them to speak and be heard or seen. It’s about the others and making them feel respected, just like you want to be. The ability to see and respect another’s point of view is a key component of being assertive. Respecting the other party typically leads to a collaborative solution and a win-win situation in which everyone benefits.

Being assertive does not mean attacking or ignoring others' feelings. It means that you will hold up for yourself fairly without attacking others. ~ Albert Ellis

7. Learn To Actively Listen.

Improve your communication skills by learning to listen to understand what the other person is saying. Active listening means you hear the other person and aren’t trying to plan your replies while they are speaking. Then you repeat back to them what you understood, they said. This repetition allows them to correct something you’ve misheard or didn’t comprehend. Listening also means you’re considerate, assessing non-verbal cues, and aren’t interrupting. This skill helps build trust and rapport with the other person.

8. Courageously Be Assertive.

Hard conversations can be scary and most people don’t like conflict because of the unknown factor of the other person’s reaction. So you have to have the courage to be assertive. It's saying what you know you're supposed to do, even though it’s uncomfortable. Your courage in being assertive means moving out of your comfort zone of niceties and being honest. Have the courage to live a powerful life of integrity and authenticity by being assertive.

Be assertive, but don’t forget to look around. I realized other opinions can be more useful to me than just sticking to my guns. ~ Britt Robertson

Moving Forward Assertively

It’s better to be a good, authentic person than to be nice and timid. Assertiveness allows you to be respected for your courage and authenticity in sharing what needs to be said. It bridges the gap between self-confidence and authentic communication.

People aren’t mind-readers, therefore, you have to tell them how you feel, what you think, and what you want. Only then can others respond to you appropriately. So, be courageous and flex your assertiveness muscle.

It is naïve to think that self-assertiveness is easy. To live self-assertively, which means to live authentically, is an act of high courage. That is why so many people spend the better part of their lives in hiding—from others and also from themselves. ~ Nathaniel Branden

As you become more conscious of being more assertive, you can alter the course of your life.

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Native American Terri Kozlowski has a BS in social science, certified life coach, blogger, author of "Raven Transcending Fear," & host of the Soul Solutions podcast. She specializes in empowering people to overcome their fears and limiting beliefs.

Woodstock, GA

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