Assertiveness is the ability, which we can all develop, to express an opinion, a desire or a need without attacking the other.
When we relate to others, there are many situations in which we need to say no, set limits, or show disagreement. It requires the recognition of our emotions and their correct expression, without violating others. In this article, we want to talk about the tools that help develop more assertive communication.
In Advance Psychologists, we have observed that most of the time we hesitate more, when it comes to saying no to others, in situations where we have to respond to someone aggressive, and when we ask for favors, that’s why we want to focus. in these aspects and develop them, but not without first understanding why it is difficult for us to assert ourselves and to try to discover it Are you sure of yourself?
The difficulties of asserting oneself
Sometimes you feel like saying “no” to someone can lead to conflict or rejection on the part of the other person, and that doesn’t have to be the case. At other times, mistrust reigns, and we feel that we need to stand up for others and “put them in their place” almost constantly. This attitude generates many misunderstandings and people around us turn away from us. out of fear of feeling attacked or offended by us, which leads to a tense and stressful coexistence.
At Advance Psychologists, we place particular emphasis during therapies on this aspect, and we make sure to prioritize the development of this tool, because we are aware that a good mastery of assertiveness is vital to reduce the anxiety and improve self-esteem. The feeling of happiness and well-being increases considerably when our relationship with others ceases to be confrontational.
The continuum of assertiveness
Communication between people can be seen as a continuum at the center and balance is assertiveness. At both ends are the means of communication we should avoid: submissive communication and aggressive communication. Before we get to these extremes there are degrees and nuances, but we will develop these concepts that can clarify for us which side of this continuum we are on.
When we operate in passive or submissive communication, we have real difficulties expressing our opinion or defending our rights. Saying “no” becomes a real trauma and it is difficult for us to ask for favors. Fear of rejection and conflict they greatly influence how we stay on that side of the continuum. These fears are often determined by early experiences, in which we have been punished or rejected for speaking out. Sometimes dominant parents or experiences of rejection at school are the root cause of the submitted communication.
At the opposite end, Aggressive communication is part of the belief that you need to put others in their shoes, Which you have to be wary of most of the time and which you have to impose in order to be strong, the opposite would mean weakness. This belief system, also usually built in the early stages, leads to the use of high and defensive tones, disqualifications during conversation, and impositions.
At the heart of the continuum is assertive communication, which is characterized by an attempt to express oneself in different situations in a clear and non-aggressive way, trying to take others into account without forgetting oneself. It is the most appropriate communication to understand each other, to avoid conflicts, but in the face of our fears to express our opinions and express our rights. Assertiveness is the starting point for developing good self-esteem.
Many people are not at the extremes, moreover, most of us evolve in intermediate degrees without reaching them, but each of us still has a certain tendency to one side or the other. In addition, it is not in all areas of our life that we move on one side of the continuum, we can be very assertive at work, but submissive to our partner and friends, or vice versa.
Usually, the closer we get to the end of the continuum in one area of our life, the more we will need to compensate by jumping into the other. This explains these situations of “endurance, endurance and ultimately exploded with the one who deserves it the least and at the most unexpected moment”.
Hence the importance of getting closer to assertiveness in each of them, to improve our relationships and have a greater sense of control over our emotions. This greatly influences self-esteem and the reduction of anxiety.
Tools to assert yourself more
Then, we will deepen the aspects in which it is most difficult for us to assert ourselves, give concrete tools to assert yourself.
Saying “no” is probably one of the most difficult answers we give to others. Many people accumulate high doses of stress over the inability to say no and the need to please. But if we know how to do it and also understand that other people won’t stop “loving us”, or get angry because we say no to them, it will be much easier for us to start dealing with this response in the future. our communication with others.
The first is express no, without hesitation too much. Failure to do so will end up being ambiguous and here yes you can generate mistrust.
Secondly, you give an explanation so that the other does not feel rejected.
And third, and finally you only give an alternative if you consider that the other person deserves itYou want and you can. This is important in order not to establish relationships in which there is an imbalance between the donor and the recipient, because over time they generate stress and resentment.
“I won’t be able to help you, I’m busy this weekend. If you want we can leave it for the next one” (when we consider that the other person deserves an alternative, when we want and we can).
“ I won’t be able to help you, I’m busy this weekend ” (when you consider that you don’t want to give the other an alternative, either because you can’t or because do not deserve it)).
How to assert yourself in the face of an aggressive person
Being assertive with someone aggressive is particularly useful, but also more complicated because the other person’s response is less predictable. However, it pays to know how to assert yourself on these occasions and have the peace of mind that your intention has been to shift respect at all times, however you choose to respond. to the other.
Here are some of the tools we can use when the other is more upset or aggressive:
Turning off the other’s response refers to reply without reinforcement, change the subject or leave the conversation, trying to use a kind tone so that the other does not feel ignored.
Two examples of this would be: “I understand …, well … I leave you because I have a lot to do now”, “we see that we do not think the same thing and we must not convince the ‘else what do you think if we don’t give more importance and leave this conversation for when we are calmer “
2. Ask us to specify
The aggressive person has a particular tendency to generate insecurity in the other because of accusations or emotional blackmail, But most of the time, it does so imprecisely and without concretization. This is why it is important to ask him to make us concrete, so that we have the possibility of defending ourselves more fairly. Example: “I don’t understand what you mean by not doing my job, can you tell me exactly what job you mean, on what specific aspect of the project done so far, are you unhappy?”
3. Fog bank
With this tool, we try to lower the tension by putting ourselves in the other’s shoes and recognizing their share of reason, but defending our point of view. Example: “I know you are telling me this with your best intentions, and I admit that sometimes I find it hard to work as fast as you do, but I think at my own pace I am doing well and trying to do good work . “
4. Scratched disc
When someone wants to get something from us and insists without taking care of our “no”Being invasive, this tool is recommended, which is nothing more and no less than repeating our message in a respectful, yet unwavering tone. Example of this: “I appreciate your proposal, but I don’t like going on an excursion this weekend (…), I understand your interest, but I really don’t like this weekend (. ..) ), yeah, yeah but I don’t like this weekend’s tour plan. “
sometimes it can be handy to show the other person that you are too upset or that we are disrespectful. Examples: “I don’t think you are aware of the tone you use to talk to me”, “please don’t yell, you can tell me the same thing, but in a different tone.”
How to make requests?
It is common to find people who find it particularly difficult to ask favors from others, either because they are afraid of bothering or being reckless, or because they are afraid of a ‘no’, or because they are afraid of bothering them or being reckless. their autonomy makes them fear that they appear vulnerable. Behind this difficulty, there is generally a fear of showing weakness, with the conviction that “you have to be capable of anything”.
In these cases, it’s about expressing what we needAware that we have the right to ask and the other to say no, but we must take the risk of a “no”, and understand that this does not mean that the other rejects us. Examples: “I will need your help, will you find me a hand when you can?”, I love your dress, would you lend it to me someday? “
show empathy by asking
We can still express our need without the other feeling constrained, showing them our empathy without ignoring our need. An example of this would be: “I know you are very busy, but could you give me a hand when you are done? I understand that now is not the time, but for me it is important that we were talking about it when you’re rested. “
Get angry with assertiveness
Anger is a common and even necessary emotiona, because it gives us the need to move away from the environment at times, or to put limits on others when necessary. Many people are afraid to get angry and contain it because they fear rejection from another or because they believe the anger is getting aggressive. Nothing to see !, One can get angry, and with a lot of force, without the other feeling attacked.
This tool consists of expressing feelings, make the other see that we put ourselves in their shoes, thus lowering the tension, But making our need very clear.
- The first step is to express my emotion.
- Second, I clarify what bothered me and why.
- Third, I sympathize by putting myself in the other person’s shoes.
- And finally I express what I need.
Examples: “The truth is I am very upset by the tone you told me, I understand that we are both very nervous, but I don’t want you to talk to me in that tone again.” “I am very angry at the moment, not me you warned me that you were not coming and I was waiting for you for over an hour; I can understand that you had a lot of problems and that you forgot to warn me, but now I don’t want to keep talking, I need to be alone.
With this way of communicating our discontent, the other can understand what is happening to us and beyond. will be aware of what we need on future occasions.
Assertive anger is not about yelling or making bad faces to generate effect, but on the contrary, the challenge is to control the tone and, from calm, to express our emotions.
- Castanyer Mayer-Spiess, Olga. Assertiveness: expression of healthy self-esteem. Desclée de Brouwer, 1996.
- Ellis, Albert. Manual of Rational Emotional Therapy. Desclée de Brouwer, 1992.
- Kelly, Jeffrey. Social skills training. Desclée de Brouwer.