When I was in high school, I wrote every morning on the back of my hand, ‘Ask L for pencil’.
I had a mad crush on L.
I never did ask L. for a pencil, I don’t think, but the tension I felt for 2 years was unbearable. I was shy and unassertive – typical, normal highschool behaviour.
To the dismay and astonishment of my teachers, I ended up on the fringes of the ‘cool’ crowd and with the help of some beer, L and I did kiss one day – the story didn’t end well (I was subsequently didmissed for being ‘whiney’, but that’s not relevant!).
And beer, while it may help with inhibitions, as we all know, does not make you assertive, but it can make you a jerk.
Being able to express yourself and your emotions without hurting someone else is complex stuff. But it’s not rocket science, and it will be easier to achieve if you train yourself in assertiveness. This ability does not only help you communicate. It is also an important feature of your health.
What is assertiveness?
Assertiveness is being able to communicate exactly what you think and feel without hurting someone else. It is not only expressing your emotions and feeling better about it. It is actually communicating to the other person what you feel and why, and making sure he or she understands your point.
But some people become aggressive when they are trying to be assertive. Unlike aggressiveness, being assertive is speaking openly, but without interrupting or talking over people. You don’t need to raise your voice, use your expressions, body, or something around you to intimidate the other person. And, even though you’re trying to communicate your feelings, they are not the only thing that matters.
Assertiveness is respecting yourself, but also respecting others.
Benefits of Assertiveness
People don’t take advantage of you – which can cause stress, anger and resentment. And, on the flip side, It can help you from being a bully to others. If your style is aggressive, you may appear self-righteous or superior. Very aggressive people intimidate and humiliate others. In the long-term, this neither works out well – typically – or provides you any comfort, unless you are a sociopath : )
- Understand and recognize your feelings
- Create honest relationships
- Improve communication
- Create win-win situations
- Improve your decision-making skills
- Earn respect of others
- Gain more job satisfaction
Assertiveness is an important step to communicate your decisions and needs. When you embark your fitness journey, it is very likely that you will come across social obstacles in your daily life:
- You may no longer want to smoke or drink alcohol with your friends, but you don’t want to stop being friends with them just because of that
- You have family and friends who do not follow a diet, but you have your own diet plans and convictions now
- You will probably meet new people along the way, and assertiveness helps you communicate with your current friends and new
- Communicating assertively gives you more confidence and a sense of self-sufficiency, and your mindset is fundamental for physical performance.
- Being assertive reduces your emotional stress, which interferes with exercise through a rise in cortisol levels
7 Tips for Building assertiveness
It is easy to lose your focus and give in when you have a passive personality. So, assertiveness is probably what you need if you constantly lose track of your goals, lose heart and get discouraged because everything seems to conspire against you.
If you want to change that, there are some assertiveness exercises you can try:
- Evaluate how you feel and identify what is making you feel that way. Assess your style. Do you voice your opinions? Do you say yes to extra work even when you are already too busy? Are you quick to judge or blame? Do people seem uncomfortable or even afraid talking to you? Understand your style before you begin making changes.
- Before trying to communicate your disagreement, write a short draft of what you will say and how – or, better, just verbally rehearse
- Be honest and open. You don’t have to hide your feelings or needs, just express them accurately
- Use body language. Communication isn’t just verbal. Act confident, lean forward, make regular eye contact. Maintain a neutral or positive facial expression and don’t cross your arms!
- Repeat your request using the same words and stay calm throughout the conversation. After a while, the intensity of your demands will be clear without raising your voice
- Practice saying no. If you have a hard time turning down requests, try saying, “No, I can’t do that now.” Don’t hesitate — be direct. If an explanation is appropriate, keep it brief.
- Keep emotions in check. Conflict is hard for most people. Maybe you get angry or frustrated, or maybe you feel like crying. Although these feelings are normal, they can get in the way of resolving conflict. If you feel too emotional going into a situation, wait a bit if possible. Then work on remaining calm. Breathe slowly. Keep your voice even and firm.
Practice, Practice, Practice
By practicing assertiveness, you’ll feel better about yourself. You’ll start to feel your personal power, you won’t be burdened by feelings of guilt and shame when pursuing your desires
In your existing relationships, some people will respect you much more if you become more assertive. People with whom you have toxic relationship might become angry and confused but so what? You don’t want to have toxic relationships in your life anyway.
When you’re practicing, start small. As an experiment, do a small assertive action that’s currently not something you would naturally do – go on youtube, ask someone on a date, say no to dinner, etc. Or, hope to get someone else to say ‘yes’.
Possibilities will open up, and you will see that even with a fast “no”, you can move on and find people who better resonate with your true self, people who deserve a YES!
You have options now : )
(Note, too: You can hold assertivness training sessions with a licensed psychologist or psychotherapist. They have the tools and exact recommendations to help you overcome the obstacles you typically face when trying to communicate with others)