You already know how important assertion is in bullying prevention. But, sometimes taking that first step is the hardest part when you’re trying to do something important like become more assertive. It’s overwhelming to think about and remember everything you must do in order to have success becoming assertive. You might be held back by fear of failure, or fear that people won’t like the new assertive you. Well, it’s time to stop being afraid and take the first steps toward your success.
The following 11 steps are small, but important, things to help you succeed in adapting your new assertive communication style:
1. Decide to change
Before you can have success becoming more assertive, you must admit you need to change. Most people are more comfortable doing things the way they’re used to doing them. Change is scary and the fear that we experience stops our learning. You can reduce the fear by starting to change in an area where you will have some success right away. For example, maybe you want to start by changing the way you communicate with a specific coworker. Start small and expand your efforts to change over time.
2. Decide what you want
The only way to change your communication style is to know what you want. If your goal is to handle situations better in the future, you must begin now to get better at how you handle those situations. The key is to make sure you are realistic with your goals. Most unassertive people set themselves up for failure and make impossible demands. When they fail, they blame themselves. When deciding what you want, set yourself up for success through realistic goals.
3. Be fair
It’s impossible to be assertive if you do not respect your rights and the rights of others. Being assertive demands that all parties win, at least in part. You can make sure this happens by following these simple rules:
- Find the problem
- Look at both sides
- Set common goals
- Avoid threats
- Tell others how you feel
- Be flexible
- Choose your words carefully
4. Ask for it in clear statements
Assertiveness demands that you send clear messages, both with your words and your body language. It’s not always what you say, but how you say it, that is important. Most people will react to your actions more than to your words. For example, not looking at the other person while you are speaking can block everything you are trying to say. When talking to people, pay close attention to your facial expressions, eyes, posture, hand motions and tone of voice.
5. Know how to say “no”
For such a short word, “no” is hard for some people to say. It’s hard because it means you might be letting someone down. Some people would rather put themselves in a bad situation just to avoid disappointing someone else. On the other hand, you should not get into the habit of saying “no” just because you don’t feel like doing something. Learn to say no only when it helps you get something you want. For example, imagine you’ve got a mountain of work to do today. A friend asks you to take time out to help her. In this situation, you must say “no” and explain that if you take this time, you will not be able to get your own work done.
6. Learn how to listen
Good listening requires you to not only listen to what you are interested in, but also what you aren’t interested in. For example, other people might come to you with problems that are important to them, and they want you to listen. Hearing is done with your ears. Listening is done with your mind and your heart. Listening is an active process. In order to do your part as the listener in the communication process you must:
- Avoid judgement and distractions
- Pause and think before answering
- Restate what the other person is saying in order to clarify
- Think about what is being said
- Ask questions
- Look the speaker in the eye
7. Take risks
To become more assertive, you will have to take some risks. The risks you will take in becoming assertive include:
- Saying what you believe
- Saying what you want
- Stating your needs clearly
- Stating what is acceptable
To an assertive person, these don’t seem like risks at all, but rather normal, everyday behavior. However, to someone who is not assertive, this seems risky because we believe that others will judge us. Unassertive people have learned that it is wrong or rude to make these kinds of statements. It’s time to unlearn this behavior. Whether you are in charge of leading a group of people, or you just want to start getting what you want, you need to state your feelings and desires clearly and confidently.
8. Be calm and relaxed
For many people, anger is the result of stress that has been building up over time. If you find yourself getting angry or worked up easily, that’s a sign that you need to change. One easy change to make in your life is to calm down and relax. The more calm and relaxed you are, the easier it will be for you to clearly and assertively communicate with others. It’s when you are stressed out and overwhelmed that anger tends to rear its ugly head. In order to relax, try to exercise, meditate or try breathing exercises.
9. Express your feelings openly
Assertion is impossible until you learn to express your feelings to others. Begin by sharing small things, like your feelings about something that happened in the news or something you did recently. Once you feel comfortable, you can share deeper feelings, like how you feel about a serious issue.
10. Give and take praise
Some people have a hard time asking for what they want because they feel like they are bothering the people they are asking for help. One way to make it easier to ask for what you want is to give praise while stating your needs. For example, if you want a friend to help you, try saying, “You really know your stuff. I could really use your help.” When you give praise, it takes the discomfort out of asking and makes the person more willing to help you.
Accepting praise sounds easy enough to do, but you’d be surprised how many people have a hard time accepting praise. You can probably think of someone, maybe it’s even you, who always responds awkwardly to praise. Instead of accepting the compliment, they try to deny or diminish the quality that is worthy of such praise. Being able to give and receive praise shows high self-esteem. The next time someone pays you a compliment or praises you for a job well-done, simply say, “Thank you!”
11. Give and take criticism
Taking risks is an important part of being assertive. One of these risks is exposing yourself to criticism or judgments about yourself from others. Criticism may or may not be correct. It’s up to you to listen to the criticism, decide if it is fair, and then respond in an appropriate way. Being able to give criticism is as important as being able to receive it. Whether or not your criticism is effective and results in the change that you want is largely dependent on your delivery.
Remember these 11 steps in order to have success becoming assertive. We hope you enjoyed this series on Interpersonal Assertion and Bullying Prevention. If you would like to see how we can help assess and teach critical skills for bullying prevention, click the free trial link below.