Assertiveness is a way of communicating your thoughts ideas and wishes to others clearly and confidently. It is not about being pushy, aggressive or self-focussed and being assertive does not mean that you cannot be aware of and respectful towards the needs and desires of others.
Being assertive is a social skill that can be learnt, although there may be many obstacles to people embracing assertiveness. There may be internal barriers, such as lacking in confidence, low self-esteem and self-worth and believing that your opinions, goals and wishes are not valid of worthy. Alternatively, there may be cultural and societal complexities, such as ideas about how certain groups of people (e.g. women) should behave. For these reasons, it can be tricky for people to develop and embrace their assertive self.
Some key skills in learning to be assertive are:
- Understanding what your own values, needs and goals are
- Practicing sharing these with others in order to gradually increase your confidence in letting people know what you think and feel
- Being willing and able to listen to the opinions of others, even when they do not match your own – whilst also not being unduly influenced and persuaded by them
- Try to stay calm when communicating with others – and if you can’t, taking time out to reduce emotional arousal before re-engaging in a conversation
- Being willing to accept and own up to mistakes you have made
- Learning to understand what may be stopping you from being assertive, both internally and externally
It is possible to learn assertiveness, but it can take support and practice.