Some Everyday Assertiveness Tips
Recognize that people are responsible for their own behavior. It is not helpful to blame other people when they choose not to do things that you need or want. You can assertively tell another person what you feel about a situation, but then it is the other person’s choice to go along with what you want – or not. This is your way of showing others that you respect them, and they, in turn, will probably show you respect as well – or not, but then we accept the consequences.
Let other people know exactly what you want without making vague requests. State your full position when conveying your wishes to others. Other people are not mind-readers, even if you are close to them. It may seem easier sometimes to drop a hint and hope the other person guesses what you want, but this leads to confusion and unmet expectations. If you are specific and clear in your communication, others don’t have to play a guessing game and they will know exactly how you feel about a situation. And this allows them to make an appropriate response.
Speak up when you have strong feelings about an issue. It is not necessary to have an opinion on everything, and sometimes the mature response is simply to be quiet. However, when the price to be paid for remaining silent is anger, unhappiness or resentment, it is far better to air your opinion.
Take time out if you need to contain your anger. Sometimes we find ourselves getting angry during a conversation. Rather than undermining our true goal of bringing about a constructive resolution to our differences with other people, it may be more helpful to take some time out to collect our thoughts so that our position can be presented more effectively. This is not the same as cutting off another person emotionally, which is a destructive tactic.
Think through your arguments before presenting them. We sometimes get so lost in the trivial details that we forget the main points of our arguments. Think through the issues and get down to the core points that you want to make. You want to present your argument clearly so that the other person has a chance of understanding it. The other person will be much more willing to listen if your ideas are presented in an organized and consistent manner.
Recognize that people are different and are entitled to their own point of view. Open yourself up to hearing what the other person has to say. This does not mean that you necessarily have to agree with an alternative viewpoint, but it is helpful to realize that two different positions can exist at the same time. If one person is right, the other is not necessarily wrong.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT
San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.