How to Be Assertive

“People may not hear your words, but they will feel your attitude” – John C. Maxwell

Everyone feels walked-on occasionally or regrets that they didn’t speak-up when they should have. When that happens to you, here is what you can do about it.

Three Key Communication Skills

When you’re trying to avoid disagreement and conflict, it can be easier to say “yes” when you really mean “no,” or vice versa. You may not want to appear pushy or aggressive, but how will people know what you want if you keep your needs to yourself? This can lead to frustration, anger and resentment. You can prevent this from happening by asserting yourself instead of hurting yourself.

Asserting yourself is a healthy way of expressing your thoughts and feelings to someone else without trying to hurt them. Behaving with honesty, while respecting yourself and others helps build mutual trust and improves relationships. It’s a good way for everyone to win.

Here are three key communication skills that will help you be assertive when you need to be.

Knowing When to Say Something

There may never be the “perfect time and place” but picking the “wrong time or place” can have disastrous results. Keep in mind that location sets the stage for good communication.

• Pick the right time. If someone is dashing down the hall to a meeting, are they likely to hear and understand what you say to them? Sometimes it’s best to wait until you have their full attention.

• Pick the right place. A neutral location is always best, especially to discuss important issues. Avoid meeting where there are distractions.

Knowing What to Say

Language may be our most powerful communication tool. Use it wisely to have a better chance of understanding and being understood. Choosing the right words makes a difference in how your message will be received.

1. Greet the other person in a friendly and non-threatening way.

2. Get right to the point. Don’t wait to say what needs to be said.

3. Speak your voice. People will never know what you want if you keep it to yourself.

4. Be open, honest and respectful.

5. Maintain your civility, no matter how the other person behaves. Never try to “fight fire with fire.”

6. Make “I” statements and be specific. State what you want. Instead of saying “I want that report ASAP,” say “Bill, I need the Anderson Report on my desk by 9:00am tomorrow.”

7. Avoid “You” statements. Instead of saying “You are wrong,” say “I disagree.”

8. Say “No” when you need to. Don’t allow others to take advantage of you and don’t overcommit yourself. When you say “yes”, you are also saying “no” to something or someone else, often yourself or your family.

9. Maintain a positive outlook and stay focused on a win-win solution.

10. Thank the other person for their time.

Knowing How to Say It

Communication involves more than just the words you use. Your body language tells a story as well.

1. Keep your emotions in check. Anger and frustration may be normal feelings, but they can get in the way of resolving conflict. It may be better to wait if you can’t maintain your composure.

2. Keep your voice calm and even. Breathe slowly.

3. Maintain an alert, upright and open posture. Crossing your arms or legs says you are not open to the other persons point of view.

4. Listen attentively. It signals that you value what the other person is saying.

5. Avoid negative facial expressions or sounds. Grimaces, frowns and groans will work against conflict resolution.

6. Maintain eye contact. Avoid looking around the room or glancing downward.

Practice these communication skills every chance you get. That way, when important moments arise you will have the confidence and clarity of thought to assert yourself and influence others with style and grace.