Assertive speech is a style of communication in which individuals clearly state their opinions and feelings, and firmly advocate for their rights and needs without violating the rights of others. Assertive communication is born of high self-esteem and is a primary tool for effective communication in relationships when coupled with respecting the rights of others.
Benefits of Regularly Using Assertive Speech and Behaviors
Reduces anxiety and stress often caused by misunderstandings and conflicts. Allows you to express your thoughts and feelings clearly and effectively. Self-esteem and self-confidence is enhanced and you have better control over your own life. Others have more respect for your ideas and opinions by knowing where you stand. Relationships with others are greatly improved by disagreeing without being hostile. Having the ability to say “no” when you mean “no” without feeling self-conscious. Motivates others to clearly state their own opinions and ideas. Allows you to ask for help when needed without fear and stress.
- state needs and wants clearly, appropriately, and respectfully - express feelings clearly, appropriately, and respectfully - use “I” statements - communicate respect for others - listen well without interrupting - feel in control of self - have good eye contact - speak in a calm and clear tone of voice - have a relaxed body posture - feel connected to others - feel competent and in control - not allow others to abuse or manipulate them - stand up for their rights
The impact of a pattern of assertive communication is that these individuals:
- feel connected to others - feel in control of their lives - are able to mature because they address issues and problems as they arise - create a respectful environment for others to grow and mature
The assertive communicator will say, believe, or behave in a way that says:
- “We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another.” - “I am confident about who I am.” - “I realize I have choices in my life and I consider my options.” - “I speak clearly, honestly, and to the point.” - “I can’t control others but I can control myself.” - “I place a high priority on having my rights respected.” - “I am responsible for getting my needs met in a respectful manner.” - “I respect the rights of others.” - “Nobody owes me anything unless they’ve agreed to give it to me.” - “I’m 100% responsible for my own happiness.”
1Use the word I. Avoid using You, as this stops you from allowing control of the listener. Using omniscience removes control of the speaker, you, because "You" is only used to express indecisiveness. Communicate in an Assertive Manner Step 2.jpg 2Maintain eye contact. You should be staring at your listeners' eyes when speaking. Averting your eyes constantly or having no eye contact altogether will show timidness or discomfort. Eye contact should not be a 'staring contest'. Breaking eye contact during unimportant parts during a conversation presents a natural environment with you and your listener. Staring without natural break in the eye contact may be interpreted as hostility. Communicate in an Assertive Manner Step 3.jpg 3Have a good posture. Think of yourself stretching from your head to your toes, sitting or standing. Pay attention to the neck, shoulder and upper back regions. Keep your back upright and your shoulder pushed back naturally. You should not be tense, but you should be mindful of your body and its composure. Communicate in an Assertive Manner Step 4.jpg 4Express body language. Make gestures that give a sense of warmth and openness on your behalf—open palms, circular arm movements, smiles, wrinkles of the nose, hugs, etc. Communicate in an Assertive Manner Step 5.jpg 5Avoid ambiguity. Explain yourself thoroughly and try not to create obscure responses. Communicate in an Assertive Manner Step 6.jpg 6Remember that silence is a tool, not an enemy. Learn to be comfortable with silence and use pauses. This is also useful for public speaking. If you tend to say Umm, You know, Like, Yeah, or elongate the last word preceding an unintended pause, practise using pauses instead of muttering. People who subconsciously say auxiliaries tend to dislike silence. Speak clearly. Mumbling, muttering, and circular sentences do nothing to further communication. Communicate in an Assertive Manner Step 7.jpg 7Use appropriate language. Do not swear or talk rudely. Obscenities do not show assertiveness—it shows crude behaviour and irresponsibility of your understanding. This method of understanding propriety is called savoir-faire. Be careful about the tone of your voice. Keep it moderated. Communicate in an Assertive Manner Step 8.jpg 8If you feel tears or anger coming on, breathe very deeply from the stomach—you should be able to see your stomach rise out and pull back in. This deep breathing will calm you in as little as four to five breaths. Communicate in an Assertive Manner Step 9.jpg 9Be mindful of your voice. If you are too soft, the other person will think you are trying to hide yourself and may ignore you. If you are too loud, the other person may become scared or vexed by your voice. Communicate in an Assertive Manner Step 10.jpg 10The most important thing is to believe that you are responsible for yourself. No one else is responsible for your behaviour and your personality. Communicate in an Assertive Manner Step 11.jpg 11Express your emotions clearly. Focus on how you feel.
Change your Mindset-Remember that you have a right to be heard and your opinions and needs be considered when decisions are being made. If you are often fearful of speaking up, ask yourself “What is the worst thing that can possibly happen if I voice my feelings in a respectful manner?” More often than not you will discover your fears were not reality based and you will quickly calm down and feel more comfortable being assertive.
Use “I” phrases-Be willing to own your opinions and feelings by saying something like “I need the report completed and on my desk by 5 p.m. today” or, “I need more time to consider these proposals, so may we meet again tomorrow at 8 a.m. to review?” In personal relationships there may be times when you want or need to say “no” to requests from family or friends. Simply say something along the lines of, “I would like to help you, but I already have a prior commitment on Saturday” or, “I appreciate the invitation, but I can‘t make it this time”.
Be Specific and Direct-Look the person directly in the eye and deliver your message in short, easy-to-understand sentences, respectfully offering or asking for clarification when needed. Keep in mind that men and women communicate differently, especially with those of the opposite sex, so make it a priority to learn the difference between men and women and their communication styles while striving to be assertive.
Respect Yourself and Others-Realize that you are worthy of being heard and that you have something valuable to say, just as others do. You have important ideas and suggestions that everyone will be benefited by after respectfully considering what you have to say, just as they do. Recognize the things you do well and feel good about yourself and your achievements, and take gradual steps to improve in the areas you have difficulty with.
Prepare and Practice-If you find there is a need to confront someone, take some time to prepare what message you wish to get across and practice your tone of voice and body language, in order to achieve assertive communication while also keeping the lines of communication, compromise and negotiation open.