Passive response: You don't say anything and eat a flyful soup. Yuck!
Aggressive response: You throw the bowl of soup at the server when she walks by and yell at her.
Assertive response: You flag down the server and say something like, " Excuse me. It looks like there is a fly in my soup. I would really appreciate it if you could please get me a new bowl of soup. Thank you!"
Sounds easy enough, right? Well many people will not take it upon themselves to meet their own needs by being assertive about it. Sound familiar?
Learning to use assertive communication can help you to not only feel empowered, confident, and important, but it can also help you to get what you want, improve relationships, and reduce frustration. When you are having trouble expressing yourself, you may resort to being passive and letting others do and say whatever they want, or you may utilize aggressive tactics to bully others into getting what you want, or becoming angry and blowing up at others out of frustration.
There are many reasons why you may not feel comfortable being assertive, including:
- You may have been brought up in a home where it was not okay to express yourself, including thoughts and feelings.
- You may lack the confidence to express your own point of view and you may think that no one cares about your opinion.
- You may be afraid of taking risks or possibly being wrong.
- You may be in an unhealthy relationship where you are threatened for sticking up for yourself or expressing your own opinions.
Being assertive is a skill that can become easier and easier as you practice it, and the good news is that the more you do it, the better you will feel about yourself. This, in turn, will help to reduce your need to feel that you must be passive because you will feel better about yourself and your rights to speak up.
Being assertive looks like this:
- Use "I" statements to express your needs. In the fly in the soup scenario, you may just need to ask for what you need since feelings aren't involved in the situation. If you are dealing with a situation involving your feelings, you may want to say something like this: "When you said those things about me in front of my family, I felt really embarrassed. I would really like you to wait until we are in private to talk about personal things like that." Don't forget to let them know how you feel and what you need to change.
- Remind yourself that your opinion is as valid and important as everyone else's. You deserve a voice just as they do.
- You may have learned certain things when you were growing up, such as that you should not speak about your feelings, or been seen but not heard, but now that you are grown up you have the right to communicate in any way that works for you.
- You will not get what you want unless you make the effort to calmly express your wants and needs.
- Others will respect you more when they see that you believe your opinion matters and that you're not afraid to express it.
Please feel free to share your experiences with us regarding assertiveness in the comments section of this blog post.