There are three types of communication: assertive, aggressive, and passive. Aggressive communication lacks respect for others and disregards their needs, feelings, and opinions. While passive communication lacks respect for self, disregarding your own opinions, feelings, and needs. So, what is assertive communication?
Assertive communications lands in the middle of aggressive and passive communication. Being assertive means that you’re able to stand up for your point of view while respecting the rights and beliefs of others. Read more about how to communicate effectively with loved ones.
Being assertive can be a self-esteem booster and help you earn the respect of others. It can reduce stress, or help you manage your stress. In cases where you tend to take on too many responsibilities, being assertive can help you say no.
Why isn’t everyone assertive?
Some people seem to be naturally assertive. But others struggle with standing up for themselves or tend to be more aggressive. There are many reasons why people may act and respond in a non-assertive way.
- Stress Our body’s natural response to stress is the “fight or flight” response. When our body perceives a threat as stress, fight or flight pulls us towards aggression or avoidance, and away from calm, relaxed assertiveness.
- Belief System Our belief systems may cause us to hold assertive-sabotaging stances on things. These include “being nice means going along with what others want”, “it doesn’t matter if I stand up for my wants/needs, no one will pay attention anyway”, or “he/she’ll leave me if I stand up for my wants/needs”.
- Low Self-Esteem Feeling inadequate may cause some people to have a hard time finding their voice. Others might fear conflict, losing a relationship, criticism or rejection and thus they’ll stay passive.
- Roles Gender roles can play a part in our assertiveness. Women are typically raised to set aside their needs and opinions in order to support and agree with others. While men are raised and encouraged to speak their mind in a more direct way.
How to be assertive
Being assertive takes practice. It might be easier for you to swallow your feelings, to scream and lose your temper, or to avoid the situation altogether. But assertiveness is the best strategy. Assertiveness creates allows you to respect yourself, as well as others.
- Start small. Start by trying to be assertive in mildly tense situations, like requesting to be seated at a different spot at a restaurant. Then work your way up to tougher situations, like asking your boss for a pay increase.
- Learn to say no. Saying no to things and people isn’t selfish. In fact, it helps set healthy limits and boundaries, which are crucial in healthy relationships.
- Let go of guilt. If you’ve been passive or a people pleaser, being assertive can be unnerving. This can create feelings of guilt and negative thoughts, like “I’m a bad friend for not loaning my friend money.” Replace these thoughts with a positive affirmation, like “I deserve to have financial stability and not put myself in jeopardy.”
- Express your needs and feelings. Remember that your friends and family aren’t mind-readers and they won’t automatically know what you need. It’s important for you to tell them in a specific, clear, honest and respectful way.