Assertiveness should not be confused with aggressiveness, which can stem from the belief that your needs are more important than anyone else’s, potentially leading to railroading, bullying or even threatening the other person. The basis of assertiveness is the belief that each person involved has equal rights, which means that your needs are no more or less important than the other person’s. Here are five practical steps for being more assertive in relationships.
Determine What You Want to Achieve
Successful relationships require effective communication and negotiation to ensure that both parties are satisfied. Resolving conflicts usually involves some degree of compromise, so flexibility is also an important component of the resolution process. However, you first need to know what you would like the outcome of any negotiations to be. For example, your spouse may want to spend the weekend shopping together, while you would prefer to stay home and watch television.
Express Your Feelings
Express your needs, thoughts and feelings by using clear statements to get your point of view across or tell them what you want. Making accusations or using negative language may cause the other person to become defensive, so try to use positive language and keep the focus on what you need. Be as open and honest as possible, as this will help the other person to understand your point of view. Avoid using disempowering words like can’t and should, as these can have negative connotations.
Listen and Understand
Once you have expressed your opinion, it’s time to let the other person speak. Pay attention to what they are saying, both verbally and with their body language, as human beings conduct much of their communication in non-verbal ways. Avoid interrupting and use active listening skills, such as paraphrasing and summarizing, to check you have understood their point of view.
Attempt to Negotiate
Negotiation will involve give and take on both sides, so you may have to consider whether you’re willing to compromise on what you truly want. For example, if your partner wants to go to an expensive restaurant for dinner, but you would prefer to save money and order a takeaway, maybe you would be willing to eat out at a reasonably priced restaurant.
Assert Your Opinion
If negotiation is not possible, you will need to assert your needs and opinions effectively. First, let the other person know that you have listened and understood their point of view. Next, you need to reiterate your earlier points, asserting your opinions and feelings clearly and firmly. You may need to do this several times before the other person accepts your stand on the situation, but it’s important to remain calm and to convey clear messages.
Assertiveness skills can help to create fulfilling relationships based on mutual respect. However, knowing which battles to fight and which to walk away from is another important skill needed for successful negotiation within relationships. Assertiveness can easily become stubbornness if you try to get your own way in every situation.