Assertive communication is the ability to express our ideas and feelings in an open and uninhibited manner. It is the trait of standing up for oneself and refuse to be taken advantage of by others. It is the recognition of one’s rights while still respecting other’s rights.

Typically, women are seen as passive by the society and men are expected to be dominant. However, the behaviour of a person depends on his/her culture, upbringing, emotional support structure, work environment, genes and a whole lot of things.

If we can ignore the stereotyping by the society, both men and women can be assertive by choice.

For some, assertiveness is a second nature and comes very easily whereas for others it is like every other behaviour, schooled and practised.

Given any situation, we have couple of choices on how we can react. We have a choice to be either meek or be assertive.

A lot of confusion prevails as to whether a person is assertive or aggressive. Aggressiveness is the ‘fight’ response and is detrimental to relationships. Assertiveness is the logical response and is not driven by emotions. Submissiveness, on the other hand, is the ‘flight’ response where we tend to give away our rights.

We are habituated to respecting authority and are told to adjust to situations right from childhood, so that we can live in harmony. But we do not shy away from using aggression over weaker sections when the situation is not conducive to us. Is there a need to be aggressive when we actually have to be assertive?

A few tips to practise assertiveness is listed below:

  • Use a calm tone of voice; Relax and do not appear tense; Do not sound apologetic
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Express your feelings clearly, honestly and directly
  • Emphasize your most important points
  • Use appropriate gestures and facial expressions
  • Be an active listener and invite other’s opinions
  • Learn to say ‘No’ when needed
  • Use ‘I’

According to healthylife.com, L.A.D.D.E.R technique is a step-by-step procedure to practise to be more assertive in your communication.

Step 1 – Look at your needs, wants, rights, and feelings about the situation. Establish a goal for what you wish to accomplish.

Step 2 – Arrange a meeting that is convenient, where you and the other person can speak comfortably.

Step 3 – Define the problem clearly to the other person. Be specific.

Step 4 – Describe your feelings using “I” messages. “I” messages let you take responsibility for your feelings. You are not blaming others for how you feel. It helps to connect the feeling statement with a behaviour of the other person. For example, “I felt hurt when you didn’t acknowledge my work.” rather than “You hurt me when you ignored me.”

Step 5 – Express and explain your remarks in an assertive manner using clear sentences. For example, “I would like you to allot this work to someone else as I need to leave by 5.00 p.m.”

Step 6 – Reinforce your remarks by noting the positive outcomes.

For many women, the art of assertiveness starts right at home. Kids invariably never follow rules and setting the rules at home is something that most women are forced to. Shouting, screaming and breaking into tears gets you only so far.

One of the main benefits of being assertive is that you earn others respect very soon and your confidence boosts up. You end up with the ability to see solutions to any problem as you can think with more clarity. If you have assertively handled a teenager at home, you know that your negotiation skills are at all-time high.  Stress reduces with more clarity of thought.

It is a myth to think that being assertive means we will get whatever we ask for. It need not be. Being assertive only means that we express our needs and respect other’s rights, eventually earning others respect for us.

About the author:

Sudha Divakar – A Proud stay at home mom. She has worked in the IT industry for 15 years and has taken a break to take care of her priorities. She is an avid reader and enjoys watching movies with her tiny tots at home. She believes that life is full of beauty and must be lived one day at a time.

(The author is a guest blogger at Her Second Innings. The opinions expressed are those of the author.)

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