Are you “too nice?”

Are you “too nice?”

Do you feel like people often take advantage of you? Are you tired of being walked on and feeling like a doormat? If so, it may be time to learn how to be more assertive.

Assertiveness is a type of communication that involves standing up for your rights while respecting the rights of other people. Assertive communication is more effective and healthier than passive or aggressive communication, but few of us were actually taught how to be assertive.

Communicating assertively does not guarantee the results you want, but it does allow for healthier outcomes overall, including higher self-esteem.  Here are some basic tips:

  • Speak calmly and firmly.
  • Choose the right time so nobody is rushed or distracted.
  • Choose a neutral, private location.
  • Be direct and specific about requests. For example, “I would like you to take out the trash by 8 p.m. tonight.”
  • Use “I” statements, not “you” statements. Assert your own experience rather than accusing the other person of something, which can lead to defensiveness. For example, say, “I felt hurt when you missed our date,” instead of “You hurt me when you missed our date.”
  • Do not attack a person when you have an issue with them; instead, focus on the person’s behavior. No name-calling. For example, instead of saying, “You are such a jerk!” say, “I feel disrespected when you yell at me.”
  • Use body language, such as eye contact, to emphasize your words. For example, an assertive statement, such as “I would like you to have your report completed by noon today,” is undermined if you are looking at the ground.
  • Confirm that your message was heard accurately. Ask the recipient of the message to paraphrase back to you what they heard.
  • Stand up for yourself. For example, say, “I was here first” when someone cuts ahead of you in line, or “Excuse me, but I have another appointment” if someone isn’t respecting your time.
  • Be friendly. Smile at people. Convey that you are happy to see them.
  • Express your opinions honestly and respectfully. When you disagree with someone, do not pretend to agree. When you are asked to do something unreasonable, ask for an explanation.
  • Share your experiences and opinions. When you have done something worthwhile, let others know about it.
  • Look for the positive. Pay attention to respectfully assertive people and model your behavior after theirs.
  • Start slowly and practice. Express your assertiveness in neutral situations first. Do not leap into a highly emotional situation until you are more confident.
  • Reward yourself each time you push yourself to formulate an assertive response. Do this regardless of the other person’s reaction.

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About the Author

Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn
Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn

Dr. Judy Ronan Woodburn is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with Advocate Medical Group – Behavioral Health in Normal, Ill. She has helped her clients through a variety of issues for more than 20 years.

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