When communicating with others, we've all experienced situations where someone either ends up getting hurt or someone never gets to express their honest opinion because they didn't want to appear rude. These are not effective interactions, and they never lead to honesty and clarity.
Luckily, there's a better way.
Instead, we should all learn to be assertive with our communication — meaning that we should say exactly what we want but in a respectful manner. Our assertive communication skills can either make or break the results of our interactions with others.
This article will help you hack this skill and clearly state your desires without feeling guilt.
The 3 Communication Styles
(And Why Being Assertive Is The Answer)
There are 3 main types of communication: passive, aggressive, and assertive.
In every conversation, our communication style either makes it easier or harder for the other person to understand what we mean. And, unfortunately, we suffer the consequences if we don't know which communication style to use. This can lead to accidentally offending people or not clearly conveying your point.
If you are too passive, then you most likely agree with what others tell you, follow the crowd, and are oftentimes perceived as weak. Passive communicators will often lose respect, be underestimated, and receive fewer opportunities.
Aggressive communication, on the other hand, can prevent you from having solid friendships. Why? Because no one enjoys the company of someone who constantly judges, argues, disagrees, and doesn’t allow others to share their opinions.
You might be using aggressive communication if you ignore people, don’t take their feelings into consideration, talk more than you listen, or use aggressive gestures. This form of communication comes across as disrespectful and often ruins relationships.
But assertive communication is the balance between the other two communication styles.
Assertive communication is what we should all aim for, as it’s the best of both worlds — you meet your needs and the needs of the other person; everyone ends up happy.
Of course, sometimes it can be hard to form this habit and stay away from the other two styles of communication. It takes a bit of self-control. Fortunately, there are some smart and easy ways to improve your assertive communication skills.
Before that, however, let’s examine why you should make it your priority to aim for a more assertive communication style.
The Benefits Of Being Assertive
Your assertive behavior is great for both parties. If you communicate wisely, you can get what you want out of any interaction and leave the other person satisfied, too.
Let’s face it, aggressive communication is stressful (as can be passive); one of the people involved generally ends up feeling humiliated or threatened. If you are on the "strong" side, you might end up regretting putting your need to be heard over the other person's right to speak.
With assertive communication, however, you’re acknowledging the other person’s feelings and desires, while openly sharing yours and trying to find the best solution for the situation. This communication styles equates to very little stress.
Trust is important in personal and business relationships, and being assertive helps you get there naturally. Passive communication often results in others not taking you seriously, while aggressive behavior tends to lead to feelings of resentment.
Being trustworthy in your communication greatly builds connection.
Did you know that your assertive communication skills are directly related to gaining self-esteem? Just think about it. When you hide your feelings or interact with others without caring about what they think or feel, you’re either lowering your self-esteem or building it on the wrong foundation.
But assertive behavior, on the other hand, shows that you’re both brave enough to stand up for your rights and you're in control of what you’re saying (and more importantly, how you say it). You find the balance between clearly stating your needs and giving the other person the chance to do the same and feel equal.
Assertive Communication 101: How To Say What You Want Without Upsetting Others
Let’s talk about some techniques you can use to develop a more assertive behavior:
1. Say "No" more often.
First things first! For assertive behavior, you’ll have to let go of the need to please everyone and do things according to their expectations. When you do this, you are often left dissatisfied and become weaker the next time you’re about try asking for something you want.
Assertive communication means being okay with saying exactly what you want, but doing it in such a way that it doesn’t hurt the other person’s feelings.
This might mean rejecting things you decide are not a good fit for you, but then explaining exactly why you rejected them. The word "because" is a powerful game-changer in communication. If you give strong reasons and say them with determination, no one will be upset that you gave them a negative answer.
2. Watch your tone.
The self-control we mentioned earlier should be used here.
Your voice needs to be relaxed; you should sound (and feel) calm. This can take some time, just like any other new skill. Be patient and don’t get annoyed if you end up raising your voice without realizing or rushing a conversation because you become irritated.
Assertive behavior also rmeans not showing s hesitation or harshness through your voice. Keep it friendly and calm. Speaking slowly and using a quieter voice is usually enough to bring balance back to the conversation.
3. Be willing to discuss further until you find a solution.
When you don’t get the answer you want for some time, it’s easier to just agree and walk away; that’s passive.
Being assertive, on the other hand, means continuing— in a calm and respectful manner— until the issue is resolved. It might require asking more questions, listening more carefully, or getting creative and exploring more options. Whatever it is, it’s worth your time as in the end both parties feel good and no one ends up hurt.
4. Pay attention to the nonverbal communication.
By nonverbal, we mean body language, eye contact, posture, listening cues, and reactions. All of these should be done without any sense of aggression or passiveness. The former (aggression) will cause the other person to go into defense mode, while the latter (passiveness) will make them feel ignored.
Keeping eye contact helps you stay focused. Also, it’s an easy way to let the other person know you’re invested in and care about what they are saying. Experts say that how you direct your eyes and how long you keep contact can be even more important than what you say.
5. Be present.
Last but not least, the secret to effective communication and forming better relationships is to be mindful of what exactly the other person is trying to say. Try not to bring up issues from the past or let your mind get distracted— these show disrespect and can cause you to lose focus (and thus, you won't be able to give a proper answer or be assertive).
Mindfulness means being present and not thinking about anyone else who’s not currently around you. Forget about the rest of the world, look at the person you’re communicating with at that moment, and listen actively to everything they are saying.
This is the best way to respond meaningfully — the foundation of assertive communication.
Developing your assertive communication skills can take some practice. Accept it as a challenge. Practice it with loved ones and see the benefit of it's application, such as less arguments, a more positive and peaceful atmosphere at home, less stress, an increase in self-esteem and confidence, etc. Then, start applying these tactics to everyone you meet.
By being assertive, you’re making the world a better place.
Where will you start with your assertive communication skill building?
ONE LAST THING — If you tend to have a difficult time staying calm, clear, and assertive during your conversations, this video by the great Jeffery Allen will definitely help you out: