When a person is struggling with low self-esteem or lacking self-confidence, they may have great difficulty displaying assertiveness in certain situations. Instead, they may remain passive, and consistently succumb to or accept the actions or requests of other people, without giving consideration to their own personal requirements.
What is assertiveness? Assertiveness refers to confidently stating one’s wants and needs while still showing consideration for the feelings and needs of others. Assertiveness is largely different to aggression, whereby a person exerts their own will with force without contemplating other people’s emotions and desires. Assertiveness involves empathy for other people and getting your point across in a fair and positive manner.
The Benefits Of Assertiveness
By regularly and consistently practising being assertive, you become more self-confident, due to having a solid understanding of your wants and needs and ascertaining that they are met – as opposed to the situation whereby you are at the mercy of the decisions of other people.
Good Negotiators And Admired Leaders
Negotiation skills are improved when a person executes assertiveness, as an assertive person considers the wants and needs of themselves as well as others and is able to come to the best decision for all parties involved. This sort of person is often well-liked, as they operate fairly and with respect for others and hence make strong and admired leaders.
Increased Problem-Solving Ability And Productivity
An assertive person is able to increase their problem-solving ability and productivity as they feel empowered to arrive at the best solution possible according to the requirements of one self as well as others.
Reduced Anxiety And Stress
A person who voices their needs assertively is likely to experience less stress and anxiety than a person who remains passive. Being assertive prevents being over-loaded with an unreasonable amount of tasks and avoids a person being pressured into situations that they are not comfortable with.
Voicing their wants and needs and ensuring their opinion is considered allows an assertive person to have greater control over what happens and reduces stress and anxiety surrounding uncertainty about the future.
Less Resentful And Improved Relationships
People who confidently state their wants and needs are less likely to experience resentment, in both their personal and work relationships. Assertiveness is especially important for personal relationships; both individuals involved must feel their needs are being met in order for the relationship to remain healthy and strong.
How To Be More Assertive
Thankfully, there are number of things you can put into practice in order for you to become more assertive. Let’s take a look.
Identify Your Wants And Needs, Realise Your Value And Harness An Assertive Mindset
Self-belief and self-confidence are essentially the foundation of assertiveness. Remember, before you can articulate your wants and needs, it is important for you to understand your inherent values. Take some time to understand your values (i.e. what is most important to you, such as your personal health, partner, family, friends and hobbies/interests) and appreciate the value you offer to others. It is much easier for others to believe in you and what you are saying when you believe in yourself. You are entitled to be treated respectfully and with dignity.
It is no use understanding your wants and needs if you don’t have the assertive and positive mindset required to voice your desires. It is essential to empty your mind of any self-limiting beliefs before you can effectively practise being assertive. On your journey to becoming more assertive, it can also help to set aside a little time to set some goals surrounding your wants and needs.
Take Responsibility For Yourself
A passive person sits back and often feels that their problems are the responsibility of other people, whereas an assertive person accepts and acknowledges that a situation needs to change and takes action i.e. they ultimately take responsibility for their own problems and dilemmas.
Understand Your Limits And Say “No” When Necessary
Once you have an understanding of your values and what matters most to you, it is important to set boundaries surrounding what you will and won’t accept. Without clear boundaries, it is easy for a person lacking self-esteem to be pushed around.
It is a good idea to note that it is impossible to please everyone or to complete everything on our to-do list, day after day, week after week. We must understand our time is precious as well as our mental and physical health and we must learn to say “no” to certain requests or situations, according to the limits or boundaries we have set for ourselves.
Saying “no” to others may be particularly difficult at first if you are used to trying to put others’ needs before your own. It is not selfish to knock back a request from another person – instead, it forms an important part of healthy and equal personal and working relationships. With practice, saying “no” becomes easier and your happiness is bound to increase as your wants and needs begin to be understood and respected, rather than compromised.
In situations where you are caught off guard or are not completely sure of your answer to a request and how it aligns with your values, wants and needs, it can be a good idea to take a little time before responding to somebody. This allows you to avoid saying “yes” under pressure to something you are not comfortable doing, when in fact the answer should be “no”.
Prepare What You Wish To Say Ahead Of Time
In some instances, it can greatly help you to prepare in advance for a difficult conversation that shall require you to be assertive. Taking some time beforehand to work out what you want to say and how you wish to say it (i.e. assertively) can help to reduce any relevant stress and anxiety. You may like to stand before a mirror and practise before going ahead with the actual conversation.
Start Small And Keep It Simple
For some people, the sheer thought of presenting themselves assertively before another person can be daunting or even terrifying. In the beginning of your assertiveness journey, it is OK and in fact a good idea to start small. For example, a good place to start may involve ascertaining a time that suits to schedule a coffee with a friend. Then, you can progress to more difficult conversations, such as sitting down and explaining to your boss that their request for you to take on another major project when your workload is at capacity is not achievable.
There is no need for lengthy explanations when it comes to asserting your wants and needs to others, rather, it is best to keep it simple and to get your message across as respectfully and politely as possible.
Communicate With Confidence
Having a solid understanding of your values, feelings and desires is the first step to becoming more assertive and communicating with confidence i.e. it is very difficult to communicate what we want to others effectively if we don’t know ourselves what we want to begin with!
It is important to remember when we are confronted with a difficult situation or conversation that other people are not able to read our minds – it is critical that we are able to clearly and confidently share our thoughts. If you require something, speak up – be specific, speak from a place of honesty and take into consideration the wants and needs of others while doing so. Don’t assume that others have a clear understanding of your feelings and desires.
Despite how another person may react, try to reduce the need to explain or justify your feelings and decisions. Instead, have confidence in what you are saying and why. Be sure to stand (or sit) confidently, maintain comfortable eye contact. keep your facial expression as calm and neutral as possible and be wary of your tone. Avoid talking too quietly or mumbling and rather speak loudly enough (as appropriate) to express your wants and needs.
Empathy and Positivity Are Key
Although it is important to express your feelings and desires to other people, it is important you do so with consideration of the wants and needs of other parties involved. It is most certainly possible to firmly illustrate your point while being sensitive to other people’s feelings and desires. Keep your emotions and body language as calm and neutral as possible and deliver your message positively.
However, do not fear standing your ground where necessary and confronting a person who tries to push you to take on something or be a part of something you are not comfortable with (i.e. practice assertiveness and avoid being passive).
Recognise You Can Control Only Your Own Personal Behaviour
In some instances, particularly where your assertiveness takes a pushy or aggressive person by surprise, you may come up against some resistance from others following firm delivery of your point of view. Take a deep breath if you need to and maintain a calm and even tone if a situation intensifies. Avoid becoming angry or defensive. All you can do is ensure you have considered their needs and communicate as best you can in a polite and respectful manner.
Release Any Guilt
For a person who has had difficulty being assertive in the past, becoming more assertive can be very daunting and leave them feeling unnerved or guilty. It is important to remember that you should not experience any guilt for standing up for yourself and what you believe is right and just, so long as your request or opinion is not unreasonable and you are sensitive as to the needs of other people. It is vital to understand that your wants and needs are equally important as those of others and being assertive forms an important part of both your mental and physical wellbeing.
On your journey to becoming more assertive, it is a great idea to calmly welcome the feedback of others, whether it be positive or negative (so long as it is constructive criticism). After all, assertiveness is about balancing the wants and needs of the individual with those of others involved. Feedback is important, as it offers you the chance to improve upon your future assertiveness and negotiation skills.
Practise Patience And Persistence
For a person who has remained quite passive for some time, it is highly unlikely they will become an assertive person overnight. Assertiveness requires careful thinking and consideration and lots of practice. It is important to practise being assertive regularly and consistently.
Particularly in the beginning, you may find your requests or desires are rejected straight off the bat. In these situations, remain calm and composed and continue to state your point of view with confidence. Once others recognise you are becoming more assertive, they are more likely to listen to what you are saying and show more respect for your feelings and desires. Being assertive is a skill that when nurtured, develops over time.
Living with a lack of confidence and low self-esteem can not only leave you feeling flat and despondent, but also exhausted from trying to keep on top of the requests of other people who demand your time and resources. If you are battling with low self-confidence or poor self-esteem, learning how to become more assertive is a great step on your journey to self-belief and empowerment, by confidently stating your wants and needs to other people. However, strengthening your ability to be assertive alone is not enough to help you gain your confidence and control of your life. It is important to seek help and support from a professional therapist.
Our therapists at Blissiree Pty Ltd are trained in the effective treatment of low self-confidence and poor self-esteem. If you or someone you care about are struggling with confidence and a lack of self-esteem, book your first session today.