Assertiveness is sometimes referred to as “balanced self-determinism.” It refers to the approaches you can use to communicate your needs and ideally have them addressed, while not overlooking the needs of others.
Assertiveness helps you:
- express yourself in an honest and direct manner.
- acknowledge and give time for other views and positions.
- adopt a relaxed approach.
- feel good about the way you express yourself and treat others.
Assertiveness is not:
- avoiding stating your point of view or being apologetic about it.
- over-valuing your concerns and under-valuing others.
- expecting your point of view to dominate the outcome.
- expecting to control or influence the other person.
- only used in situations of conflict.
Steps Toward Assertiveness – Communication Guidelines
1) Body language
- Watch your body language to ensure that you are not coming across antipathetic.
- Try to relax your body and face.
- Be mindful of your voice level.
- Make soft eye contact (no staring).
- Self-soothe before you start (breathe deeply, think calmly).
- Be flexible about when to discuss your concerns.
- Read the situation and improvise as needed.
3) Investigate the situation
- Do your homework and check out the facts as much as possible. Many misunderstandings are based on wrong assumptions.
4) Use “I” statements and focus on the activity, not the person
- Avoid blaming, for example, “I find it difficult when this happens” not “When you do this you make me feel terrible!”
5) Take responsibility for your feelings and express them
- “When this happens, I feel overwhelmed.”
6) Take responsibility for your perceptions
- Describe the situation as you see it.
- Have a frank discussion about your assumptions.
- Find some truth in what the other person is saying or find something positive to say.
8) Be clear and precise
- Briefly describe the issue.
- Keep to the core issues. Stay on point and do not divert to other issues.
- Practice what you are planning to say with a trusted friend. Edit what you say and obtain feedback on how it sounds. Avoid gossip or complaining to other colleagues.
9) Try to understand what your employer/colleagues want from you
- Ask them what they want and how they see the situation.
- Actively seek specific information; do not assume you have the whole picture.
Other helpful links
Stress and Worry: Your self help guide from NHS Foundation Trust (PDF; 200kB)
Stress Resources from the Here to Help website