Assertive communication is not about the volume of your voice nor is it about how stern you try to physically appear in front of other people. Unfortunately, grand hand gestures and some occasional yelling is far from what assertive communication really is. These common misconceptions are the reason why people fail to properly convey their message to others, which then leads to misunderstandings, and heated arguments.
To help you have a clear understanding of what it truly is, here’s a brief definition: assertive communication is the ability of a person to express their opinions, and ideas in a direct and straightforward way while still being respectful the whole time. Here is a helpful guide on how you can practice this communication skill.
1. The Power of “I”
Remember that you are trying to get your feelings and ideas across so it is important to use “I” when speaking. There are two reasons for this: first is to put emphasis on you, and second is to refrain from sounding accusatory by using “you” or “your.” For example, “I think this is best” is ten times better than saying “you think this is best.”
2. Practice Eye Contact
Being able to hold eye contact when someone is speaking is a sign of attentiveness. It shows them that you are really listening to what they are saying and that you are taking them seriously. At the same time, making eye contact with someone when you are talking is also a way of seizing their attention and wordlessly telling them to listen to you without actually demanding them to.
3. Speak in a modulated voice
Keep in mind that you are trying to be assertive and not aggressive. Learn how to speak in a well-modulated voice and keep it that way even if the discussion between two parties is beginning to get heated. Clashing opinions are nothing new, but it is in the way you are going to handle it that will make a difference and help you win the argument. A communications or storytelling coaching can help you identify triggers and teach how to react to them.
4. Accept criticism
One of the things that might set you off and break your cool is criticism being thrown your way. When this happens, keep in mind that you can agree and disagree at the same time. By agreeing, you can say that you are acknowledging their opinions about you and you respect that, but at the same time you can disagree by telling them that you are not going to instantly change your mind or behavior according to what they want without further reflection on the matter.
5. Practice patience
Assertive communication similar to strategic storytelling requires a lot of patience as it demands attentiveness, calmness, and the ability to accept criticism without becoming defensive or breaking down. You will have to listen to a lot of different opinions and calmly explain your own. You need to power through contradictions without raising your voice. That is why practicing patience is one of the important keys in being able to become successful at assertive communication.
6. Learn how to say “no”
Unsurprisingly, this is one of the things that most people are having a hard time with. Whether it is about someone asking a favor from you or someone offering you something, practicing to say “no” will help you master assertive communication. Additionally, you do not owe people an explanation for saying “no” so you should also get used to saying “no” without offering the reason for it.
7. Be honest
Assertive communication needs you to be straightforward about your ideas and feelings. Do not beat around the bush and do not sugarcoat things. Say what you really want to say and be direct. You can say “I do not like this idea” or “I feel confident about this project.” Avoid being passive aggressive too.
8. Use body language
Doing the correct body language can also give you a confidence boost to talk assertively like having your chin up, maintaining eye contact, and observing good posture. You can also nod your head from time to time when you agree with an idea while maintaining a neutral face to avoid the risk of emotions getting mixed in the discussion. Avoid crossing your arms over your chest or leaning back against your seat as it is often seen as a sign of disinterest and intimidation.
Your body language will also implore others to do the same and take you seriously because body language conveys your attentiveness and resolve.
9. Stay calm
To be able to do most of what’s needed when practicing assertive communication, such as body language, neutral expressions, and modulated tone of voice, you have to practice staying calm. There are various ways to keep yourself calm in certain situations such as deep breaths, and mental and emotional preparation before you begin to converse with others.
Tip: Rehearsing what you want to say in front of a mirror also helps a lot.
10. Repeat your statements
Repeating your opinions or a subject matter from time to time helps you put emphasis on the point that you are making. It also helps in keeping everyone on track as there are always dangers of going off topic completely or forgetting what the meeting is all about. Repetition is not about repeating the exact same words again and again as it can be annoyingly persistent. If you want to bring up a topic again, wait for the right timing and naturally ease your opinion in the conversation.
Assertive communication can be challenging to many, especially to those who are not used to voicing out their opinions or those who dislike confrontations. However, mastering this skills in combination with storytelling can hone you to become more decisive and confident and it is a skill that can be learned by anyone through constant practice.
Learning how to speak assertively can be life-changing. Whether you are dealing with a work-related matter or a personal issue, it will help to more confidently get your point across without sounding offensive or aggressive. After all, they say you don’t get what you don’t ask for!